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Mastering the Kettlebell RDL: Complete Guide

 RDL with a kettlebell

Want to improve your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back? The kettlebell Romanian deadlift (RDL) is an effective workout for accomplishing this goal. This guide will show you how to do the kettlebell RDL correctly, identify the muscles it targets, and suggest some worthwhile alternatives to keep your training routine fresh and interesting.


How to complete RDLs with a kettlebell

Setting up:

Stand with your feet hip-width apart

Maintain good posture and have a strong grip on the kettlebell

Lowering the kettlebell:

Hinge at your hips, driving them back, and descend the kettlebell to the floor.

Maintain a small bend in your knees while keeping your back flat.

(Do not bend at the lower back, think of your hips as the focus point)

Lower once you feel a big enough stretch in your hamstrings.

Lifting the kettlebell:

Stand up straight pushing through your hips

(this step requires you to engage your core and activate your glutes while pushing through your heels)

Make sure to hold the kettlebell close to your torso and keep your spine and neck aligned.  


Keep your movements slow and controlled. Avoid utilizing momentum.

Avoid bending your back and instead focus on the hip hinge portion of the movement.

Maintain core stability to prevent lower back pain.

During the exercise, your knees should remain slightly bent but not locked or too far forward.


Kettlebell RDL - Muscles Worked 

The kettlebell RDL is a complex exercise that focuses on the posterior chain (muscles in the lower back half of the body).  


Gluteus Maximus: This is the biggest muscle in your glutes and is essential for hip extension, particularly during the upward portion of the kettlebell RDL exercise.

Glute maximus

Gluteus Medius: Plays a big role in lateral movement and aids in hip stabilization, particularly while balancing during a movement.

Gluteus medius


Are activated more towards the bottom of the exercise. The bigger the stretch you feel during rdls, the more the hamstrings are activated.

Hamstrings also play an important role in hip extension and knee flexion during the hip hinge of the rdl.

Lower-Mid Back

The erector spinae and latissimus dorsi (to be specific) are secondary lower-mid back muscles worked during the rdl with a kettlebell. 

This region supports and strengthens your back by keeping it straight and sturdy throughout movement.


KB RDL Alternatives

Single-Leg Kettlebell RDL

How to perform: Begin in the same posture as the regular rdl with a kettlebell. Shift your weight to one leg, bend at the hip, and raise the other leg behind you. Lower the kettlebell to the ground . Return to your starting place and repeat.

Benefits: This version of the rdl improves balance and activates stabilizing muscles more intensively. The single-leg kettlebell rdl is great for improving function, especially in the ankle, knee, and hip regions. 

TipsLock your eyes on something straight ahead and do not move them. This will help you maintain balance. 

Stay slow and controlled, the more you try and rush the lift, the harder the single-leg kettlebell rdl will be.

single leg kettlebell rdl


Barbell RDL

How to: Almost Identical to the kettlebell rdl, but with a barbell. Hold the barbell using an overhand grip outside your knees, bend at the hips, and keep the bar tight to your body while lowering and lifting it.

Benefits: Allows for loading more weight, making it a great choice for strength training.

Barbell rdls


Good Morning Exercise

How to: Rest a barbell in the pocket of your upper back.

Keeping your feet hip-width apart, bend at your hips while maintaining a flat back, and lower your body until it is nearly parallel to the ground. Return to your starting position.

Benefits: Stresses the lower back and hamstrings.

Good morning exercise

Tips: With an exercise that relies heavily on the lower back, it is crucial that you engage your core muscles throughout the exercise.

Do not round the back or overarch the spine, stay neutral and tight.


Suitcase Deadlift

Targeting several muscle groups, this compound exercise is a great functional lifting motion. Not only can it help maintain strength but it can also prevent injury as a bonus of developing the core, glutes, lower back, hamstrings, and forearms. 

suitcase deadlift


Kettlebell RDL -FAQ

How do I feel RDLs in glutes?

To feel RDLs in your glutes, you want to first start by focusing on your form. To activate glute muscles make sure you're extending your hips back, staying engaged at the top, and keeping the weight close to your legs. From here, if you still aren’t feeling a stretch or burn, increase the weight to challenge yourself more.

Why am I experiencing lower back pain from RDLs?

Going in cold and racing through the exercise is a popular way people hurt their lower backs with rdls. Lifting the weight off the ground in a jerking manner is never good for your lower back. Not engaging your core and relying on your spine to bear the weight is also very hard on your lower back.

Another reason you could be experiencing lower back pain during rdls is from a preexisting injury. Rdls place a heavy emphasis on the lower back and flare-ups in the spinal region are not uncommon.

How to do a B stance RDL?

Start by holding a dumbbell, kettlebell, or barbell with an overhand grip.

Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart.

Step with your right foot back, connecting your toes with your left heel while keeping your feet shoulder-width apart.

Keep your left foot flat and place just the ball of the right foot on the ground, slightly bending the right knee.

Hinge at the hips with a flat back, pulling the buttocks back and leaning forward while bending the left knee slightly.

Move the weight down your front leg.

Lower until you feel a stretch in your glutes and hamstrings, then squeeze the glutes to return to the starting position.





[1] Donnelly, Joseph M. Travell, Simons & Simons Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: the Trigger Point Manual. 3rd ed., Wolters Kluwer Health, 2019.

[2] Davies, Clair, and Amber Davies. The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief. 3rd ed., New Harbinger Publications, Inc., 2013.

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