There is some fuzzy history on the interwebs about the origins of the Romanian Deadlift, or RDL as it's come to be known. I've spoken with and read accounts by coaches who swear up and down they first witnessed this lift in training halls at European meets, at the USOC in Colorado Springs, etc . Not to cast aspersions on anyone's best recollections, but as far as I can ascertain, the account by Coach Jim Schmitz and journalist Randy Strossen is the best documented (see the picture above by Strossen) and all the other stories about first witnessing the RDL are, well, good stories.
Far from being the "beloved exercise of the Romanian weightlifting team" as one report puts it, according to Romanian Olympic Champion Nicu Vlad, he had simply devised a hybrid deadlifting movement to give himself some extra low back work. Neither he nor his coach at the time Dragomir Cioroslan had a formal name for it, so Schmitz (who was hosting the lifter and his coach for a clinic at his gym) coined the name Romanian Deadlift (and being the king of abbreviations for movements) or RDL. And it stuck. Here is the story, told by Schmitz, as it appears on Strossen's Iron Mind website:
"I get quite a kick out of all the mileage the RDL (Romanian deadlift) has gotten in the world of strength and conditioning. It seems I almost always come across the RDL exercise in every article written about training for power and sport in all the journals on the subject. The reason for my amusement is that the �discovery� of the RDL was in my gym, The Sports Palace, in San Franciscoin 1990.
Olympic and world champion and world record holder Nicu Vlad, of Romania, and his coach Dragomir Cioroslan were conducting a clinic there. They were in the U.S. for the 1990 Goodwill Games that were being held in Seattle and Spokane, Washington. USA Weightlifting, for which I was president at the time, invited Nicu and Dragomir to conduct some clinics while they were here, and my gym was one of the locations. Part of the clinic was Nicu doing a workout where he cleaned and jerked around 220 kg to 230 kg, and then he proceeded to do this lift, a combination stiff-leg deadlift and regular deadlift, but actually neither. He did several sets, working up to 250 for triples.
Someone watching asked what the exercise was he was doing. Nicu just shrugged his shoulders and said it was to make his back strong for the clean. Dragomir also said the same; it was just a lift that Nicu had developed for his back and clean. Well, then everyone was really interested and asked Nicu to demonstrate it with lighter weights and describe how to do it. Someone taking notes asked what this lift was called. There was a long pause and Nicu and Dragomir didn�t have a name, so I said, �Let�s call it the Romanian deadlift or RDL for short,� and every one agreed and there you have the birth of the RDL. MILO publisher and editor-in-chief Randall Strossen was there taking photos.
Let me tell you how to correctly perform the RDL for those who may not be sure. You grab the bar with your clean grip, pull the bar to the tops of your thighs, but don�t complete the lift: knees are not locked out, chest is out, and back is flat. You then lower the bar to about two inches from the platform, keeping your back perfectly flat or arched and your knees slightly flexed, then you return to the almost erect position--but is very critical here not to fully lock the knees--then repeat. Two very important details are 1) your back stays flat or arched at all times, and 2) your knees stay slightly flexed at all times. This lift is almost all low back, glutes, and hamstrings. I recommend 3 to 5 reps with a weight 80% to 100% of your best clean. An interesting side note here is that Yoshinobu Miyake, Japan�s 1964 and 1968 Olympic champion, was at the clinic and he said he did the same exercise back in his prime, the 1960s." http://www.ironmind.com/ironmind/opencms/Lifts/Romanian_deadlift.html
Try the RDL as Schmitz recommends. I would add that the trick to making the RDL effective is to lock the back, hinge at the hips and "reach back' with the butt to lower the bar. Go no further than you can maintain back integrity. Did it work for Vlad? Here's some footage of him cleaning and jerking 205kg at the 1984 Olympic Games.
When he moved up to the 100kg a bit later in his career he became the heaviest man in history to snatch double bodyweight. Of course, if you include the RDL in your workouts your results may vary.