Let’s go through the different movements outlined in the tutorial that can teach and train an effective bending pattern or hip hinging pattern.
Romanian Deadlift or RDL
The Romanian Deadlift or abbreviated RDL is a very common hip hinge exercise to target the posterior chain.
The Romanian Deadlift is characterized by a strong backward shift of the hip, which allows the bar to stay close to the body and reduce stress on the lower back.
Where does the name Romanian Deadlift come from?
As the story goes, the successful Romanian Weightlifter and later successful Romanian Weightlifting Coach Dragomir Cioroslan has brought this exercise to the US.
After the fall of the iron curtain, Cioroslan became the Head Coach of the US Weightlifting Team and introduced this, to that point unknown exercise to the US Weightlifters. The US Weightlifters coined the exercise Romanian Deadlift since they knew the regular version of the Deadlift and saw this variation as a Romanian variation of the regular Deadlift.
As most other strength training exercises, there are different variations of the Romanian Deadlift. I have listed a few here, to show exemplary, how an exercise can be modified.
Ruby Huisman, Junior World Champion BMX 2016, performing a regular Romanian Deadlift, you can nicely see, how the hip shifts backward and the bar stays close to the body.
Raymon van der Biezen, professional BMX rider, and double Olympian, performing a Single Leg Romanian Deadlift with a barbell, also notice here, how Raymon keeps the barbell close to his body / legs.
Zarah de Haan, track cyclist in our development team, performing a Single Leg Romanian Deadlift with a dumbbell
Stiff Leg Deadlift
Stiff Leg Deadlift also called stiff-legged Deadlift or Straight Leg Deadlift is a hip hinge motion similar to the Romanian Deadlift, where the athlete hinges forward from the hip.
What is the difference of a Romanian Deadlift vs Stiff Leg Deadlift?
Well, to be honest, many times the Romanian Deadlift and the Stiff Leg Deadlift are used interchangeably, but they are not. I remember an incident when two people laughed into my face when I outlined the difference between a Romanian Deadlift vs Stiff Leg Deadlift.
I leave it up to you to read my explanation and draw your own conclusions.
The difference is in the hip shift, whilst the RDL shifts the hip backward as much as possible so that the barbell can travel down and up in a vertical line, in the Stiff Leg Deadlift the hip remains in the same position and the bar travels away from the body.
So, why should the bar travel away from the body, as it does in a Stiff Leg Deadlift?
The simple reason is, that it puts much higher stretch loads on the posterior chain, mainly the hamstrings.
Because a heavy stretch and eccentric component is a strong hypertrophic signal, one of the hypertrophic signals, and this is exactly where the Stiff Leg Deadlift is mainly used, in Bodybuilding or as a means to increase muscular hypertrophy in the hamstring muscles.
Important to keep in mind, the Stiff Leg Deadlift places a greater load on the posterior chain, but due to the barbell moving away from the body, the total load that can be lifted is much lower than I a Romanian Deadlift.
The Good Morning is a hip hinging movement very similar to the RDL where the barbell is held on the shoulders, in the same position as the Back Squat.
The Good Morning places a lot of load and emphasis on the lower back and is therefore used as an exercise to strengthen the lower back region.
If you think about a Squat and a Deadlift, for most athletes, the weakest link in the chain of the whole movement is the lower back. Which means they would be able to squat more or deadlift more if their lower back could support the load.
For these athletes, the Good Morning is a great strength exercise to strengthen the lower back, which results in a bigger squat or bigger deadlift.
Keep in mind, due to the bar position, the total load that can be lifted in a Good Morning is much less than in an RDL, considering you go through the full range of motion (in the bottom position the upper body is parallel with the ground).
The Deadlift also referred to as regular Deadlift, traditional Deadlift or conventional Deadlift.
The regular Deadlift, traditional Deadlift or conventional Deadlift is used to make a clear distinction between the Deadlift vs Sumo Deadlift.
What is the difference between a Deadlift vs Romanian Deadlift or Deadlift vs Stiff Leg Deadlift?
The difference between Deadlift and Romanian Deadlift or the Deadlift and Stiff Leg Deadlift is, that in the Deadlift you engage your legs.
That means whilst there is no movement in the knee joint in a Romanian Deadlift or Stiff Leg Deadlift, there is a slight knee flexion and knee extension movement in the regular Deadlift.
Due to the additional joint (knees) involved in the movement the total load, that can be lifted in a Deadlift is higher than in a Romanian Deadlift.
Sumo Deadlifts are a Deadlift variation, where the stance is much wider than in a regular Deadlift.
The wider stance allows the athlete to grab the barbell in between the legs and sit a lower in the start position.
This variation originates from competitive Powerlifters.
The reason is that these Powerlifters have stronger anterior side and the deeper start position allows them to use the muscles of the anterior side more.
What is the difference of a Deadlift vs Sumo Deadlift?
As I have just outlined, the start position is different, but let’s break it down into fundamental movements and fundamental movement patterns.
Whilst the regular Deadlift is mainly a bending pattern, the Sumo Deadlift is actually more of a squatting pattern.
This is also the practical application of the Sumo Deadlift for athletes.
Athletes who can’t squat, for whatever reason are most often very able to perform Sumo Deadlifts.
