Stiff Leg Deadlift: Best Hamstring Strengthening Exercise

The stiff leg deadlift, an isolation movement, targets hip flexion/extension and can be done by any athlete to increase muscular strength, hypertrophy, and neuromuscular control.

Strengthening the posterior chain is essential for strength, power, and sports athletes.

Knee and hip extension are essential for force production in most movements such as clean and jerks, deadlifts, sprints, and jumping.

It is an excellent exercise for athletes who want to improve their muscle strength and endurance.

What Is The Stiff-Leg Deadlift?

The stiff-leg or straight-leg deadlift is a strength exercise that alters the traditional deadlift.

The stiff-leg deadlift works muscles in your posterior chains, which is the back group that includes your glutes, calves, and hamstrings.

How To Do Stiff Leg Deadlift

Start with a weight you can control for at least 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions.

Choosing a weight that will allow you to maintain good technique through all sets and repetitions would be best.

  • Take the barbell in your hand and hold it with your overhand grip.
  • With your feet shoulder- or hip-width apart, your posture should be upright.
  • Your knees should be bent slightly.
  • With a neutral head position and a straight hip joint, your hips should rest directly above your shoulders.
  • Your chin should be tucked during the movement.
  • It is as though you are holding an egg under each chin.
  • Each foot should have equal weight.
  • To create a stable foot position, grip the floor with your feet.
  • Your arms should be straight with an elbow bend.
  • With a good inhale, exhale, and pre-tension of your shoulders and hips.

This position should be the starting point for all repetitions.

  • Slowly hinge your hips, and then let the bar move away from you.
  • Your knees should be straight.
  • The barbell should be slightly lower than your legs and should not move over your toes.
  • Move downwards until the bar reaches your knees or mid-shin, depending on your flexibility.
  • Your shins should be straight at the end of the downward motion.
  • You should feel the weight of your feet in the heel and midfoot of your feet.
  • Start the upward movement by maintaining a neutral spine position.
  • Next, bring the barbell closer to your body and push your feet up through the floor.
  • Your hips should be pushed forward.
  • Keep your hips moving forward and your arms extended.
  • Then, finish the movement by pressing your glutes together and keeping your spine neutral.
  • As if your pelvis were a bucket full of water, you try to keep the water from escaping the sides, front, and back.
  • Your shoulders should cross over your hips at the end of every repetition.
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Stiff Leg Deadlift Benefits

Let’s now discuss the many benefits this type of deadlift exercise has.

Improved Posterior Chain

Stiff Leg Deadlift Step By Step Instruction

Its main benefit is the effect of stiff leg deadlifts on your posterior chain.

By strengthening your lower back and posture, you will improve your jumping, leg press, and incline-running abilities and your overall strength.

Leg Design From Start To Finish

How To Perform Stiff Leg Deadlift Perfect

A stiff leg deadlift is a standard part of bodybuilders’ leg training.

This deadlift helps develop more giant legs by strengthening your glutes, hamstrings, and hips.

This engagement increases their size power and integrates seamlessly into regular deadlifts and squats to strengthen your quadriceps.

Improving Athletic Performance

Stiff Leg Deadlift Guide

Using a dumbbell, you can also improve your athletic performance by including the stiff leg deadlift in your training routine.

Hip strength, endurance, and form are essential for walking, running, and jumping.

Prevents Major Injuries

Stiff Leg Deadlift Which Muscles Works

Because of past injuries, you might be hesitant to do a traditional deadlift.

A stiff leg deadlift is a great option.

Although stiff leg deadlifts won’t help you lift heavier weights, they can help build a more robust posterior chain.

Working Muscles In A Stiff Leg Deadlift

Stiff Leg Deadlift Works Which Muscles

This exercise targets the following muscles:

  • Hamstrings
  • Erectors
  • Lats (snatch grip)
  • Gluteus Maximus

Your core must be engaged to ensure you are stable and underweight.

