How To Do Stiff Leg Deadlift – Proper Form And Variations

Stiff Leg Deadlift Overview

Everyone who lifts weights regularly should focus on three types of deadlift. The standard deadlift, of course, is an exercise that should be included on everyone’s gym routine. The Romanian deadlift and stiff-leg deadlift are the other two deadlift exercises to consider. These two exercises appear similar, and both put more focus on the hamstrings than a traditional deadlift, however they differ in how much you flex your knee. Because the knee is bent less while performing a stiff-leg deadlift, the glutes and hamstrings must work harder so it’s ​an exercise used primarily to target the muscles of the hamstrings

Despite the fact that all hip hinge motions primarily target the hamstrings, the stiff-legged deadlift has long been considered the “leg” deadlift variant. A good option for increasing the frequency of your training and working on the movement pattern would be to do stiff legs on your leg day and another deadlift style on your back or pull days.

The hip hinge is an important movement pattern, therefore it’s critical to figure out a method that feels comfortable and improves your mobility.

The stiff-legged deadlift is best done after or during your leg and/or full-body workouts.


Target Muscle Group – Hamstrings

Exercise Type – Strength

Equipment Required – Barbell

Mechanics – Compound

Force Type – Hinge (Bilateral)

Experience Level – Intermediate

Secondary Muscles – Abs, Adductors, Calves, Glutes, Lats, Lower Back, Quads, Traps, Upper Back


How To Do The Stiff-Leg Deadlift

  1. Position the bar over the top of your midfoot and assume a hip width stance.
  2. Bend your legs and push back with your hips until your torso is almost parallel to the ground.
  3. Grasp the bar with a shoulder-width, double overhand grip.
  4. Ensure that your spine is neutral, your shin is vertical, and your hips are roughly the same height as your shoulders.
  5. Keep your back straight, pull the bar close to your body, until you have reached a standing position.
  6. Ensure that the bar traces a straight line as you extend your legs and hips.
  7. Once you have locked out the hips, reverse the movement by pushing the hips back and hinging forward.
  8. Lower the bar back to the ground with control, still keeping your legs straight, and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Stiff-Leg Deadlift Variations

Stiff-leg deadlift with dumbbells

Replace the barbell with two dumbbells and maintain the same stance. Dumbbells can help you improve your range of motion and iron out any muscular imbalances on either side of your body.

Stiff single-leg deadlift

This is a fantastic exercise for runners and any other athletes who participate in team sports since it trains your legs to move in the same way they would while running – you’re not leaping forward with two-footed leaps, right? Use a barbell, two dumbbells, or even one single dumbbell, but make sure the weight isn’t too heavy. Begin in the standard stiff-leg deadlift position, holding your chosen weight in front of your thighs. Return the weight to your hips and bend forwards, taking one leg off the ground behind you as you lower the weight. Keep the raised leg straight. Bring the weight back up and the raised leg down once you’ve experienced a hamstring stretch in your grounded leg.

Stiff-Leg Deadlift vs. Conventional Deadlift

The primary distinction between stiff-leg deadlifts and conventional deadlifts is that you keep your legs almost straight (“stiff”) throughout the entire range of motion in the former. The movement transforms the exercise into almost a purely hip hinge, putting more of the strain on your back, glutes, and hamstrings.

The most significant difference is found in the start position, where the normal deadlift’s knee-bend is at its maximum. It might be hard to get into the starting position for stiff-leg deadlifts with a straight back or a little arch in your back, depending on your body type and mobility. If flexibility/mobility is an issue, you may begin by placing the barbell on low blocks or a couple of weight plates so that you can reach it more easily. Then, if you choose to, you can lower the barbell as your mobility and strength improve.

Man doing stiff leg deadlift

Stiff-Leg Deadlifts vs. Romanian Deadlifts

The Romanian deadlift is another popular deadlift variant that is quite similar to the stiff-leg deadlift in terms of execution. The major distinction is that stiff-leg deadlifts usually begin and terminate with the barbell on the floor. This is not required in the Romanian deadlift; you may reverse the rep before hitting the floor and merely replace the bar on the ground (or in a rack) when your set is complete.

Pro Tips

  • This style of deadlift looks almost identical to a conventional deadlift with the key difference being the lifter starts with higher hips and a vertical shin angle. The hips and shoulders will most likely be at about the same height.
  • When you pull the bar, keep it close to your body at all times.
  • You may start this exercise out of a rack (similar to an RDL or the American deadlift) or you may start these off the floor.
  • Keep your knees soft and focus the movement on your hips. There shouldn’t be any spine movement – don’t attempt to arch your back.
  • The way your neck is positioned during a lift may be very subjective. Some people like a neutral neck position (i.e. keeping the chin tucked throughout the lift), while others find that looking slightly up is more comfortable. Here’s some factors to consider:
  • If you’re someone who has an athletic background with good mobility, then you will likely be able to keep a neutral position more effectively by keeping the chin tucked.
  • On the other hand, if you tend to be more flexion dominant (especially in your thoracic spine – upper back) then It’s best if you look up slightly as this will provide more extension.
  • Experiment with each and select the one that works best for your anatomy and biomechanics.
  • Don’t be concerned about pushing your shoulder blades back, this is pointless and won’t help you with your deadlift.
  • Wrap your thumbs around the bar instead of using a false grip. Squeeze the bar as hard as you can, imagine that you are trying to leave an imprint of your fingerprints on it.
  • When you hip hinge, you should notice a weight shift to your heels. Don’t shift your weight so aggressively that your heels come up, though.
  • You won’t be able to effectively recruit your quads at the start of the lift if you concentrate on putting all of the weight on your heels, so you’ll be sluggish off the flow. To counter this, focus on driving through the whole foot with 3 points of contact: big toe, little toe, and heel.

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