Types of Deadlifts

By Physiotherapist, Paulina Backiel



A lot of you may know of the most popular exercise for your hamstrings, the DEADLIFT. However did you know that there are different types of deadlifts that target different muscles in the body? The key differences are starting position and movement, allowing the exercise to focus on different muscles.

If you were once like me you probably avoided the exercise because it can be very challenging on the back. But, what if I told you there was a deadlift that is a bit easier on the back?

Types of Deadlifts

1. Traditional/Conventional Deadlift (DL)

Starting position: In squat position with weight on ground

Movement: Pulling strength; Bar is pulled up to hips tensing the glutes, then lowered back down to ground in squat position

Muscles targeted: Mid back, abs, glutes, adductors, quads, hamstrings 

Performance enhancements: Strengthen lower back, full body


2. Romanian Deadlift (RDL)

Starting position: Standing, bar/weight begins in air 

Movement: Isolated strength; Bar is lowered just under knees and raised up again thrusting hips forward and tightening glutes

Muscles targeted: more glutes, more hamstrings, forearm flexors

Performance enhancements: Increase hip mobility, glute and hamstring strength

Safest for those with lower back pain if done correctly.


3. Stiff-Leg Deadlift

Starting position: Similar to RDL position but with knees slightly bent

Movement: Keeping your knees slightly bent, just like an RDL moving the bar down past knees then up. Knees remain fixed throughout the movement.

Muscles targeted: more abs/core, lower back, more glutes, more hamstring, calves

Performance enhancements: Squats and overall leg strength

*Avoid if you have lower back or leg problems*


Don’t forget to book in to see a physio here if you are experiencing pain or need extra help nailing your form!