Exercise Profile
  • Target Muscle Group
  • Exercise TypeStrength
  • Equipment RequiredDumbbell
  • MechanicsCompound
  • Force TypePull
  • Experience LevelBeginner
  • Secondary Muscles
    Glutes, Lower Back
Target Muscle Group

Hamstrings

Hamstrings Muscle Anatomy Diagram

Dumbbell Stiff Leg Deadlift Instructions

  1. Set up for the dumbbell stiff leg deadlift by choosing a pair of dumbbells and holding them down at your sides.
  2. Stand up straight with a slight bend in your knees and your feet around shoulder width apart. This is your starting position.
  3. Keep your back as straight as possible and bend over at the waist lowering the dumbbells over the tops of you feet. Your knees should be kept stationary during the movement.
  4. Focus on the stretch in your hamstrings, and continue to lower the dumbbells down as far as your hamstrings will let you comfortably.
  5. Now engage the hamstrings and begin to raise the dumbbells straight back up. Your eyes should be facing up and your shoulders back. This will prevent your lower back from rounding.
  6. Squeeze up through the glutes and hamstrings until you're standing straight up.
  7. Repeat for desired reps.

Exercise Tips:

  1. You must keep your eyes looking up at all times. As soon as you look down at the floor your back will round!
  2. The dumbbells need to stay close to your body throughout the set. The further the dumbbells are from your body the more strain is on your lower back.
  3. Focus on stretching the hamstrings out as you lower the dumbbells and contracting them as you raise back up. The greater the mind-muscle connection the more you'll get out of this exercise.
  4. It's best to have your knees slightly bent during the set but fixed (ie: bend them slightly but keep them locked in the same place throughout the set).
  5. During the descent, to protect your lower back, keep your weight back on the heels. Do not let your weight shift forward onto the toes. If you find the your weight on the toes when at the bottom position of the exercise, you are performing it incorrectly.
  6. Do not relax at the bottom of the movement. Keep your legs, back and abdominals tight as you begin the ascent.
  7. Keep the rep timing slow and control the weight, especially when lowering. Remember the focus is on stretch and contraction!
  8. One of the biggest mistakes people make when performing this exercise is bending over at the waist without moving the hips back. Instead of being supported by the large hamstring muscles, the weight is now placed almost entirely on the lower spine. Needless to say, this puts your back at great risk for injury. If you keep the weight close to your body your hips with naturally move back.
  9. Technique is so important with this exercise. If you're just starting out, stand with your side to a mirror with a very light weight and practice the movement. Once you get the technique nailed you'll be able to move up in weight and start building some killer hams and glutes!
36 Comments
lex
Posted on: Fri, 05/14/2021 - 23:34

this is a guaranteed back injury if you don't get the form correct. not even the person in the video has the proper form, it seems.

what would be a better, safer alternative? this doesn't seem to be beginner friendly whatsoever.

Calvin
Posted on: Wed, 09/22/2021 - 20:01

Agreed. The guy in this video rounds his back when he lowers the weight. I would compare this to the video of the Romanian deadlift. In that video, he starts the exercise with bent knees and deadlifts it into position. Then each rep is taken down to about knee level before lifting again. He keeps his spine neutral throughout the workout. If you just imagine dumbbells instead of a barbell, that would seem like the best technique/form of the exercise.

Steve
Posted on: Sat, 02/13/2021 - 00:38

Will 5 reps x 3 sets with a heavy weight build more muscle than 10 reos x 3 sets of a lighter weight?

M&S Team Badge
Abigail
Posted on: Mon, 02/15/2021 - 09:47

Hey Steve - it also depends on the other exercises you're doing and what you do outside of the gym. Check out this article: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/creating-effective-muscle-bui...

Anas
Posted on: Wed, 01/20/2021 - 18:57

RIP my lower back.

sam
Posted on: Fri, 09/17/2021 - 05:37

same LMAO

Karl Eludo
Posted on: Sun, 12/13/2020 - 09:56

I'm a beginner with little experience way back. This is extremely hard for me, I'm mostly top heavy, and my weight shifts forward as I go lower. It hurts my lower back so much, it's almost a session breaker. I'm afraid I might injure my back so I'm taking this workout easy.

