Are Romanian Deadlifts an Effective Exercise for the Glutes?

Romanian Deadlifts

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned weightlifter, the deadlift is one of the most effective exercises you can do to build strength, endurance, and muscle mass. However, it is also one of the most challenging. You can lift more weight with deadlifts than any other exercise for the upper body; this makes deadlifts ideal for building muscle strength and size in your back, but what if you’re looking for stronger, more rounded glutes? Do deadlifts build stronger, rounder glutes, and is the Romanian deadlift a better glute builder than a conventional deadlift?

Romanian Deadlift for Glute Development

For building glutes, you probably have a few go to exercises: squats, lunges, hip thrusts, and deadlifts. However, deadlifts work more muscle groups than any other strength-building exercise. One of the biggest benefits of doing them is how many muscles you work at the same time. When you do a deadlift, you activate most of the muscles in your body, including your back, legs, abdominals, and arms. As an extra perk, doing deadlifts improves your posture.

Another perk: few strength-training exercises burn as many calories as the deadlift. It’s a total-body exercise. You might burn more calories running or doing high-intensity interval training, but deadlifts build muscle and that gives your metabolism a subtle boost even at rest.

Focus on the Glutes

With deadlifts working so many muscles, it’s not surprising that it works the glutes too. In fact, wisdom says that the Romanian deadlift works the glutes more than a conventional deadlift. However, the difference in glute activation between conventional and Romanian deadlifts isn’t huge.

In one study, researchers asked 21 men to alternate between doing conventional deadlifts and Romanian deadlifts at an intensity of 70% of their one-rep max. As they dead lifted, they used EMG to record muscle activation when they did the two exercises. They asked the participants to lower the bar close to the floor when they did the Romanian deadlift.

The findings? The difference in glute activation between the conventional deadlift and the Romanian deadlift was quite small for both the glues and the rectus femoris, the largest hamstring muscle. Where the difference was greatest was activation of the quadriceps—the conventional deadlift worked the quadriceps harder than the Romanian deadlift. So, if you’re trying to maximize quad development, the conventional deadlift is ideal. Romanian deadlifts are also ideal for improving hip mobility.

Deadlifts are One of the Best Exercises for Strength and Functional Fitness

Whether you do Romanian deadlifts, conventional deadlifts or both, deadlifts belong in strength-training routine. You often hear that deadlifts are unsafe for the back but dead lifting actually strengthens the muscles that lower the risk of back pain. Plus, the movement patterns you learn with dead lifting improves functional strength, so you can perform activities, like lifting objects around the house, in a safer manner. Also, each time you deadlift, you tighten your core muscles and that helps create core strength and stability for greater resistance to back pain.

Everyone should use proper technique when deadlifting, but it’s of utmost importance if you have a history of back pain. Using poor form can lead to a lower back injury. One of the biggest mistakes people make when doing deadlifts that leads to back injury is rounding their back or spine too much when doing the movement.

Always lift with your legs and NOT your back! Your legs are usually stronger than your back and can take more weight. You should never feel any strain in your lower back when performing a proper deadlift. Improper deadlifting can cause muscle imbalance in your back and hamstrings, as well as lower back pain, and even herniated discs.

One compromise you can make if you have a history of back pain is to use a hex bar to do a trap bar deadlift. The Romanian and conventional deadlifts have the safety disadvantage of being an exercise that’s front loaded since the bar is in front of your body. To do a trap bar deadlift, you step into the middle of the metal hex bar to do the exercise. This centers your mass and creates a more stable position for your body and back. Using a trap bar, due to its stable positioning, places less sheer force on the spine. The worst deadlift variation for the back is the stiff leg deadlift.

The Bottom Line

Deadlifts are an excellent exercise for strengthening a variety of muscles, including your glutes. They are also a more functional exercise than glute isolation exercises, like glute bridges and hip thrusts. Both conventional and Romanian deadlifts work the glutes, and they both are effective at doing so with minimal differences between the two movements in terms of glute activation. You can get stronger glutes by doing either, or, or both.

But don’t forget to include isolation exercises for the glutes too for more focused activation of the gluteus maximus. For example, one study found that hip thrusts activate the glutes more than deadlifts while deadlifts activate the hamstrings more. So, include both deadlifts and isolation exercises like hip thrusts in your routine to get the most booty strength and roundness. It’ll pay off if you’re consistent!



  • “3 Ways to Fix Lower Back Pain From the Deadlift ….” 14 Oct. 2020, precisionmovement.coach/fix-lower-back-pain-deadlift/.
  • “Effect of an Exercise Program That Includes Deadlifts on ….” pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33626500/.
  • “Deadlift: Harmful or Helpful for Low Back Pain? – BSR ….” 19 Dec. 2018, bsrphysicaltherapy.com/2018/12/19/deadlift-low-back-pain/.
  • “Which Patients With Low Back Pain Benefit From Deadlift ….” journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Fulltext/2015/07000/Which_Patients_With_Low_Back_Pain_Benefit_From.6.aspx.
  • “Deadlift: Harmful or Helpful for Low Back Pain? – BSR ….” 19 Dec. 2018, bsrphysicaltherapy.com/2018/12/19/deadlift-low-back-pain/.
  • Lee, Sangwoo, et al. “An electromyographic and kinetic comparison of conventional and Romanian deadlifts,” J Exerc Sci Fit. 2018 Dec; 16(3): 87-93.
  • “Save Your Spine with the Trap Bar Romanian Deadlift.” drjohnrusin.com/trap-bar-rdl-save-your-spine/.
  • “How to Use Trap Bar Deadlifts to Build Total-Body Strength.” 19 Jun. 2017, https://www.stack.com/a/trap-bar-deadlift.
  • “Deadlift vs. Romanian Deadlift: Comparisons, Benefits, and ….” 06 Sept. 2019, https://www.healthline.com/health/romanian-deadlift-vs-deadlift.
  • “Do Perfect Deadlifts With The Hex Bar – Men’s Health.” 30 Jun. 2019, https://www.menshealth.com/fitness/a28223184/hex-bar-deadlift/.
  • “EMG Differences Between the Deadlift, Hex Bar Deadlift ….” 17 Apr. 2018, https://barbend.com/emg-study-deadlift-hex-bar-hip-thrust/.

Related Articles By Cathe:

Conventional Deadlifts vs. Romanian Deadlifts: Which Activate the Glutes More?

5 Powerful Reasons to Include Deadlifts in Your Fitness Routine

Glute Power! Why You Need Hip Thrusts in Your Routine

How Effective Are Deadlifts for Glute Development?

3 Most Effective Full Body Resistance Exercises

Why Deadlifts are Good for You


Related Cathe Friedrich Workout DVDs:

STS Strength 90 Day Workout Program

All of Cathe’s Strength & Toning Workout DVDs
Total Body Workouts
Lower Body Workouts

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email
Hi, I'm Cathe

I want to help you get in the best shape of your life and stay healthy with my workout videos and Free Weekly Newsletter. Here are three ways you can watch and work out to my exercise videos:

Get Your Free Weekly Cathe Friedrich Newsletter

Get free weekly tips on Fitness, Health, Weight Loss and Nutrition delivered directly to your email inbox. Plus get Special Cathe Product Offers and learn about What’s New at Cathe Dot Com.

Enter your email address below to start receiving my free weekly updates. Don’t worry…I guarantee 100% privacy. Your information will not be shared and you can easily unsubscribe whenever you like. Our Privacy Policy