I have experienced that myself when I was working with the professional Beach Volleyball Players, they weren’t that good at Back Squats or Front Squats, but they could lift quite big in the Sumo Deadlift.
Trap Bar Deadlift
The Trap Bar Deadlift, also called Hex Bar Deadlift is another Deadlift variation that requires a specific bar, which allows the athlete to stand inside the barbell.
One of the major benefits of the Trap Bar Deadlift is, that athletes can just reach down to the bar, grab the barbell and lift it up, without worrying how to get the barbell past the knees.
This is one of the biggest technical difficulties athletes are facing in the regular Deadlift, that their start position tends to be too low and the knees come too far forward and over and in front of the bar (watch minute 05:02 and following minutes from the tutorial, that explains the difference between the start position in a Deadlift and in a Clean).
Similarly to the Sumo Deadlift, the fact that athletes can sit much lower makes the Trap Bar Deadlift also into a combination of a bending pattern and squatting pattern.
Consequently, the Trap Bar Deadlift can be used as a squatting variation as well. Mike Boyle, for example, uses the Trap Bar Deadlift as a squatting variation.
The Clean Pull is a movement, that is similar to a Clean or Power Clean, but without catching the bar. The Clean Pull is essentially the first 3 phases of the Clean or Power Clean, first pull, transition and second pull. If you want to read up on the different phases of the Power Clean technique, check out
As I mentioned in the section about the Trap Bar Deadlift, often times the Clean Pull start position and Deadlift start position are referred to as the same positions.
The truth is, the start positions are different and the movement of the Clean Pull and the movement of the Deadlift are very different.
The main difference in the start position is, that the athlete sits much lower in the start position of the Clean Pull compared to the Deadlift, which results in a more upright upper body and the knees moving forward and over the bar.
The difference in the movement is, that the most difficult part in the Deadlift is to get the barbell of the ground. Whilst getting the bar of the ground in a Clean or Power Clean is not the most challenging part of the whole movement.
Back Extensions, also referred as Hyperextensions is a bending movement that can be used in a various way and at various angles.
In the tutorial, Twan and I demonstrated two different variations of the Back Extension, depending on which movement pattern you want to teach or train.
Variation one is another hip hinge variation, that trains the bending pattern from the hip, similar to the movement patterns of the Romanian Deadlift, Stiff Leg Deadlift and Good Morning.
The second variation uses the bending pattern from the lower back, the lumbar spine region.
As I mentioned in the introduction of the article, there is quite a bit of a debate, whether you should train this movement pattern or not. Or whether it is not better to keep the trunk in an isometric position without flexion and extension.
My opinion is, that the spine is made for a certain range of motion and these movements also happen in the sporting arena, so why not train it?
The bending pattern from the lumbar region trained in the Back Extension machine requires the hip to stay stable and the movement occurs by bending/flexing and extending the spine.
The example of the Back Extension shows nicely, that the same exercise can be used for different purposes, in this example hinging from the hip vs bending from the lumbar region.
The Jefferson Curl is an advanced strength training exercise and should exclusively be used by advanced athletes with a well-developed kinesthetic sense and control of their body.
The Jefferson Curl also trains and teaches the flexion and extension pattern of the lumbar region by flexing and extending spine.
The benefits of the Jefferson Curl is, that it allows for training the lower back dynamically with eccentric-concentric contractions and therefore strengthening the muscles of the lumbar region over the full range of motion. Whilst the most common bending pattern strength exercises, such as the Deadlift variations, RDL, Stiff Leg Deadlift and Good Mornings only train the lower back isometrically.
Concluding Think Bending, Not Deadlifting
The next time you ask yourself, what is the difference between a Deadlift vs Sumo Deadlift, you know the answer can be found in breaking down the movement into its fundamental movement patterns.
The bending pattern can be trained with different strength training exercises, amongst the most popular strength training exercises for training the bending pattern are Deadlift, Romanian Deadlift, Stiff Leg Deadlift, Good Mornings and Back Extensions.
By the way, not only are these exercises the most popular, they will also give you the biggest bang for your buck
Common variations, such as the Sumo Deadlift and Trap Bar Deadlift are a combination of the bending pattern and the squatting pattern.
Part 3: Squatting – are all Squatting exercises created equal?
Back Squat, Front Squat, Overhead Squat, Hack Squat, Goblet Squat, Pistol Squat, Sissy Squats, Split Squats, Zercher Squat, … the available squat variations are almost limitless and you ask yourself which squat is best?
This is the paradox of choice in action. The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less a book written by Barry Schwartz argues that too much choice can lead to paralysis and ultimately result in people not making choices.
What does that have to do with squatting?
If we break down all available squat variations and look at the underlying fundamental movement, essentially they are all the same – it’s a squat!
You are bending your knees to descent into a squat position and you rise or ascent from that squat position.
Have a look at this tutorial I have done with BMX World Champion 2015 and Olympian 2016 Niek Kimmann to demonstrate the fundamental movement pattern of the squat and how this movement pattern unfolds in different squatting exercises.
Your challenge, when watching the tutorial, remove yourself from looking at the different equipment, bar positions and whether it’s single-legged or double-legged and just look at the movement.