The Romanian deadlift is a variation of the traditional barbell deadlift, which places more stress on your glutes and hamstrings.

But, what happens if you can't perform the Romanian deadlift because of injury, lack of equipment, or simply want to mix things up a little?

In this article, you’ll discover the best Romanian deadlift alternatives you can perform in your home garage gym and how to do them. 

If you find yourself in a position where you can’t perform a Romanian deadlift due to not having the right equipment in your home gym, or want to perform something different, don’t worry; I have your back.

There are many Romanian deadlift alternatives you can perform to develop your posterior chain while increasing your overall athletic performance.

Here are some of the best Romanian deadlift alternatives:

1. Stiff Leg Deadlift

Woman Doing Stiff Leg Deadlift Exercise

The stiff leg deadlift is a fantastic Romanian deadlift alternative as both exercises are hip hinge movements that work the same muscle groups.

The main advantage  of this RDL substitute is the increased range of motion during the stiff leg deadlift. 

The increased range of motion occurs as the barbell travels from the floor to the hips and back down again, unlike the RDL.  

I often mix things up during my workouts and switch between the RDL and the stiff leg deadlift every 6 weeks or so. 


  • Works your hamstrings through a wide range of motion.
  • You can lift a lot of weight.

How to do it: 

  1. Walk up to a barbell and place your feet hip-width (not wide), putting your toes under the bar.  
  2. Keep your knees relatively straight without locking them out. Then hinge from the hips and grab the bar with both hands.  
  3. Draw the shoulder blades back and down and straighten your spine.  
  4. Lift the barbell from the floor using a hip hinge movement, squeezing your glutes at the top of the movement. 
  5. Slowly lower the barbell back toward the floor and repeat. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • During the RDL substitute, take a deep breath at the bottom, brace your core and breathe out on the upwards movement. This is the most optimal way to breathe during the deadlift. 

2. Block Deadlift 

Man Doing Block Deadlift Exercise

The block deadlift is a brilliant Romanian deadlift alternative that allows you to have more weight on the barlargely due to the higher starting position of the barbell.  

You can set the height of the blocks however high you want, depending on the range of motion you’d like to achieve, while using this Romanian deadlift substitute.  

The block deadlift focuses on the top part of the deadlift movement and uses more knee extension than the RDL; therefore, it uses slightly more of your quads, which is a great way to increase other leg lifts as well.


  • You can lift more weight than usual.
  • Develops your lower back muscles.

How to do it: 

  1. Set up two boxes/blocks, so the barbell is below knee height.  
  2. Grab the barbell with both hands spaced just outside your legs.  
  3. Lean over the barbell slightly, placing your shoulders in line with the barbell.  
  4. Straighten your spine, take a deep breath, and brace your core muscles.  
  5. Lift the barbell by driving your hips forward toward the bar.  
  6. Lockout at the top of the movement, squeeze your glutes.  
  7. Return the barbell toward the blocks and repeat.  

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Don't have access to blocks? - It's not a problem. Simply rest the loaded barbell on weighted plates instead.  

3. Good Mornings 

Woman Doing Good Mornings In The Gym

If you’re looking to target your low to mid-back muscles, then you should try out this RDL substitute. It was extremely popular with Arnold Schwarzenegger back in his prime. 

If it's good enough for Arnold, it's good enough for me. 

However, the good morning is a complex barbell movement that should only be attempted by someone who’s pretty competent at resistance training.  It's not ideal for beginners, so try another exercise from this list like the block deadlift.

During this RDL replacement exercise it’s crucial to use excellent form as the spine is placed under significant load. 

If you are unable to perform the good morning exercise, there are good morning alternatives that target and engage the same muscle groups and achieve similar benefits.


  • Works your posterior chain through a wide range of motion. 
  • Excellent for back health (if performed correctly).

How to do it: 

  1. Place the barbell on your back (just as you would during a back squat).  
  2. Squeeze your lats and pull the barbell into your traps, creating tension.  
  3. Slightly bend the knees and perform a hip hinge movement pushing your bum backwards.  
  4. Stop the movement when your body is parallel to the floor or when your hamstrings are at their maximum stretch.  
  5. In a controlled manner, stand back upright and repeat.  

Tips From A Trainer!

  • This Romanian deadlift substitute can be performed with resistance bands if you don’t have a barbell in your home gym. 

Further Reading - Good Mornings Vs Deadlifts 

4. Barbell Hip Thrust 

Man Doing Barbell Hip Thrusts

The barbell hip thrust is one of the best ways to work your glutes and is an excellent Romanian deadlift alternative.  

