Stiff Leg Deadlift (AKA Romanian Deadlift) Video Guide

Exercise Profile

  • Strength
  • Barbell
  • Isolation
  • Pull
  • Intermediate
  • Glutes, Lower Back
Click to Enlarge
Click to Enlarge
Hamstrings Exercises Diagram Target Muscle Group

Exercise Instructions

  1. The Stiff Leg Deadlift is one of the best exercises for hamstring and back growth. Set up for the exercise by loading a barbell up with the weight you want to use.
  2. Stand facing the barbell with your feet around shoulder width apart.
  3. Bend down with your knees and grasp the barbell using an overhand grip (palms facing down) with your hands around shoulder width apart or wider.
  4. Keeping your back straight stand straight up resting the barbell on your thighs.
  5. Get set up for the movement by pulling your shoulders back, sticking your chest out, and arching your back slightly.
  6. Keeping your eyes facing forwards, slowly bend at the hips lowering the barbell straight down close to your body. You should feel the stretch in your hamstrings! Lower the bar down as far as your hamstrings will let you comfortably.
  7. Now engage the hamstrings and begin to raise the bar straight back up.
  8. Your eyes should be facing up and your shoulders back. This will prevent your lower back from rounding.
  9. Squeeze up through the glutes and hamstrings until you're standing straight up.
  10. Repeat for desired reps.

Stiff Leg Deadlift Tips:

The stiff leg deadlift is one of those exercises that if you do it right, will be one of your core exercises in your routine. But if you do it wrong, you'll just end up in pain! Here are some top tips for stiff leg deadlifting correctly:  

  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 bar needs to stay close to your body throughout the set. The further the bar is from your body the more strain is on your lower back.
  3. Focus on stretching the hamstrings out as you lower the bar 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. You do not have to use an overhand grip on the bar. You can use an underhand grip or one over / one under.
  6. 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.
  7. Do not relax at the bottom of the movement. Keep your legs, back and abdominals tight as you begin the ascent.
  8. Keep the rep timing slow and control the weight, especially when lowering. Remember the focus is on stretch and contraction!
  9. 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.
  10. 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 (or bar only) 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!

34 Comments+ Post Comment

No Profile Pic
Posted Mon, 03/16/2015 - 01:27

Guys ... This exercise contains powerful hip extension, which includes glutious maximus muscle, hamstrings work only supportive , they r fired powerfully only in knee flexion. i.e. leg curls

No Profile Pic
Posted Thu, 11/20/2014 - 17:10

Well you guys naming it the Stiff Legged Deadlift (AKA RDL) only adds to the confusion. From what I have seen in the past these are actually 2 different exercises with a significant difference. I thought the SDL was truly that: you kept your legs straight and allowed your back to round as you descended which put more focus on the hamstrings but had the danger of the rounded back. The RDL is as you show in the video; your knees bend slightly but the key is to keep your back flat so that when you are fully descended your back is like a table. The range of motion on the RDL may be very short depending on flexibility.

No Profile Pic
Posted Fri, 09/26/2014 - 09:17

I blog quite often and I truly thank you for your information. This great article has really peaked my interest. I will bookmark your blog and keep checking for new information about once a week. I opted in for your RSS feed as well.

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 08/20/2013 - 15:41
Jordon welch

I cant walk, incredibul bulk check

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 08/20/2013 - 15:13

I cant walk

No Profile Pic
Posted Mon, 08/19/2013 - 15:21

Romanian Deadlifts and Stiff Leg Deadlifts are different exercises...

No Profile Pic
Posted Sat, 07/27/2013 - 23:31


Can you, i specify the different between the dead lift and stiff leg dead lift? Because I notice the video that is almost the same.

No Profile Pic
Posted Thu, 07/25/2013 - 16:59

New to this site, just getting oriented. What is the deal with every comment getting so many thumbsdown? Is that just part of this community?

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 07/02/2013 - 20:47


I've got a newbie question, is there any exercise I can substitute in instead of the SDL?
The reason why I'm asking this is because I'm very inflexible and therefore I cannot uphold the correct shape when executing the SDL. And instead of going through weeks of stretching and flexibility training, I'd prefer to use an alternative exercise.

Thank you,

No Profile Pic
Posted Sat, 06/15/2013 - 11:53

Is there an alternative to this? I haven't hitting the form done and felt it in my back. Don't want to risk injury. So other than hamstring curls, what are the alternatives?

