Why add the stiff leg deadlift and Romanian deadlift to your training? Isn’t the conventional deadlift enough?
The stiff leg deadlift (aka the straight leg deadlift) is a vital accessory exercise. Here is why – many activities are quadricep dominant. Particularly squats and deadlifts.
The stiff leg deadlift, on the other hand, is hamstring, glutes, and back dominant.
If you just started weightlifting or powerlifting, there is a good chance you do not do stiff-legged deadlifts. Here is the problem with that – when you neglect essential muscle groups, you miss the opportunity to get even stronger.
A strength training program of only squats and deadlifts will leave your posterior chain lagging behind your ‘mirror’ muscles. The powerful muscle groups that are on the rear of your body are your posterior chain — the back of your legs, calves, hamstrings, glutes, and your lower and upper back.
You Have More Strength Than the Mirror Shows
The mirror muscles are those you see in the mirror. They typically get extensive training. Curls, shoulder presses, and squats are all mirror muscle exercises. Do not leave out the non-mirror muscles, the back half of your body from training.
The better man, in competition, and in life, will be the stronger man, in mind and body.
The stiff leg deadlift will isolate the focus to your posterior chain, as opposed to the conventional deadlift. Therefore, the stiff leg deadlift and the conventional deadlift are excellent choices for complete body development.
The stiff leg deadlift will build a brutally strong back. As a result, the stiff leg deadlift will help your conventional deadlift, squat, and almost any other lift. Strongman and powerlifter Alan Thrall can testify to the powerful benefits of the stiff-legged deadlift. He is someone who truly knows.
Here is an excellent video from Alan Thrall on the stiff leg deadlift:
Top 5 Stiff Leg Deadlift Benefits
Don’t just strengthen the front of your body. Work the back of your body as well with the stiff leg deadlift for total body strength and fitness of mind and body.
1. Maximize the Size and Strength of your Back
In the conventional deadlift, you rely on your quads and leg drive for the initial push against the floor. The traditional deadlift starts like a vertical leg press, pushing against the floor to begin lifting the weight. In the stiff leg deadlift, you use your glutes, hamstrings, and back to lift the weight.
As a result, you target your entire back to lift the weight from the floor. With progressive resistance and proper form, your back will increase in size and strength.
2. Complete Leg Development
The stiff leg deadlift will fully engage your glutes, hamstrings, and calves. This engagement builds their size and power, which complements the quadricep training you do with regular squats and deadlifts.
3. Strengthen your Entire Posterior Chain
Strengthening your entire posterior chain will benefit you, whether you are an athlete or not. You improve your mobility and performance for all activities through total body development.
4. Lift More Weight on Your Squat and Deadlift
To build the most significant size and strength possible, you want to focus on your posterior chain as well. Why? Because only training the front of your body leaves a very import half, your rear. Strengthening the back of your body will increase your total body strength and size.
As a result, you will be able to reach your squat and deadlift potential that much faster.
5. Stay Functional and Mobile No Matter What Your Age
Keeping your bones and muscles as healthy as possible is critical if you are over 50. No one wants to be using canes or walkers if they can help it. Constant sitting kills off your muscles. They atrophy the more that you sit without subjecting them to resistance. Your body thinks that you no longer need much muscle.
It is time to tell your entire body that you want to have stronger muscles and bones. Resistance training is one of the best ways to accomplish this. Deadlifting will keep you functional, mobile, and young. That is not a pipe dream. See how deadlifting improved the mobility of an 80-year-old grandmother.
Injury Prevention through Knee Stabilization
Jason Clemens, fat burning, muscle building, and fitness expert adds one more critical stiff-legged deadlift benefit:
“Studies show that the primary cause of most knee injuries is weak quadriceps followed closely by weak hamstrings. In my experience, with most athletes, it’s the hamstring component. The vast majority of hamstring injuries occur in the biceps femoris and the semitendinosus.
Research shows that the stiff leg deadlift will strengthen the hamstrings to offset the typical quad dominance of most athletes. The result is a significantly reduced risk of knee injuries.¹”
Stiff Leg Deadlift Muscles Worked
The stiff leg deadlift will target the following muscle groups of the posterior chain:
- Biceps Femoris
- Gluteus Maximus
- Gluteus Medius
- Lower Back
- Spinal erectors (Erector Spinae)
- Upper back
- Posterior deltoids
How to Stiff Leg Deadlift
As with any deadlift variation, you want to perfect your stiff leg deadlift form. Some people think that your legs must be straight. But you have to take your body composition and structure into account.
