There’s a debate raging within the fitness community comparing the hip thrust and Romanian deadlift (RDL) for glute growth. Many extrapolate long muscle length studies and blindly apply them to the glutes. Should they?
The hip thrust is better for targeting the glutes, while the RDL is better for targeting the hamstrings. Both should be used to develop complete posterior muscle growth.
These aren’t the only differences, and each exercise has many more applications.
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Hip Thrust vs. Romanian Deadlift: What’s The Difference?
Both exercises are excellent posterior chain builders. The hip thrust targets the glutes and hamstrings, while the Romanian deadlift targets the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. However, the RDL is a more potent hamstring developer, while the hip thrust is better for the glutes.
Both play a role in complete hamstring and glute development. The hip thrust hits the glutes in shortened positions with peak tension, while the Romanian deadlift targets the glutes in the stretched position.
The Romanian deadlift is simple. A barbell and plates are all you need. However, having straps becomes important as loads get heavier. The hip thrust uses the same equipment but adds a bench and barbell pad to protect your hips.
The setup for the hip thrust can be tedious because you need to place a bench against an immovable object and then roll the barbell over your legs to get in position.
The Romanian deadlift is best for building big hamstrings. It places them under extreme stretch and load, which is the potent combination needed for maximizing muscle growth. Further, it will strengthen your glutes and lower back and would be considered a lower glute exercise for physique athletes reading this.
On the other hand, the hip thrust is mainly used for getting a bigger butt. It’s a complete glute exercise for the upper glute shelf and posterior development. It’s not typically used as a strength exercise, as there are better strength exercises like the RDL.
The Romanian deadlift is much harder to learn than the hip thrust. In my experience, the hip hinge is one of the more challenging movements for a beginner to learn. Pushing the hips backward while maintaining a straight back and big chest is not intuitive for most newbies.
The hip thrust is isolated hip extension with less degrees of freedom, making it an easier exercise to learn. The most difficult part is developing the mind-muscle connection with the glutes and minimizing hamstring contribution during the exercise.
How To Hip Thrust
The hip thrust was non-existent within the commercial gym over a decade ago. Now you can’t walk into one without seeing someone using it. If you want to target your glutes without significantly growing your legs, this is the movement. Here’s how to do it:
- Sit on the floor with your back against a bench. Roll the barbell so it is in the crease of your hips. Use a barbell pad or mat to cushion between you and the barbell.
- Bring your feet flat so your shins are vertical at the top of the movement. Shift your back up the bench so your shoulder blades are against the edge.
- Drive through your heels and squeeze your glutes at the top.
- Stronger hip extension: The hip thrust targets and loads hip extension, making it an excellent exercise for targeting the glute and hamstring muscles.
- Reduced knee and back stress: Other glute exercises like squats, lunges, and deadlifts can aggravate knee and back pain. The hip thrust doesn’t stress the knee and back to the same extent making it an excellent way to load the hips.
- Build huge glutes: That is why the hip thrust was invented. To grow a booty worth looking back at.
- A hassle to set up: I’ve been in busy commercial gyms trying to set up the hip thrust. Wheeling a bench to the wall and finding a barbell, plates, and a pad is a workout in itself. It’s much easier with a home gym or a hip thrust machine.
How To RDL
- Assuming you’ve picked your weight up, stand tall with your knees slightly bent and chest out. Activate your lats to keep the bar close by thinking about having oranges under your armpits you are trying to juice.
- To initiate the movement, arch your lower back like you’re going to twerk (who knew you could learn the basics of the RDL through Tik Tok?) and push your hips backward. Your bodyweight should be through your heels. You can either pack your chin and look down so you have a straight line for your spine, or you can have your head and eyes facing forward. Either is fine, and go with what feels best.
- The bar should travel down your legs as you push your hips back. You shouldn’t have any space between the bar and your legs. That’s how close it needs to be. Your knees should be at exactly the same angle as the beginning.
- The most important point many lifters get wrong is when to stop the descent. As soon as your hips STOP MOVING BACKWARD, that is the end of the descent. You will find this is either just above or below your kneecap. If done correctly, you won’t have the bar by your shin, as that will mean now your lower back is taking the rest of the load, not your hamstrings.
- Thrust your hips forward to get back to the starting position. Rinse and repeat.
- Train hamstrings at long muscle lengths: Long muscle length training, especially for biarticular muscles like the hamstrings, is superior for muscle growth . The Romanian deadlift lengthens the hamstrings at the knee and hip, creating a potent muscle-building stimulus.
- Improves mobility: Static stretching only gets you so far as it doesn’t produce any structural changes in the muscle . But strength training does, especially at long muscle lengths.
- Target the entire posterior chain: Few exercises significantly tax the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. The RDL targets these muscles under heavy loads.
- Complex exercise: It may take a while for beginners to learn effectively. However, it’s a fundamental movement in the gym, so it is one you must learn regardless.
Are Hip Thrusts And RDLs The Same?
Hip thrusts and RDLs are not the same. They work similar muscle groups but with different emphases. Romanian deadlifts stretch the hamstrings and target the glutes and lower back. The hip thrust is primarily a glute exercise with some hamstring recruitment.
Are RDLs Enough For Glutes?
Romanian deadlifts are not enough for glutes. While the glutes are stretched under load, there isn’t as much tension as during the hip thrust. Further, you must modify how you perform the RDL to hit more glutes.
In this example, you would have more knee bend as you descended to take tension away from the hamstrings forcing the glutes to take more of the load.
But to maximize glute development, you should use a combination of squats, RDLs, lunges, and hip thrusts.
Are RDLs Better Than Hip Thrusts For Glute Growth?
RDLs are not better than hip thrusts for glute growth but make an excellent complementary pairing. I consider the hip thrust the greatest for glute growth because of the loading directly on the hips and the near-total isolation of the glutes.
Hip Thrust vs. RDL: Which Is Better?
As always, there is no better exercise as it depends on your training goal. For overall strength development, the RDL takes the cake. The hip thrust should be your number one exercise
for growing massive glutes.
You’d use the Romanian deadlift to target the hamstrings and lower back. In my experience, it’s best to use both exercises within a training routine on separate days or as part of a glute/hamstring dominant day.
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2. Freitas, S. R., Mendes, B., Le Sant, G., Andrade, R. J., Nordez, A., & Milanovic, Z. (2018). Can chronic stretching change the muscle‐tendon mechanical properties? A review. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports, 28(3), 794-806.
3. Konrad, A., & Tilp, M. (2014). Increased range of motion after static stretching is not due to changes in muscle and tendon structures. Clinical biomechanics, 29(6), 636-642.