Who Should Perform The Stiff-Legged Deadlift

Stiff Leg Deadlift Step by Step

The stiff-legged deadlift uses more glute and hamstring activation because you must keep your legs in place while performing the movement.

This exercise is highly recommended for hypertrophic individuals because it targets smaller muscle groups often incorporated into other compound movements.

It is crucial for powerlifters, weightlifters, and athletes to use the hamstrings for walking, squatting, and tilting your pelvis.

It is also the most commonly injured muscle in sports, so make sure to work out on this muscle.

Glute muscles are the largest and most influential in your body.

You can burn more calories by strengthening your glutes and protecting your hip extension and pelvic.

Common Mistakes In Stiff Leg Deadlift

#1 Rounding Of The Back

Stiff Leg Deadlift Benefits

The common error is to round the back during the dumbbell stiff leg deadlift.

Before performing any athletic movement, you must ensure that your body is stable.

Pinch your shoulders together and bend at the waist to keep your abs engaged.

Ensure that your eyes are always looking up during the movement.

This will reduce the chance of getting injured during dumbbell stiff leg deadlifts.

#2 Take The Dumbbells Out Of Your Body

How To Perform Stiff Leg Deadlift Correct

During this dumbbell deadlift variant, many dumbbell deadlifts allow dumbbells to move from their bodies.

This can put your weight on your feet and create unnecessary strain on your back.

To lift correctly, keep the dumbbells near your shins.

#3 Rushing The Motion

Stiff Leg Deadlift Worked Muscles

Too often, lifters rush to complete the dumbbell stiff-leg deadlift while going down.

You can injure yourself by bending too fast, but it will also limit your potential gains.

As you descend, you should pay attention to the deep stretching of your hamstrings.

This is a crucial part of the exercise; you should not rush through it.

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It will hinder the development of your lower body.

Variations For Stiff Leg Deadlift

Stiff Leg Deadlift Variation

#1 Kettlebell Stiff Leg Deadlift

A kettlebell can be used to perform the stiff leg deadlift.

You don’t need to grab two lighter dumbbells than you do with the dumbbell stiff leg deadlift.

Instead, pick one heavier kettlebell and perform the straight-legged deadlift the same way.

#2 Resistance Band Stiff Leg Deadlift

A resistance band can also be used to perform stiff leg deadlifts.

Attach the band to a doorframe or elevated hook and hold your arms straight.

Keep the same posture and brace your abs as you pull the bands towards your feet.

#3 Alternating Bodyweight Stiff Leg Deadlift

You can train each leg separately with the alternating dumbbell stiff leg deadlift.

Bend forward with one leg and engage your core.

Next, return to your starting position and repeat the process with the other leg.

This exercise requires a high level of balance.

For a more challenging challenge, dumbbells can be used to increase resistance once you have mastered the form.

Stiff Leg Deadlift Alternatives

How To Stiff Leg Deadlift

These alternative exercises for improving your lower body training, such as the dumbbell stiff-leg deadlift, are available:

#1 Barbell Romanian Deadlift

Barbell Romanian deadlift (RDL) differs slightly from a stiff leg deadlift.

Barbell RDL tends towards greater hip flexion than stiff leg deadlift.

  • The barbell Romanian deadlift is performed standing up with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • You will hold the barbell in an overhand grip.
  • Engage your core and bring your shoulder blades together.
  • Keep your chest high.
  • Keep your knees bent and bend at the waist.
  • Now, lower the weights towards the ground by keeping your back straight.
  • As your hips move backward, you should feel a deep stretch to your hamstrings.
  • Now, reverse the motion and return to standing.
  • Squeeze your glutes.
  • Repeat!

#2 Glute Ham Raise

This exercise also strengthens your glutes, hamstrings, and glutes.

Start in a vertical position on the glute hammer.

As you lower your body parallel to the ground, contract your glutes and abs.

Next, raise your legs to the vertical position by flexing your hamstrings.

#3 Bulgarian Split Squat

Targeting your glutes and legs with the Bulgarian Split Squat would be best.