2019 study showed no significant difference between performing the Romanian deadlift or the barbell hip thrust; both exercises worked the hamstrings and glutes the same.[1]

However, this Romanian deadlift substitute is well worth adding if you want to grow an excellent looking set of glutes.  

Who doesn't want a great looking derrière, right?


  • Isolates the glutes. 
  • Suitable for all ability levels.

How to do it: 

  1. Sit on the floor with your back against a bench/step and roll the barbell onto the crease of your hips. (I highly recommend using a barbell pad to prevent sore hips). 
  2. Rest your upper back onto the bench/step and place your feet shoulder-width and flat to the floor. 
  3. Drive your feet into the floor and push the barbell up with your hips.  
  4. Squeeze your glutes hard at the top of the movement and aim to tilt your pelvis at the top. Ensure your upper back is firmly placed on the bench and your chin is tucked toward your chest.  
  5. Lower the barbell back to the starting position and repeat. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • If you want an extra challenge, elevate your feet on blocks. Doing so will increase the range of motion and make this RDL replacement even tougher. 

5. Single-Leg Romanian Deadlifts (Romanian Deadlift With Dumbbells)

Man Doing Single-Leg Romanian Deadlifts with dumbbell

The single-leg Romanian deadlift is a unilateral version of the standard Romanian deadlift. As you’ll be training each side independently, it helps iron out any muscular imbalances you might have.

Muscular imbalances are common among beginners, and can hinder your progress... you don't want that.

This Romanian deadlift alternative is also brilliant for injury prevention as the hips, glutes, and core need to work incredibly hard to stabilize your body during the movement.  

Try it out and reap the rewards.


  • Helps iron out muscular imbalances. 
  • Great for injury prevention.

How to do it: 

  1. Pick up a set of dumbbells, one in each hand, and hold them in front of your hips.
  2. Slightly bend the knee of the side you want to work on first. (Tip: always start on your weakest side).
  3. Hinge forward from your hips and send your opposite leg back until you feel a stretch in the hamstring of the leg you’re working on.
  4. Head back to the starting position by pushing the hips forward and squeezing the glutes.  
  5. Repeat on the same amount of reps on the opposite side.  

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Always start on your weakest side. This ensures that you can work both sides equally and aren't left working your strongest side harder. Generally, if you can get 10 reps with your weakest side, you'll have no issues doing the same with your strongest side. 

Related Article - Single Dumbbell Workouts

6. Cable Pull Through 

Man Doing Cable Pull Throughs

If you have a cable machine in your home gym, the cable pull-through is a brilliant Romanian deadlift substitute that places the same emphasis on your hamstrings and glutes. 

I love the cable pull through because it creates constant tension on your muscles during the whole movement. 

I've often used this RDL replacement to teach my clients the hip hinge movement, and it works pretty well. 

But, it's worth noting the movement can look awkward, so maybe leave this one for your home garage gym.


  • Works your hamstrings through a wide range of motion.
  • Great for all ability levels.
  • Cables create constant tension.

How to do it: 

  1. Attach a rope handle to the bottom of the cable machine. 
  2. Stand over the rope with the machine behind you. 
  3. Pick up the rope holding it with both hands. 
  4. With a straight back and slightly bent knees (similar to a deadlift position), pull the rope tight to create tension.  
  5. Push the hips forward and squeeze your glutes.  
  6. Return to the starting position and repeat.  

Tips From A Trainer!

  • To prevent the cable from rubbing on your private parts, stand on weighted plates or a small step. Trust me, it's the last area you want cable burn. 

7. Sumo Deadlift 

Woman Doing Sumo Deadlift Exercise

Performing a sumo deadlift as a Romanian deadlift substitute is a great way to work the glutes, hamstrings, and adductors without placing too much strain on the lower back. This is due to the more upright position your back is in. 

This Romanian deadlift alternative is perfect for rehabilitating a back injuries, and is also an excellent deadlift alternative.

I've often found that I can lift more using the sumo deadlift. I think it's mostly due to the reduced range of movement. 


  • You can lift more than the traditional deadlift. 
  • Good for lifters with back issues.

How to do it: 

  1. Stand in front of your barbell with your feet placed at 2x shoulder-width apart (toes facing out at 45 degrees).  
  2. Perform a hip hinge with a bend in the knees and grab hold of the bar.  
  3. Keep your back straight and pull the bar up until youre stood up straight at the top of the movement.  
  4. Squeeze the glutes and return the barbell to the floor. 
  5. Repeat until you’ve completed your set.  