The main point is that you do not want to use your leg drive to power your lift. You lift with your back (keep it flat and straight), hinging at the hips and keeping your hamstrings loaded. Minimizing your leg drive is the critical difference between a regular and stiff leg deadlift.
Because this is a back intensive lift, use a lighter weight, perfect form, and increase the load of the lift gradually.
You minimize the engagement of your quadriceps and leg drive. And maximize the usage of your hamstrings and back to power the lift.
This focus on your hamstrings and back is how the stiff leg deadlift makes your regular deadlift and all other lifts stronger. Your calves, hamstrings, glutes, and back get stronger. As a result, your regular deadlift will get much stronger because you are adding back the power of your legs in the conventional deadlift.
Stiff Leg Deadlift Form and Checklist
- Some say to place your feet in a shoulder-width or narrower stance
- My preference is a hip-width stance, see how both feel for your body type
- The barbell should be over your shoelaces, the middle of your foot
- Hinge your hips back and slightly bend down with a neutral back, not rounded
- Make sure the height of the barbell allows you to reach without rounding your back
- Keep your legs straight or just slightly bent
- Allow your upper body to reach your feet by bending forward
- Until your upper body is parallel to the floor
- Your hips and shoulders should now be at the same level
- Grab the barbell slightly wider than hip-width with an overhand grip
- You will feel the stretch in your hamstrings
- Keep your body tight
- And keep your back neutral and flat, as if it is a solid plank of wood
- Lift the weight using the power of your back
Watch this video from Scott Herman on how to barbell stiff-leg deadlift:
Stiff Leg Deadlift vs. Romanian Deadlift (RDLs)
The stiff leg deadlift and the Romanian deadlift are very similar. They appear to be the same lift. There are a couple of key differences that you can use to your advantage.
The most important concept to understand is that these three deadlift variations have different purposes:
The Romanian deadlift teaches you how to:
- Hip hinge
- Load your hamstrings
- Hip drive – push through with your hips
The Romanian deadlift is an excellent tool to learn how to deadlift. The reason is that the starting position of the Romanian deadlift begins at the top, while you are standing and holding the barbell.
In contrast, both the stiff leg deadlift and that conventional deadlift start from the floor. These two lifts both have a deeper range of motion than the Romanian deadlift.
The Romanian deadlift is a safer way of learning the deadlift because you begin the Romanian deadlift in a standing position. Then you lower to your knees or shins as far as your hamstring flexibility allows. You can tell as long as you can keep your back straight. Last you reverse the movement and lift back to a standing position.
The Romanian deadlift also helps you get stronger in the second half of the deadlift. The last half is when the barbell reaches the knees, and you push through with your hips to stand tall.
The conventional deadlift is often called the king of all exercise because of its fantastic fitness benefits.
Stiff Leg Deadlift
Once you know how to deadlift, you can add the stiff leg deadlift to your programming as an accessory exercise. The stiff leg deadlift will enhance your strength with all of the benefits cited above.
- The Romanian deadlift teaches you how to deadlift
- Your bread and butter for health and strength is the conventional deadlift
- The stiff leg deadlift augments your body strength and size by isolating the posterior chain
Watch This Critical Video on the Importance of the Romanian Deadlift:
Stiff Leg Deadlift – Final Thoughts
As fitness writer Nick Harris-Fry once said –
“How many deadlifts do you need in your life? It’s a question that everyone who lifts weights regularly should ask, and the answer is at least three.”
This post aims to explain why you need three deadlift variations in your life:
- Romanian Deadlift
- Conventional Deadlift
- Stiff Leg Deadlift
Whether you are an athlete, a business person, or a retiree who is looking to get leaner and stronger. The stiff leg deadlift is a significant deadlift variation to add to your training.
You can become a better man or woman through resistance training. Not only do you strengthen your body, but you improve your mental strength to handle the challenges of life.
See how physical training helped these men and women overcome their challenges in life:
- The Dewey Bozella Story: How Boxing Saved His Life
- 81-Year Old Grandmother Shirley Webb Regains Mobility With the Deadlift
- Steph Curry Rehabilitates Injury Prone Ankles With the Deadlift and Becomes and NBA Superstar
- Saquon Barkley Squat: Secrets of the Most Electrifying NFL Runner
- Weight Training Helps Shaquem Griffin Become the Only One-Handed Professional Football Player in History
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