What’s the difference between deadlifts and RDLs?
While they are both hip-hinge movements, they are not the same.
A deadlift, unless indicated otherwise, will start from the floor and end on the floor.
An RDL, or Romanian Deadlift, will start at the hip and end at the hip. There’s a decent chance, though not always, that your RDL’s will never make contact with the floor. This depends on a lot of things including your mobility, your ability to maintain tension throughout your entire body through the entire movement, your limb proportions, and your overall exercise history.
In addition to their different starting and ending positions, the actual movements are different as well.
A deadlift is going to have more of a knee bend whereas an RDL is going to have a much stiffer knee throughout, with little-to-no change in the angle of the knee throughout the movement.
RDLs will specifically target the hamstrings more than a deadlift. Meaning, you’re going to “feel” a much greater stretch and contraction in the hamstrings for an RDL vs a Deadlift. This may be one of the easiest ways to troubleshoot when lifting on your own: are you feeling your RDLs almost exclusively in your hamstrings? If not, we’ll have to take a closer look.
Are you a member of The Barbell Collective? This would be a great thing to submit a form-check for, making note of whether or not you felt your RDL in your hamstrings or not and including a video from the side where we can see your entire body throughout the movement from your feet to the top of your head.
Deadlifts, due to their multi-joint recruitment and greater ROM, will oftentimes be able to withstand lifting more weight as compared to the RDL. Said another way: plan to lift more in your deadlift than you do for your RDL.
There’s also a difference between a single-leg deadlift and single leg RDLs– the exact differences from above exist, just with one less leg on the floor throughout. Check out the video below to see these differences in real time.
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