Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Stiff-Leg Deadlifts: A Useful Variation

By Andrew McGunagle
An exercise I'm a big fan of that doesn't get much love, and is often butchered when it is implemented, is the stiff-leg deadlift. There are a few ways to do the stiff-leg deadlift, but the variation I employ most often is the stiff-leg deadlift from the floor with the bar in contact with the shins.
The name of this exercise can be a bit of a misnomer, as many people believe the knees must remain locked throughout the movement. However, locking the knees changes it to a completely different exercise - the straight-leg deadlift. The stiff-leg deadlift is done with a vertical shin position, a deep angle of the thighs, and the torso parallel to the floor. Here’s an example:

I really like this lift for a few reasons. First, it’s an excellent exercise for the posterior chain, which is a fancy term for all of the big muscles running along the backside of your body. Also, I’ve found it to be a great complement to the deadlift for lifters in the late-beginner stages, as it gives them a new appreciation for being able to use their quads to drive weights off of the floor when we cycle back to conventional deadlifts. Lastly, it’s a challenge to assume and maintain the strict shins vertical and neutral spine start position, and I believe getting my clients to the point where they have the movement capacity and movement skills to safely execute this exercise is a worthwhile pursuit.
If you want to add the stiff-leg deadlift to your training, begin by pairing RDLs with targeted mobilizations for the posterior chain and gradually work your way towards the floor. Once you’ve got enough range to safely perform the exercise, be sure to set up for the lift with your shins in close contact with the bar, perform a strict deep hip hinge to get into the start position, lock your shoulders and push your knees out, then initiate the lift by sliding the bar up your shins, pop your hips forcefully once you pass your knees, and be strict and controlled as you hinge deep and get your shoulders over the bar on the descent.
Hope this is helpful - enjoy the glute gains!
Thanks for reading!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Andrew,

    I no longer conventional deadlift (best ever was 425#) but I've employed this exercise for several blocks in the past few years.

    At one time (3 years ago) I'd do this exercise with a mixed-grip, touch-n-go and worked up to 6x5 at 355#.

    Most recently, I've used straps for this movement, resetting each rep. I've gotten a bit weaker though: most recent was 295# for 8x5.

    I prefer to call this exercise "high-hips" deadlift since there is as minimal quad-drive possible.

    I don't know anyone who does this exercise in the university gym that I've been going to for 6 years now. It's a harder deadlift variation and people gravitate towards the easier versions like sumo pulls and block pulls.