Master the Dumbbell Stiff-Leg Deadlift for Stronger, More Flexible Hamstrings

It doesn’t matter what type of power athlete you might be, the deadlift has greater than seemingly entered your repertoire at one level or one other. Like it or hate it, there’s nothing like hefting a heavy barbell off the bottom. However it’s not all concerning the barbell. Altering your stance, tools, and the angle of your physique will make it easier to hit totally different muscle tissue and targets. 

The dumbbell stiff-leg deadlift will goal your hamstrings, decrease again, and glutes in a significant strength-building stretch that builds mobility, muscle, and power. For those who usually work with barbells, a dumbbell variation will problem your stability, grip, and coordination in a brand new approach. And should you’re new to lifting, dumbbells may also help you get began.

A person in black sportswear doing a dumbbell stiff-leg deadlift in the gym.
Credit score: Yakov Oskanov / Shutterstock

Right here’s all the things it’s essential study the dumbbell stiff-leg deadlift — together with what makes it totally different from its cousin, the Romanian deadlift.

Desk of Contents

The right way to Do the Dumbbell Stiff-Leg Deadlift

No gymnasium? No downside. All you want for the dumbbell stiff-leg deadlift is a pair of dumbbells and your self. Right here’s a particular breakdown of the right way to do it appropriately so that you get probably the most out of your coaching time.

Step 1 — Stand Tall With Rigidity

A fit person in gray sports bra and leggings standing tall before dumbbell stiff-leg deadlift.
Credit score: Everyonephoto Studio / Shutterstock

Seize your dumbbells and stand tall along with your toes shoulder-width aside. Maintain your weights in entrance of you with an overhand grip and your shoulders depressed. Discover your standing line of pressure along with your knees barely bent, hips tucked, and glutes squeezed. Draw your navel in direction of your backbone and tighten your sides to interact your core. Maintain your shoulders down and your head retracted.

Coach’s Tip: Spend a number of seconds on this place to prime your mind and physique to return to this line of pressure in between reps. 

Be aware: Within the barbell model of this raise, you’ll begin with the barbell on the ground. Within the dumbbell model, you can begin in a standing place, as indicated right here. That’s as a result of weight plates are typically bigger than dumbbells and offer you extra leeway to achieve the ground with out hyperextending your knees. For those who do have the requisite mobility to start out from the ground, nevertheless, begin with step 4 and go backward from there.

Step 2 — Hinge Your Hips

A person in sky blue sports bra and gray leggings, holding dumbbells and hinging at the hips before a deadlift.
Credit score: Everyonephoto Studio / Shutterstock

Hinge your hips again so far as you’ll be able to whereas protecting your legs as straight as attainable — with out hyperextending your knees. Maintain your dumbbells near your physique. Maintain your core stiff. Have interaction a stretch in your hamstrings and decrease your hips with out letting your knees bend excessively or come ahead an excessive amount of.

Coach’s Tip: Strive to not provoke the motion by reaching your dumbbells towards the ground. As an alternative, take into consideration driving your hips way back to attainable whereas pushing your toes into the bottom to take care of your stability.

Step 3 — Decrease Your Dumbbells

A gymgoer in an orange shirt doing a dumbbell stiff-leg deadlift.
Credit score: lunamarina / Shutterstock

Preserve emphasis on feeling your hamstrings in your hinge as you decrease your dumbbells towards the ground. Maintain your weights near your physique and squeeze your armpits to interact your lats. Preserve your core stiffness to keep away from rounding your again. Look ahead barely whereas protecting your chin gently tucked. For those who can, have the dumbbells come to a cease on the ground between reps.

Coach’s Tip: Within the barbell stiff-leg deadlift, the barbell touches the bottom between every rep. If attainable, the dumbbells ought to contact the bottom between every rep. However at all times keep away from hyperextending your knees. You may maintain them very barely bent. For those who can’t fairly get the dumbbells to the bottom, that’s okay — simply go as deep as you’ll be able to with out breaking type.

Step 4 — Stand Up With Energy

A gymgoer in a pink sports bra and black leggings standing after a dumbbell stiff-leg deadlift.
Credit score: FXQuadro / Shutterstock

Preserve pressure on the backside of the raise along with your abs and lats engaged. Push into your heels to interact your hamstrings and glutes. Drive your hips ahead to face again up with energy. Squeeze your glutes on the prime. Pause for a second and repeat to your desired variety of reps.