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Please be careful when placing the barbell down, I've seen far too many people drop the bar on their toes. The last thing you want is broken toes.  

8. Kettlebell Swing 

Man Doing Kettlebell Swings

When it comes to kettlebell swings, the movement not only works the same muscle groups as the RDL but is fantastic for developing explosive power.

The nature of the movement makes it an excellent Romanian deadlift substitute for athletes who need to build explosiveness.

I've used this exercise to train individuals who participate in MMA and BJJ as these sports require powerful glutes.

On a side note, one of the first things you’ll notice is how quickly the kettlebell swing turns into a cardio workout; it’s a killer.  


  • Develops explosive power. 
  • Good for most ability levels.

How to do it: 

  1. Stand with a kettlebell placed between your feet with your legs placed shoulder-width apart.  
  2. Bend at the hips while keeping a neutral spine position.  
  3. Lift the kettlebell off the floor and pull it backward to create momentum.  
  4. Fire your hips forward and allow your arms to swing the kettlebell forward, and repeat. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Use your hips to generate the power for the kettlebell swing, not your arms or upper body. As Chubbs said on Happy Gilmore, "It's all in the hips".

9. Bodyweight Bridges (Romanian Deadlift Alternative With No Equipment)

Woman Doing Bodyweight Bridges

The bodyweight bridge is a simple exercise that requires no equipment whatsoever, so it’s one of the safest Romanian deadlift alternatives for you to perform in your home gym.

I always use the glute bridge with my clients during their first few weeks of training, it helps them develop a stronger posterior chain, and helps to activate their glutes. 


  • Develops a strong posterior chain.
  • Uses your body weight. 
  • Great for all ability levels.

How to do it: 

  1. Grab an exercise mat and lie down on the floor (on your back).  
  2. Bring your legs toward your body and place your feet flat on the floor, knees bent.  
  3. Engage your glutes and drive your hips upward.  
  4. Lower your body and repeat.  

Tips From A Trainer!

  • You can make this exercise tougher by removing one leg from the floor at the top of the glute bridge movement.  

10. Hamstring Leg Curl (Romanian Deadlift Alternative For A Bad Back)

Man Performing Hamstring Leg Curls

If you’ve got access to a hamstring leg curl machine in your home gym, you’ll love this Romanian deadlift substitute.  

This movement is one of the safest ways for you to target your hamstrings. It’s an isolation exercise, so it doesn’t engage your glutes or lower back, so you’ll need to work on those muscles separately. 

It's a brilliant RDL substitute if you've got a lower back issue and want to work your posterior chain muscles without placing stress on your back. 


  • Isolates your hamstrings. 
  • Doesn't place stress on your lower back.

How to do it: 

  1. Sit down in your leg curl machine and adjust all of the necessary parts, so it’s comfortable for you.  
  2. Place your legs into (or on to) the pads.  
  3. Bring your heels toward your bum, engaging the hamstrings.  
  4. Slowly return to the starting point and repeat until your set is complete.  

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Ensure you work your hamstrings through a full range of motion. Your leg should be almost straight by the end of each rep. 

11. Reverse Lunges 

Man Doing Reverse Lunges

The reverse lunge is an exercise I love to perform during my lower body workouts, and it makes an excellent alternative for Romanian deadlift.  

The reverse lunge primarily targets the glutes and hamstrings and allows you to work each leg individually.

It’s also a brilliant exercise for developing balance and coordination.  

I use the reverse lunge with clients who need a low impact exercise on their knee joints. By stepping backwards, the knee joint is under less stress and can allow you to perform the movement pain free. 

However, always test this as each individual is different. 


  • Lower impact on joints than regular lunges.
  • Great for leg development.
  • Helps improve balance and coordination.

How to do it: 

  1. Stand with your feet placed shoulder-width apart (toes facing forward). 
  2. Step back with one of your legs – I always recommend starting with your weakest leg.  
  3. Bend both of your knees and lower yourself until both legs are at 90 degrees. Don’t let your knee touch the floor. 
  4. Drive back up to the starting position and repeat. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Start this exercise with no weight as it can provide a challenge using only your body weight. Once you're comfortable with your body weight, you can add a dumbbell for additional resistance. 

12. Walking Lunge 

Man Doing Barbell Walking Lunges

I know what you’re thinking... walking lunges work the quads. You’re right; they do, but they’re also one of the best exercises for increasing hamstring strength, and this makes them a favorite of mine. 

Best of all, while you don’t need any equipment, you can use a barbell, dumbbell, kettlebell, or any other form of weight during this alternative for Romanian deadlift if you want.

