How to do stiff-legged deadlifts correctly
Here I am going to share the proper technique of a stiff like a deadlift as well as explain some of the common problems that I see people making. Watch the video

How to do stiff-legged deadlifts correctly

Here I am going to share the proper technique of a stiff like a deadlift as well as explain some of the common problems that I see people making. Watch the video below or read the steps, this is an example of the one on one or online coaching that I provide.

1. Body Position and Foot Placement:

To begin, stand with your feet positioned approximately shoulder-width apart. Your feet should be similar to that of a regular deadlift. However, do not keep the bar close to your shins. When looking directly down at your feet, the bar should align approximately in front of your shoelaces. Maintain a little distance between the barbell and your shins.

2. Bar Placement:

Keep the bar around the midfoot area, aligned with your shoulder blades. This positioning prevents scooping and rounding the pelvis during the lift.

3. Grip:

Grip the barbell so your hands are just outside your shins.

4. Hip Hinge, Not Knee Bend:

Maintain a slight knee bend throughout the movement, ensuring that the angle of your knees remains relatively consistent during the movement phase. There should be no significant knee bending from the start to the finish (only when locking out at the top). The movement should come from a hinging of the hips.

5. Arch Your Back:

Before lifting the bar, arch your back by performing an anterior pelvic tilt. This action stretches your hamstrings to place them in a lengthened position, which is optimal for muscle hypertrophy. You may also find lifting with an anterior tilted pelvis takes pressure off your lower back, although the spinal erectors are contracted.

6. Remove Slack from the Bar:

Before lifting the barbell off the floor, take the slack out of the bar by pulling the barbell upwards towards the ceiling but not so hard that the weights break off the floor. This will close the gap between the barbell and weight plates and remove any slack in your arms/elbows + contracts the upper back muscles. This is to avoid a jerky start position.

7. The Lifting Motion:

The motion comes from a hinging at the hips. Maintain a slight but consistent bend in the knees and hinge your torso until it’s approximately parallel to the floor.

8. Pause at the Top:

At the top of the lift, squeeze your glutes so your hips drive into the bar and straighten your knees. Stand tall but do not hyperextend your back.

A common mistake to avoid:

One common mistake in the stiff-leg deadlift is allowing the knees to bend during the lifting motion. Some individuals bend their knees, shifting the emphasis away from the hamstrings and compromising the exercise’s purpose.

Keep your knees in a slightly bent but constant position throughout the movement to maximise the benefits of the stiff-leg deadlift. This keeps tension at the hamstrings and minimises compensating with the quadriceps to lift the load. The amount of knee bend when you initiate the hip hinge should be the same amount of bend at the bottom of the movement. Do not bend the knees as you’re lowering the barbell towards the floor.

Consider filming yourself from the side when doing the SLDL. You can monitor your knee position and make adjustments in future sets if you notice you’re bending your knees too much.

Consider filming yourself from the side when doing the SLDL. You can monitor your knee position and make adjustments in future sets if you notice you’re bending your knees too much.

 

Learn even more

 

Due to the extended knee position and hip hinge type movement, I always thought the stiff-legged deadlift (SLDL) would work the hamstrings and glutes more than a regular deadlift. After reviewing the current literature, I was partially wrong.

Lee et al. had subjects use 70% of their Romanian deadlift 5-rep max on the conventional deadlift and Romanian deadlift and performed 3 repetitions. The conventional deadlift showed greater activation of the glutes. The biceps femoris (one of the hamstring muscles) showed no difference in muscle activation between the two exercises. This study is important as the load was matched between exercises.

Bezerra et al. had subjects perform 3 repetitions using 70% of 1-rep max of their conventional deadlift and SLDL. So, weights differed between lifts and would be heavier in the conventional deadlift group. Results found the activation of the bicep femoris was no different between lifts.

These are the only 2 studies that compared a regular deadlift with the SLDL. It’s difficult to say if there are any differences in glute and hamstring activation between these 2 deadlift variations.

The first study was quite different in intensities. If you used 70% of your stiffed legged deadlift 1-rep max for your regular deadlift, the weights will be quite light. Yet, glute activation was still greater in the deadlift but showed no differences in hamstring activation. Since muscle activation tends to increase as load increases, if the deadlift group lifted 70% of their deadlift 1- rep max, hamstring activation might have been higher in the deadlift group.

The second study slightly contradicts the first study. The load was significantly higher in the deadlift group, yet bicep femoris activation was the same between the two deadlift types. Based on the available evidence, it’s difficult to say that the SLDL works the hamstrings and glutes more than a traditional deadlift. However, using the SLDL places less stress on the quadriceps and is probably less fatiguing than a normal deadlift due to the lighter loads. The stiffed legged deadlift could be used to add some volume to the hamstrings with less total body and quadricep fatigue than a normal deadlift. However, the back extensor muscles are activated highest in the stiffed legged deadlift compared to a regular deadlift.

References

Bezerra ES, Simão R, Fleck SJ, Paz G, Maia M, Costa PB, et al. Electromyographic activity of lower body muscles during the deadlift and stiff-legged deadlift. 2013; 13(3): 30–9.

Lee S, Schultz J, Timgren J, Staelgraeve K, Miller M, Liu Y. An electromyographic and kinetic comparison of conventional and Romanian deadlifts. J Exerc Sci Fit. 2018; 16(3): 87–93. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesf.2018.08.00

Paul Attard
Paul Attard

Paul is the founder and head coach of SPC Performance Lab. Paul has been coaching since 2014 and has worked with all different types of people. From first timers learning the basics, all the way up to the experienced power-lifting competitors.

He tailors his approach depending on the needs, goals and experience of the individual. Paul has extensive theoretical and practical coaching experience.

- Masters of Sports & Exercise Science (Strength & Conditioning)
- Bachelor’s degree in Exercise & Sports Science with First Class Honours
- Competed and won multiple natural body-building shows & power-lifting competitions.
- Held an Australian power-lifting record.

Free advice

SPC Performance Lab is a gym in Taren Point in the Sutherland Shire, Sydney NSW. It is a private gym that offers strength training, powerlifting and body building training. The gym is open 24 hours, 7 days a week with membership options that include casual or regular visits.

Paul also provides a choice of personal training one on one or the option of online coaching.

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