Coach’s Tip: Let your hips provoke the motion. Consider your higher physique as a stiff trunk that can come alongside for the journey as your toes, legs, glutes, and hips work collectively to carry you as much as a standing place with energy.

Dumbbell Stiff-Leg Deadlift Variations

If you wish to attempt a variation on the dumbbell stiff-leg deadlift, you’ll be able to swap out your tools, change your stance, or attempt a unilateral model. Every variation gives totally different advantages however will nonetheless make it easier to get a strengthening stretch by way of your hamstrings.

Kettlebell Stiff-Leg Deadlift

Strive the stiff-leg deadlift with one kettlebell in entrance of you rather than dumbbells. Kettlebells are an important possibility for everybody from inexperienced persons to superior lifters. Holding one weight as an alternative of a dumbbell in every hand will be extra accessible. For those who’re going heavier it may also be a special problem to your grip.

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Carry out the identical motion, simply with one weight in a single hand at a time. You’ll want to maintain your shoulders again and lats engaged, because the hand place of the kettlebell could encourage your shoulders to spherical ahead. 

Sumo Stiff-Leg Deadlift

Take a sumo stance along with your stiff-leg deadlift: step your toes out wider than your shoulders and level your toes out. That is going to work your internal thighs and glutes a bit extra however you’ll nonetheless really feel a stretch in your hamstrings.

Your internal thighs or adductor muscle tissue are susceptible to be underused so it may be useful to work them right here. Be sure to heat up earlier than assuming a sumo stance and performing stiff-leg deadlifts in any other case as regular.

Single-Leg Stiff-Leg Deadlift

An effective way to fluctuate virtually any train is to make it unilateral. Enter the single-leg stiff-leg deadlift: work one leg at a time to even out imbalances in power, muscle, and mobility. This can be a nice unilateral exercise for runners who will be prone to overusing the anterior aspect of their legs. 

Working every hamstring individually when you construct management and pressure by way of your toes, core, and hips will carry over to your different actions. Attempt to maintain your pelvis dealing with the ground and resist rolling your hip open to the aspect. Carry out this transfer by planting your working leg and letting your non-working leg drift again behind you as you deepen your hinge.

Dumbbell Stiff-Leg Deadlift Alternate options

Let’s take a look at a number of alternate options to the dumbbell stiff-leg deadlift if you wish to attempt one thing solely. These actions will nonetheless work your hamstrings and posterior chain and are appropriate for inexperienced persons to superior lifters.

Glute Bridge

The glute bridge is a robust bodyweight training that each one inexperienced persons ought to study. Whenever you’re new to lifting, the cue to squeeze your glutes could not make loads of sense. Mendacity on the ground, lifting your hips, and actively making an attempt to squeeze your glutes is a superb place to start out. Your hamstrings additionally help in extending your hips on the prime of your bridge.

That is just like the stiff-leg deadlift since you are utilizing your hamstrings to assist carry you into hip extension and squeezing your glutes on the prime of the motion. Whenever you’re able to progress, you’ll be able to emphasize your hamstrings much more by balancing on one leg and making it a single-leg glute bridge.

Stability Ball Hamstring Curl

The steadiness ball hamstring curl is one other body weight motion that can train you to actively have interaction your hamstrings. Lie on the ground along with your heels on a stability ball. Press into your heels to raise your hips right into a bridge and squeeze your glutes. Attempt to keep the peak of your hips as you bend your knees to tug the ball towards your physique. You might really feel your hamstrings cramp a little bit and that’s regular.

If the ball is just too difficult at first, you’ll be able to maintain your toes on the ground and use sliders. This will appear fairly totally different from the stiff-leg deadlift since you might be actively bending your knees, however it may be a useful possibility for strengthening your hamstrings earlier than you place them below load.

Romanian Deadlift

For superior lifters in search of a substitute for the stiff-leg deadlift, attempt the Romanian deadlift. It’s related however your knees can bend a little bit bit extra. It might be a extra accessible possibility you probably have mobility limitations and tremendous tight hamstrings. You additionally gained’t be touching the barbell to the bottom between every rep such as you do for barbell stiff-leg deadlifts. Cease with the barbell at your shins as an alternative.