I've used the walking lunge as a leg finisher for some of my clients and while they might hate me at the time, they've achieved some excellent results from this exercise.


  • Good for all ability levels. 
  • You can use your body weight. 
  • Develops coordination and balance.

How to do it: 

  1. Pick up your weight if you’re using one.  
  2. Take a step forward and lower yourself until your legs are at a 90-degree angle without letting your knee touch the floor. 
  3. Push off the floor with your leading leg and bring your back leg forward into the next step. Lower yourself again and repeat.  

Tips From A Trainer!

  • If you’re struggling to perform one rep after another, feel free to rest in the middle (feet together) before taking the next step. This is best suited for beginners or if you’re exhausted.   

How To Do Romanian Deadlifts (Modifications Without Equipment)

Even though the Romanian deadlift is traditionally performed using a barbell, you can use a range of equipment such as dumbbells, resistance bands, kettlebells, etc.  

However, what happens when you don’t have equipment? – The answer is easy, you can perform the same movement without any equipment necessary, and you’ll still be working all of the same muscle groups.  

Here’s how: 

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes facing forward.  
  2. Have a slight bend in the knees (soft knees).  
  3. While keeping a straight back, hinge from your hips and push your bum backwards.  
  4. Stop at the point where your hamstrings can’t stretch any further and return to the starting point.  
  5. Repeat as needed.  

Benefits Of Romanian Deadlifts (Is It A Necessary Exercise?)

The Romanian deadlift is one of the best exercises around for developing your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back while lowering the risk of injury due to the lighter loads being used compared to regular deadlifts.  

Some of the main benefits of the Romanian deadlift include: 

  • Muscular hypertrophy 
  • Increase in regular deadlift performance 
  • Helps with Olympic weightlifting 
  • Enhances hip, hamstring, and lower back movements 
  • Helps prevent injury 

Most gym-goers perform this exercise to increase their overall body strength and stimulate their muscle fibers to grow. While it's not 100% necessary to have this exercise in your workout routine, I believe it can benefit most people.  

What Muscles Do Romanian Deadlift (RDL) Exercises Work?

The Romanian deadlift mainly works the posterior chain of your body, such as the glutes, lower back, and hamstrings. Working your posterior chain is crucial for your overall back health. When performed correctly using good form, you're back will thank you.  

Primary Muscles Worked 

  • Glutes
    Who doesn’t love a set of well-developed glutes? 
  • Lower Back
    Working your lower back strengthens it. Useful when you’re older.
  • Hamstrings
    Located at the back of your legs, known as the bicep of your leg.

However, even though the Romanian deadlift mainly works your lower body, it is classed as an entire body movement. It also works with a whole host of other secondary muscles in your lower and upper body.  

Secondary Muscles Worked

  • Adductors (Inner Thigh)
    Helps create stability in your hips during lifts. 
  • Trapezius [2]
    Great traps look impressive.
  • Forearm Flexors
    Stronger forearms = improved pulling power.

Common Romanian Deadlift Questions

Is Romanian deadlift bad for my back? 

No, the Romanian deadlift isn't bad for your back. So long as you perform the Romanian deadlift with good form, your back will be fine, and it'll strengthen your whole body. However,  if you’ve had an injury, always seek professional advice first from your physician or doctor.

Is a Romanian deadlift the same as a stiff leg? 

No, the Romanian deadlift and stiff leg deadlift aren't the same. While both movements look similar, there’s a slight difference.  With the RDL the bar doesn't touch the floor, but during the stiff leg deadlift it does. Read our full comparison of stiff leg vs Romanian deadlifts here.

Is RDL good for glutes? 

Yes, RDL’s are fantastic for glute development. During the hip hinge movement, your glute maximus has to work incredibly hard to move the barbell and also goes through a large stretch at the bottom of each rep. 

How heavy should you go on RDL? 

During the RDL, the starting weight is different for everyone.  Always use weight that allows you to complete the set with excellent form.


The barbell Romanian deadlift is a fantastic exercise to perform in your home gym if you’re looking to develop the glutes and hamstrings. However, sometimes it’s nice to mix it up.

All of the Romanian deadlift alternatives mentioned in the list above are the best substitutes for the traditional RDL. I'm a big fan of the barbell hip thrust and walking lunges.

Read through the list and add a couple to your workout to maximize your glute and hamstring gains.  




Lee Kirwin

Lee Kirwin

Lee has worked in the fitness industry for over 15 years. He's trained hundreds of clients and knows his way around the gym, including what you need for your garage gym. When he's not testing products, he loves weightlifting, Ju Jitsu, writing, and gaming.