How to Do a Roman Deadlift vs. a Straight Leg Deadlift

Proper Form and the Benefits of These Amazing Lifts

In our Studio SWEAT in-studio and online classes, you’ll see a lot of deadlift variations that help strengthen your posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, back, and hips). In this trainer tip vlog, SSoD Trainer AJ is joined by her assistant Taylor to discuss the how-to, along with some differences and benefits, of the straight leg and Roman deadlifts, which when combined can help improve the quality of your conventional deadlifts.

Let’s look at how to do each type of deadlift.

All Deadlifts:

  • Lead with your chin out to help keep your back flat.
  • Keep your back straight, shoulders back and down toward your back pockets.
  • Keep the weights (or bar) close to your body.

The Standard Deadlift:

  • Usually uses a bar rather than dumbbells.
  • Start with the bar on the ground and feet hip distance apart.
  • Keep a bent knee with your back nice and flat.
  • Use your entire posterior chain to lift up to an upright stance and then back down.

The Straight Leg Deadlift:

  • Our model uses dumbbells for this style, although you can also use a bar.
  • Pick up weights, starting in an upright position.
  • Keep your legs straight, but with “soft” knees (don’t lock your knees).
  • Drag weights down in front of your body. Aim for all the way to the floor, but if you have any lower back issues like Taylor, you may need to stop at mid-calf.
  • Drag weights back up and lock at the top.
  • The goal is to pull with your lower/mid back and hamstrings, not your glutes.

The Roman Deadlift:

  • Keep your knees bent.
  • Using dumbbells, start with the weights just below your knees.
  • Drag back up, keeping tension in the hamstrings.
  • Stop short of hips, and don’t “lock” at the top.
  • Squeeze your glutes when you come up.
  • You’ll pull with your entire posterior chain – glutes, hamstrings, back, and hips are engaged.

The Benefits of Different Types of Deadlifts:

Straight leg deadlifts create strength and lean muscle mass. Roman deadlifts create hypertrophy, or larger muscles. This doesn’t mean you’ll get crazy-bulky, but it will lead to more muscle mass than a straight leg deadlift.

Combine together to get a perfect regular deadlift, or use all three for a great way to work your whole posterior chain. AJ suggests working each style into your workouts at least once a week, mixing it up for full impact.

And for more body-sculpting, fat-torching workouts where you can work in all sorts of deadlifts, check out a Free Trial over on Studio SWEAT onDemand! Download the app, or if you happen to live in southern California, visit us in our San Diego studio.