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Within the Romanian deadlift, you don’t have to concentrate on reaching down so far as attainable. You’ll nonetheless be working your hip hinge, however by bending your knees extra additionally, you will work your hip flexors and quads in addition to your hamstrings and glutes. You’ll want to nonetheless maintain your hips again and keep away from your knees bending previous your ankles as you’d in a extra typical deadlift program.

Dumbbell Stiff-Leg Deadlift Ideas

It’s essential to fluctuate your units, reps, and cargo accordingly in case your purpose is building muscle, power, or endurance. Be conscious of your grip when lifting heavier dumbbells. For those who discover your fingers giving out earlier than your legs, attempt a lighter weight. 

  • For Muscle Mass: Purpose for 4 units of eight to 12 reps. The burden ought to really feel heavy however it’s best to be capable of do one to 2 extra reps on the finish of every set.
  • For Power: Carry out 5 units of 4 to 6 reps at a heavy weight. Concentrate on standing powerfully with most pressure on the prime. 
  • For Endurance: Strive three units of 12 to fifteen reps at a light-weight sufficient weight to finish your greater rep vary with management.

Advantages of the Dumbbell Stiff-Leg Deadlift

Deadlift with stiff legs and also you’ll increase strength and muscle in your hamstrings and decrease again whereas rising your hip mobility. As you focus to maintain your again from rounding, you’ll be boosting your core stability. Right here’s what to anticipate from this staple raise.

Strengthen Hamstrings and Decrease Again

The dumbbell stiff-leg deadlift is a little more of an isolation train to your hamstrings than, say, the standard deadlift — which is a full-body train to the fullest extent of the phrase. The stiff-leg model emphasizes your hamstrings to an enormous diploma, with a heaping aspect serving to of decrease again power.

A shirtless gymgoer doing a stiff-leg dumbbell deadlift.
Credit score: Anatoliy Kravchenko / Shutterstock

For those who’re a bodybuilder with physique targets, this can be a strong deadlift variation for increase your hamstrings. Emphasizing the squeeze on the prime is a chance to get some glute positive aspects, as effectively.

Could Enhance Mobility and Flexibility

Performing the dumbbell stiff-leg deadlift helps construct hip mobility and improve your hamstring flexibility. Going by way of the hip hinge motion — from hip flexion to hip extension — below load may also help to extend the vary of movement in your hips over time. The hip extension half particularly could assist to stretch and strengthen your hip flexors on the similar time.

When you’ve got very tight hamstrings, this transfer might be difficult for you. When you’ve got flexibility targets, some analysis has proven that resistance coaching is a simpler solution to improve your flexibility than merely performing stretches. (1) Whereas a supine-assisted hamstring stretch could really feel good, performing dumbbell stiff-leg deadlifts could improve your flexibility.

Will increase Core Stability 

A method of strengthening your core and constructing stability is to show it to assist your backbone resist motion below load. There are core exercises you are able to do to assist resist flexion, extension, rotation, and lateral flexion of your backbone. You’ll put all this work into follow within the dumbbell stiff-leg deadlift. 

Stopping your again from rounding is anti-flexion. Being cautious to not arch your decrease again is anti-extension work. Additionally, you will resist rotation by way of your trunk or bending aspect to aspect, particularly as you drive by way of your legs to face again up. 

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Holding your backbone in a impartial place to withstand all this work would require you to isometrically contract your core, as effectively. Consider your higher physique as a stiff plank when you undergo hip flexion and hip extension. This may also help construct core and decrease again power power and stability once you do it constantly over time.

Could Enhance Athletic Efficiency

Strengthening your decrease physique within the dumbbell stiff-leg deadlift could enhance your athletic efficiency in different sports activities and lifts. Having robust hamstrings may also help you in operating and sprinting. The facility you generate by way of your hips may also help with explosive actions like leaping and Olympic lifting.

Stronger hamstrings and glutes may also carry over into your greater lifts like typical deadlifts, squats, and lunges. Whereas squats and lunges could also be extra quad-dominant, having an equally robust and engaged posterior chain may also help you raise heavier and manage injury risk.

