I'm trying to pick up some physical fitness exercises with dumbbells and found two different exercises having the same name (Dumbbell Deadlift).

The first is done with a squatting move with dumbbells (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ipi8_vz8_z0). I put a screenshot below

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The second is done with a bend over position (see https://www.matchusports.nl/fit-tips/oefeningen/dumbbell/). I put the picture from the website (in Dutch) below.

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What are the correct names of these two clearly different exercises?

2 Answers 2


The first is a dumbbell deadlift. This should be considered to be analogous to a trap bar deadlift, since the absence of a bar in front of the shins means that forward knee travel is unrestricted, as opposed to a barbell deadlift where the bar limits how far forward the knees can travel. Compared to a barbell deadlift, this exercise will allow more of the load to be shifted from the back and glutes to the quadriceps.

The second is a dumbbell RDL (Romanian Deadlift). Unlike other deadlift variations, this exercise begins with the weight being lowered from a standing position, rather than picked up off the floor. Because the knees travel backwards rather than forwards as the weight is lowered, this exercise recruits the hamstrings rather than the quadriceps, and is considered to primarily be a hamstrings exercise.

  • Thank you for this complete answer (it evens answers more than I asked but which I need to sort some exercises to their 'muscle groups'). Jan 6, 2022 at 23:12

The top one with the male is called, "Doing a dumbell deadlift with terrible form". The bottom one, with the woman, is called "A dumbell deadlift with decent form". Notice that the woman is keeping her lumbar spine in almost a neutral position (though not quite), while the man is letting his lumbar totally flex. You will find the beautiful people on Youtube, such as this hunky dude, who will say that it is beneficial to let your lumbar spine flex. However, anyone who has been coaching for a few decades will tell you to keep your spine in neutral. Here are some names for you too look up: Stuart McGill, Mike Boyle, and Brent Brookbrush. McGill and Boyle were coaching when the guy in this picture was in diapers. Brushbook is younger. McGill has published two hundred research papers and three books. There is a long list of professional athletes who have gone to McGill for their back pain. Point is, any coach with a long track record will tell you that letting your spine flex in a deadlift is a bad idea. So you can take your advise from a guy with an expensive haircut, or from people with experience.

Michel, here is more: Your lumbar spine is most stable when it has a lordotic (or inward) curve. This lordotic curve is built into the bones of your lumbar spine, so it is also referred to as "neutral". A flat back is when you lose your lordotic curve. Unfortunately, our lumbar spine tends to flatten as we age, which might be a bit counterintuitive. If you practice watching older people in the grocery store, you will be able to identify the flatness of the lumbar spine with aging.

"Flexion" refers to a movement, while "lordotic" is a shape, which can be confusing. When you flex your lumbar spine, you decrease the lordotic angle, if you extend your back you increase the lordotic angle. A recent study "Lower Back Injury Prevention and Sensitization of Hip Hinge with Neutral Spine Using Wearable Sensors during Lifting Exercises" found that over half of male weight lifters let their lumbar spine flex too much during deadlifts, so be careful.

I urge you to study anatomy so you know this terminology. Sam Webster makes very approachable and even entertaining anatomy videos on youtube.

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    The actual video advocates keeping a neutral spine in the deadlift, and the screenshot that appears above was taken from a frame where he's just bending over to grab the handles and hasn't braced or begun the pull yet. Jan 7, 2022 at 3:23
  • Thanks for this addition. I did exercises long time ago, so my knowledge about exercises has faded quite a bit, however, for 'heavy weights' trying to lift or move it with a bend back is not a good idea. I guess you mean with 'flex' a bent back and with 'neutral' a 'locked/straight' back? Jan 7, 2022 at 8:43
  • @Michel I added some stuff to my answer.
    – Chris
    Jan 7, 2022 at 15:06
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    "...over half of male weight lifters let their lumbar spine flex too much during deadlifts, so be careful..." This language is harmful. You are scaring OP into thinking that posture or "form" matters while humans are actually capable of moving in very diverse patterns. Jan 7, 2022 at 21:52
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    Fair enough, David. The title of the 2021 article is inappropriate. Their article does not address pain or sensitization. What the article actually does is show that their sensors are reliable compared to more complicated methods of measuring lumbar spine movement. It is a technology article. That said, the article could be significant if coaches start using their sensors to characterize their client's lifting patterns. The article also had some interesting comments about how their sensors picked up lumbar spine movement that coaches could not see.
    – Chris
    Jan 8, 2022 at 1:39

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