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 04/02/2013 - 20:27

If you, keep your head up and don't allow your back to bend , as well as, allow the bar to flow away from your body. You will hurt yourself, period. Just passed the middle of the shins you should drop your head a degree, roll your lower back and let the bar flow away from your body. On your, way up the bar will come back tight against you, your head will automatically come up and you will forced to engage your hams and back while not putting you in harms way. Doing it how they suggest will hurt you, badly.

No Profile Pic
Posted Mon, 03/25/2013 - 04:59

Why do so many people vote comments down on this website?

No Profile Pic
Posted Fri, 04/05/2013 - 10:36

lol, was wondering the same before I came across your comment.

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 05/14/2013 - 20:19

lol me three

No Profile Pic
Posted Mon, 03/18/2013 - 11:55

Is there a dumbbell version of this exercise?

No Profile Pic
Posted Wed, 04/22/2015 - 17:24

Pat, you can certainly use dumbells. I prefer using dumbells in a gym because they are more readily available than the 1 or 2 barbells

No Profile Pic
Posted Mon, 01/07/2013 - 10:46

im gonna try these today:)

No Profile Pic
Posted Sat, 12/15/2012 - 06:37
Dr. Hamdy el Gazzar

The rule if you increase the weight you should not increase the repetition and vice verse, you must take period to maintain any progression in intensity before you transfer to the second increasing.

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 11/20/2012 - 01:41

Ant, most likely both. Read the instructions above, can't make it any clearer.

Debo, Increase as you feel comfortable. Progression is the goal right? 6,8,10, 14 just sounds ineffective to me, quite curious as to your reasoning.

No Profile Pic
Posted Sun, 11/11/2012 - 18:42

If i do this work out do I keep the same weight for each rep or should it increase. If i bench 6, 8, 10 ,14 is it on the same weight or increase?

No Profile Pic
Posted Mon, 11/04/2013 - 23:01

It depends if your trying to build. I've always found it better to start at lower weight higher reps. Let's say 12,10,8,6. Increasing weight as you go

No Profile Pic
Posted Fri, 11/02/2012 - 08:21

With excersise like this one and the deadlift for your lower back I feel like most of the work is done by the right side of my body.

How could I exclude this?

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 10/30/2012 - 15:30

When I do this exercise at the gym, my lower back is killing me. I have to sit down for a short period to make it feel better. Do I have bad form? Too much weight? Thanks.

No Profile Pic
Posted Fri, 01/24/2014 - 09:49

Likely both.

Too much weight creates bad form. About 6 months ago I injured my back going for a personal best at 315 lbs. Monday I did this lift for the first time since the injury at 95 lbs. My Hamstrings are sore but my back feels great. Get the form perfect at low weight and work up slowly. The risk of injury is serious with this lift.

No Profile Pic
Posted Fri, 10/05/2012 - 15:12

Romanian dead lift and stiff leg deadlift are two different exercises ;)
Both similar, but still different, in technique and muscle target. I mean the primary muscles worked is both exercises are the glutes, hamstrings and low back, but RDL only works the spinal erector muscles statically (there is no movement in lower back) and in the SDL the erector spinae are trained more dynamically (because of rounding of lower back in bottom position).

No Profile Pic
Posted Sat, 09/29/2012 - 01:41

Excellent form, perfect instructions. Great site!

No Profile Pic
Posted Mon, 09/17/2012 - 21:06

straight leg deadlift?

No Profile Pic
Posted Wed, 08/15/2012 - 17:29
Fiji Boy

Most people will just look at the video and not bother reading the instructions which I know is just as important. For these leg exercises I think, with all due respect, it would be better if you wore something that shows your legs. :) we would see more clearly whats happening with leg positions and stance and stuff. I've been looking around on the net for site on bodybuilding and came across this one which I think is pretty good. Keep up the good work guys!

No Profile Pic
Posted Fri, 06/22/2012 - 07:35

First time trying dead lifts,I felt like it wuz working mainly on my glutes, lower back, and traps. Barely felt it on my hamstrings at all is there sumthn I'm missin?

No Profile Pic
Posted Wed, 04/11/2012 - 17:37

that exercise looks more like a RDL for the lower back.
just saying

No Profile Pic
Posted Sat, 04/14/2012 - 17:32

You try like it shown , after reading all the tips and you will see the diffrence :)

No Profile Pic
Posted Mon, 06/25/2012 - 15:11

This guy is part of website devoted to bodybuilding and looks pretty jacked. He probably knows what he is talking about, just saying.

No Profile Pic
Posted Tue, 02/17/2015 - 15:40

It is an RDL.

No Profile Pic
Posted Mon, 04/09/2012 - 07:42

I like your site but must inprove you can't just show us the video you must show us the pics please then it will be beter for us thanx good day