Frank Reyes
Posted on: Sat, 01/02/2021 - 11:34

Practice on form and technique with little to no weight. Then research each exercise from YT from credible sources. It’s like learning to crawl and walk to get the locomotion and motor movements down then learning/applying to run. I still practice on my non-workout days (no weights) to practice and perfect my technique and form.

Carolinaa Huerta
Posted on: Sun, 09/13/2020 - 21:13

is this the same as a romanian dead lift?

M&S Team Badge
Abigail
Posted on: Fri, 09/25/2020 - 16:11

Hey Carolinaa - it is a similar movement but not exactly the same. Check out our Romanian Deadlift video here: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/exercises/romanian-deadlift

Mataliferay
Posted on: Sun, 08/23/2020 - 05:45

Aren't the front legs should be locked in straight as they are when standing?

wayne
Posted on: Fri, 12/06/2019 - 21:22

I really need help I couldn't reach far enough to the ground like the video shown, is it ok that I can't quite reach the ground or is that a must do on the exercise?

Mustafa
Posted on: Tue, 02/02/2021 - 10:55

You must work on your mobility

Rhys J
Posted on: Tue, 06/08/2021 - 11:38

Don’t listen to the “improve mobility” comment, if you’re feeling the stretch in your hamstrings then you’re working them, flexibility and mobility for this movement will improve over time, you’ll find you’re able to stretch them further the more you do it. Lower the weight as much as comfortably possible, as long as you’re feeling tension in your hamstrings, you’re working them.

Anhel
Posted on: Tue, 05/07/2019 - 15:01

Didn't feel any burn on my hamstrings, so I added more weight. Didn't feel anything but noticed them trembling alot. Wasn't until a few hours after working out that I felt super sore.

Faizan
Posted on: Thu, 01/10/2019 - 17:20

This video seems kinda misleading because in the video you can see the person bending his back.

Veli
Posted on: Thu, 12/06/2018 - 10:30

Actually this exercise is not for hamstrings, it's works for completely lower back. I feel nothing on hams, all weight is on my back. I dont know if i should go on doing this.

Mike
Posted on: Wed, 12/19/2018 - 07:44

That unfortunately means your form isn't good. There should be no real strain on your lower back or you're rounding your back during the exercise.

Jorge
Posted on: Thu, 08/29/2019 - 18:11

That's because you are bending at your waist in the same manner as a regular DL. You have to do it at your hips, sticking out the butt as you lower the weight and sticking it in as you lift.
It's tricky, but once you realize the proper form you'll never want to left this exercise out off your routine.

Alex
Posted on: Sun, 01/15/2017 - 23:16

This workout doesn't seem to do much for me at all......I am obese and trying to work out at home because I know I will be shamed if I go to the gym. But when I do this exercise it doesn't make my legs feel tired at all but my upper body gets very very tired from doing this.....I find that it's impossible to keep my back straight because my body is naturally round. When I am fully leaned over I am almost forced to look at the ground because my neck doesn't bend far enough to keep it facing the wall..........

Any tips for obese people?

Ohyeah
Posted on: Wed, 04/25/2018 - 11:17

I don't know dude, maybe you will need help from professionals. But try to do, this with one leg,for example, unilateral exercise.

Josh
Posted on: Wed, 01/08/2020 - 10:00

Only go down as far as your eyes let you. Don't forget to shift your hips backwards as in the video. You should feel tension in your lower hamstring and most important make sure that your weight is on your heels. For the obese, form is harder only because you're not used to putting your body through strict positioning but after several reps you should notice the hamstrings being worked. Don't give up, you got this!

Jenny
Posted on: Thu, 04/28/2016 - 13:03

Also probably important to emphasize that if you don't have the flexibility to touch the floor with straight or slightly bent legs without rounding your back, then don't go that low. Just go as low as you can until your back starts to round (due to hamstring inflexibility), then come back up.

