Romanian Deadlift Vs. Stiff Leg Deadlift: Which Is Best for Muscle?


Do you need to work on your muscles and increase the volume of your lower body pull, but you’re unsure about which deadlift variant to use? We’re here to help you choose between the Romanian deadlift and the stiff leg deadlift!

Both the stiff-leg deadlift and the Romanian deadlift are deadlift variations that help increase muscle. Any deadlift may help you increase your strength and work on various deadlift weak regions. Both exercises are meant to improve gluteal and hamstring loading, focus on your lower back strength, as well as teach and enforce a solid hip hinge stance.

This article will teach you the significant distinctions between the stiff-leg deadlift and the Romanian deadlift. That way, once you learn what the advantages of each of these exercises are, you’ll learn when to do the Romanian deadlift and when to execute the stiff-leg variation based on your needs. Let’s start!

Romanian Deadlift

Romanian Deadlift


Before we start getting into the main differences between these two exercises, we’ll explain what they are exactly and how they gained popularity. We’ll start with the Romanian deadlift, then proceed to the stiff leg deadlift.

Nicu Vlad and his trainer Dragomir Cioroslan are credited for creating the Romanian deadlift. Jim Schmitz, the U.S. Olympic Weightlifting Coach, was drawn to the unorthodox style of Vlad, a weightlifter from Romania. In 1990, Schmitz’s San Francisco gym hosted a weightlifting seminar for the U.S. Weightlifting team. Vlad and Cioroslan served as the clinic’s leaders. Schmitz requested Vlad to demonstrate his style of deadlifting for his squad after the workshop after he had observed it. Vlad proudly showed the technique, which was created to boost back strength for other weightlifting activities. Schmitz didn’t have a name for his method, so he gave it the term “Romanian deadlift” in homage to the inventors. That is how the Romanian deadlift originated.

Surprisingly, the popularity of the Romanian deadlift has also influenced the stiff-legged deadlift style. As with the Romanian deadlift, the stiff-legged deadlift is now executed with a straight back. In the past, it was carried out with a rounded back to give the hamstrings more flexibility.

Stiff Leg Deadlift

Stiff Legged Deadlift

Sadly, unlike the Romanian deadlift, the stiff leg deadlift has a shorter history. The name refers to how your legs should be placed when performing this particular deadlift. The legs and lower back are subjected to increased strain when you stand with stiff legs. Contrary to other deadlift positions, this causes a larger muscular activation in certain locations. According to a certain study, the stiff leg deadlift is the exercise that best activates the upper hamstring muscles. The medial gastrocnemius (a calf muscle) is significantly more activated during the stiff leg deadlift than it is during the standard deadlift.

Romanian Deadlift Vs. Stiff Leg Deadlift—Key Differences

The Romanian and the stiff leg forms of the deadlift have several significant differences despite the fact that both are unquestionably deadlifts. Whether the weight plates really touch the platform between reps is one of the key distinctions between them, and it has an impact on a number of other factors. However, there is a number of other differences that you should learn, so take a look at the list below to find out what they are:

1. Range of Motion

Their range of motion is the main distinction between these two deadlift versions. The bar should stop at about shin level for Romanian deadlifts; the plates shouldn’t touch the ground between repetitions. When stiff-leg deadlifts halt completely on the platform in between each rep. The range of motion for Romanian deadlifts is therefore restricted compared to stiff-leg deadlifts.

It could be simple to believe that the Romanian deadlift is a weaker lift since it has a smaller range of motion than the stiff-leg variation. The Romanian deadlift offers a longer period of time under strain since there isn’t a dead halt between reps – the bar never hits the ground. With Romanian deadlifts, there is no respite from the earth throughout the lift; you must retain complete control of the bar.

2. Muscles Worked

The hamstrings and glutes are heavily worked during both the stiff leg deadlift and the Romanian deadlift. However, the stiff leg deadlift causes extra strain on the lower back, resulting in those noticeable large erector spinae. You may concentrate more on Romanian deadlift exercises on the glutes or hamstrings based on how much knee flexion you have. It’s interesting that the Romanian deadlift is frequently recommended as an additional lower back workout. The Romanian deadlift hasn’t been proven to increase lower back strength, though.

Muscles worked are also influenced by stance width. While a tight stance stimulates the multifidus, which is a deep lower back muscle, a broader stance engages more glutes. The deadlift is an excellent exercise for engaging the whole posterior chain. Most individuals are unaware of or don’t give much thought to how the body really carries out daily actions. Deadlift muscle activation can assist with actions as basic as bending over or scooping something up off the ground.

3. Loading

How to load

In general, you should be able to do both of these deadlift variants at 50 to 70 percent of your maximum back squat. Nonetheless, you might find it simpler to move larger weight when doing the Romanian deadlift than the stiff leg deadlift, unless you have very long arms or particularly flexible hips and hamstrings. This is because, just as when performing a standard deadlift, you keep your knees open and slightly to moderately flexed during the Romanian deadlift. As your hamstrings will be less stressed, you could be able to lift more weight than when your legs are entirely stiff.

4. Muscle Triggering

Which do you believe gives more muscle stimulation when comparing the stiff leg deadlift vs the Romanian deadlift? If you want to activate your hamstrings and glutes more, the Romanian deadlift is recommended. Your hips are pulled further back when you execute the Romanian deadlift, which increases hip joint rotation. Your hips will flex more, putting more of a strain on your glutes. Yet, the stiff-legged deadlift has the advantage of lower back activation thanks to the straighter spine. The stiff leg deadlift can activate the low back significantly, but the exercise comes with certain risks. Too many repetitions or too much weight can stress the spine, which over time can lead to disk degeneration.

Consider bending over to touch your toes if you truly want to experience the difference in muscle activity. Repeat the movement twice, once with straight legs, and once with slightly bent knees. You should be able to feel the difference. Similar differences in muscle activation may be seen between the stiff leg deadlift and the Romanian deadlift.

5. Position

Position in deadlift exercise

The place where the exercise begins differs significantly between the stiff leg deadlift and the Romanian deadlift. The exercise for the stiff leg deadlift begins on the ground, unlike the Romanian deadlift, which begins at the hip, comparable to the classic deadlift’s lockout position. Your knees should be slightly bent but never fully locked out when performing a stiff leg deadlift. Injuries could result from a completely locked-out position. Do a Romanian deadlift to get to the bar, but keep lowering yourself even after your hips stop sliding backward. Grab the barbell and squeeze the slack out of the bar to tighten your hamstrings, glutes, and back. Your head and eyes should be pointed at the floor a few feet in front of you, and your back should be essentially straight.

Unlike in a regular deadlift, the barbell won’t rest squarely against your shins. The bar will instead be a few inches distant. When you are standing tall, the Romanian deadlift begins. Thus, you have two options: deadlift the weight to the starting position or remove it off the rack. To properly set, maintain strong lats to keep the barbell close and a large chest. When you begin the motion, bend your knees just a little. They shouldn’t ever be completely locked out.


Now that you’re acquainted with both of the exercises and know exactly what they are, how they work, and what the key differences between them are, all that is left is to learn which of the two is better for building muscle. Building strength on the back of the legs is a tremendous benefit of both the stiff leg deadlift and the Romanian deadlift.

Nevertheless, use the stiff leg deadlift if you want to focus more on the lower back. Use a broader stance and deeply bent knees when performing the Romanian deadlift to emphasize your glutes. Do the stiff leg deadlift or the Romanian deadlift while standing in a standard deadlift position and with your knees slightly bent to target your hamstrings.