  • Straighten your back while keeping one leg elevated.
  • To return to the original position, extend your legs upwards.

Stiff Leg Deadlift Vs. Deadlift. What’s The Difference?

Stiff Leg Deadlift Alternatives

Although the rigid-leg deadlift is similar to the conventional deadlift in many ways, there are some key differences.

Start Position

Stiff Leg Deadlift vs Traditional Deadlift

The stiff leg deadlift is similar to the Romanian deadlift (RDL).

With the weight at the waist, the lifter lowers it to the ground.

The lifter performs the traditional deadlift picking up the barbell off the ground.

Leg Position

Stiff Leg Deadlift Instruction

The most apparent difference between the two deadlift versions is that the stiff-leg deadlift requires straighter leg postures.

This position emphasizes the lower back muscles, so performing the exercise with stiff legs will allow you to feel some stretch.

Range Motion

How To Do Stiff Leg Deadlift Perfect

The stiff-leg deadlift has less motion than the conventional deadlift.

Stiff Leg Deadlifts Vs. Romanian Deadlifts

The Romanian deadlift is another popular deadlift variant.

It is very similar in technique to the stiff-leg deadlift.

The main difference between stiff-leg deadlifts and the regular deadlift is that the barbell remains on the ground.

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This is not required for the Romanian deadlift.

You can reverse the reps before hitting the floor and only place the barbell on the floor or in a rack when you are done.

Stiff Leg Deadlift Vs. Conventional Deadlift

The main difference between a stiff leg deadlift and a conventional deadlift is how you hold your legs straight throughout the exercise.

This makes the exercise almost a hip hinge.

It reduces the impact on your quads while shifting more work to your posterior muscles: your back and glutes.

This is evident most clearly in the starting position.

The regular deadlift has the highest knee bend.

Depending on your mobility and body type, it may be challenging to reach the starting position for stiff-leg deadlifts with a straight back or slight arch in your back.

To make it easier, place the barbell on a few weight plates or blocks to help you reach it.

As you improve your mobility and proficiency, you can lower it.

Why Is This Technique So Effective?

Stiff Leg Deadlift vs Conventional Deadlift

Biomechanics, anatomy, and biomechanics are the key to this toe-raising technique for stiff leg deadlifts.

Stiff leg deadlift places the most significant tension on the stretched, bottom position of the hamstrings.

To maximize tension on the hamstrings, it is vital to stretch the hamstrings as much as possible at this point.

This is done by simply bending at your hips during the stiff leg deadlift.

This isn’t the best anatomical stretch you can do for your hamstring muscles.

The muscles of your calves and hamstrings are intertwined, as you may not be aware.

A stretch on your calves will also stretch your hamstrings.

This is what weight plates do – they raise your feet, stretch your calves, and put more strain on your hamstrings.

You can activate your hamstrings by stretching both the hip and knee joints (from stretching the calves).

It’s amazing how the difference can make!

It’s worth it!

I guarantee you won’t return to the old way of doing things again after just one set.


How To Perform Stiff Leg Deadlift

The stiff leg deadlift is a practical exercise to increase strength and muscle hypertrophy.

It is an essential part of any athlete’s training.

A stiff leg deadlift can benefit almost every athlete looking to improve their glute performance, hamstring strength, and overall health.


  • Timothy P. Carnes

    Timothy P. Carnes is a certified personal trainer with a Bachelor's degree in Exercise Science from the University of Florida. With over 8 years of experience in the fitness industry, Timothy is an expert in strength and conditioning, body composition, and overall health and wellness. He also holds certifications in strength and conditioning through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and corrective exercise through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). As an author at FitGAG, he shares his knowledge and expertise on a variety of topics, including strength training, body composition, and overall health and wellness tips. Timothy believes that consistency and discipline are the keys to achieving fitness goals, and he strives to inspire his readers to prioritize their fitness and wellness journey. Through his articles, Timothy aims to empower his readers to take control of their health, enhance their performance, and live their best lives.

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