Your body will benefit from this much more, and you will gain the flexibility over time.

Jenny
Posted on: Thu, 04/28/2016 - 13:00

Coming from a dance background with a good amount of knowledge in kinesiology and anatomy, it seems in the instructions, in #4, it should say to bend at the hips...not the waist. The hip joint is where the femur attaches to the pelvis, bending here will stretch the hamstrings while keeping the spine safely in alignment.

In the tips section, #8 is extremely important to prevent injury. Send the pelvis back to counter the torso moving forward. Think of sending the sitz bones (sharp bones you sit on at the bottom of the pelvis) back behind you as you fold forward.

Agree this isn't necessarily a beginner's exercise, but I think it's okay, as long as you focus on engaging core, maintaining neutral spine (they liberally use the word "straight" here...tomayto, tomahto), and bending at the hip joint. Bending at the waist and coming back up will not stretch or engage the hamstrings in the way I think this exercise intends.

Just my two cents.

Very appreciative of the hard work that goes into this site, just wanted to share the tidbit.

Rebecca
Posted on: Tue, 01/24/2017 - 10:47

I do not disagree with you but if you want to correct your own anatomical terminology as well, the common informal word for "sit bones" are your ischial tuberosities. Saying sitz bones is even worse than sit bones in the anatomical and academic world.

jope
Posted on: Mon, 02/16/2015 - 13:24

His back is far too rounded at the bottom of each rep... Deadlifting with this form is inviting injury without question. Always keep your chest up, your shoulders pinched, and your back straight throughout the movement, regardless of weight.

RKuster
Posted on: Sat, 06/28/2014 - 14:39

This is absolutely NOT a "beginner" level exercise. There are several ways to hurt yourself here and you need a lot of core strength to safely attempt this lift. The written instructions are great, but the video demo, not so much.

susanbennett
Posted on: Fri, 02/21/2014 - 13:57

i have trouble with my bck

Lylyn
Posted on: Wed, 11/06/2013 - 10:21

The only time I feel any stretch in my hamstrings is been I bend my knees a little more than I think I am suppose to.. Is this wrong ? I feel pressure on my lower back but I continue to keep my face forward and back straight so I didn't think it was something to worry about ??

Cameron D
Posted on: Wed, 04/03/2013 - 17:16

For those of you having trouble with this exercise, keep your back as straight as possible. Put all your weight on your heels, do not let any of your weight shift to the balls of your feet. Like this you should feel it more so in your hamstrings and it should take strain of your back. Make sure to keep the dumbells very close to you, as in holding them pointed towards your body, directly above the tops of your feet. Practice in a mirror, that will help you to see what you are doing wrong.

ConArtist
Posted on: Wed, 03/20/2013 - 15:50

no matter how I do this, I still don't feel anything on my hamstrings only on my lower back. I don't bend too much forward and don't use heavy weights yet I still only feel it on my lower back.

Jim
Posted on: Wed, 03/06/2013 - 13:29

I can't touch my toes and it seems as though you would need to be able to do that in order to perform this exercise as demonstrated in the video. Any tips?

undsoft
Posted on: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 13:45

You shouldn't go to far in the upper position.
In face you should be slightly bent forward. I used to move my shoulders back in the upper position which put more pressure on my back.

Simon S. K.
Posted on: Sat, 02/02/2013 - 11:24

How come i can only feel anything in my calves when doing this? i feel absolutely nothing in my hamstrings

yop
Posted on: Tue, 09/04/2012 - 17:16

Question: i feel my lower back when i do this is it good or bad?:S

gpgalli
Posted on: Thu, 10/04/2012 - 21:05

It sounds like the weight is too far forward. Make sure that the dumbells are close to your body and you are looking up with your eyes. You should feel this in your hamstrings. Also, try squeezing your glutes as you rise with the weight.

Free Workouts & Expert Advice

Get a weekly email with the latest workouts, tools, expert guides and deals from M&S.