Muscle groups Labored by the Dumbbell Stiff-Leg Deadlift

The dumbbell stiff-leg deadlift is a posterior chain exercise that primarily targets your hamstrings but in addition works your decrease again and glutes. Your lats come into play as effectively that will help you maintain your dumbbells near your physique. Let’s take a look at your particular muscle tissue and their roles.


Your hamstrings are a muscle group on the backs of your thighs and are comprised of three muscle tissue: the biceps femoris (an extended head and a brief head), semitendinosus, and semimembranosus. (2) Your hamstrings operate to increase your hip and flex your knee — on the posterior or again aspect of each your hip and your knee. 

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As you decrease into your stiff-leg deadlift, your hamstrings are stretching within the eccentric section of the motion. Whenever you get up with energy, they contract to assist within the extension of your hips. Your hamstrings are key muscle tissue in different actions like sprinting and leaping. Additionally they help in stabilizing your knee joint. (2)

Erector Spinae 

Your erector spinae are the muscle tissue operating vertically alongside both aspect of your backbone. They work to stabilize and shield your backbone by resisting motion below load. Your decrease again muscle tissue together with your erector spinae will work within the stiff-leg deadlift. Attempt to emphasize feeling your hamstrings and your glutes for extra stability.

These muscle tissue have to be firing and engaged so your backbone doesn’t overly lengthen or flex and tackle the load of the load. Whenever you decrease down into your deadlift as you hinge your hips, your erector spinae are eccentrically contracting. As you stand again up with energy, they’ll contract concentrically to guard your lumbar backbone as your glutes and hamstrings work collectively to increase your hips.


Whereas your hamstrings are the first muscle tissue labored, your glutes come into play as effectively. Your glutes are a significant muscle group in your buttocks that include your gluteus maximus, gluteus minimus, and gluteus medius. (3) The primary features of your glutes are to increase your hips and externally rotate your femurs or thigh bones. 

A person's glutes while squatting.
Credit score: Debra Anderson / Shutterstock

Your glutes — particularly your gluteus medius — additionally support in externally rotating your hip to maintain your knees from caving in throughout your deadlift. Whenever you do a single-leg stiff-leg deadlift, you’ll be working your gluteus medius much more to assist stabilize your knee and maintain your hip externally rotated.

Latissimus Dorsi

Your latissimus dorsi or lats are the most important muscle tissue in your again. (4) Their operate is to adduct your arms or maintain them in direction of the midline of your physique. Additionally they help in shoulder extension and support in scapular actions and stability. Within the dumbbell stiff-leg deadlift your lats assist maintain your arms near your physique as you decrease down. 

Your arms are barely adducting and your shoulders are extending on this place. As you cease your arms from drifting ahead, your lats are at work. Additionally they assist to depress and stabilize your scapula in the course of the motion.

Who Ought to Do the Dumbbell Stiff-Leg Deadlift

Most gymgoers can profit from the dumbbell stiff-leg deadlift — however let’s get particular as to who ought to prioritize this train probably the most.

Workplace Staff

Sitting all day at work will be dangerous however is the fact of life for many individuals. Whenever you sit for lengthy durations, your hips turn out to be not solely tighter however weaker. Your posture could endure and you might expertise again ache.

An office working holding up a pair of dumbbells.
Credit score: G-Inventory Studio / Shutterstock

Selecting an train just like the dumbbell stiff-leg deadlift will make it easier to work your underused posterior chain. Constructing power and muscle in your hips, legs, and glutes could assist relieve a few of your again ache. It might additionally make actions of each day life simpler by bettering your mobility and adaptability.


Working your hip hinge and standing up with energy will carry over to different sports activities like powerlifting. Utilizing dumbbells will problem and tax your grip otherwise than barbells and are an effective way to improve your grip strength

You’ll be doing additional core work and stabilization of your shoulders. You may decelerate the motion and go lighter with dumbbells than you’d in your lifts with barbells. These will be nice to work on as an adjunct train to maintain making progress towards your fundamental targets.


Bodybuilders could profit from this train to focus on and develop their hamstrings and glutes. To get extra particular in your hamstrings progress, attempt a unilateral stiff-leg deadlift to iron out any power or muscle imbalances in your left leg and proper leg. 

Widespread Dumbbell Stiff-Leg Deadlift Errors

The dumbbell stiff-leg deadlift is an easy train with loads of room for error. Let’s take a look at a number of frequent errors to keep away from that will help you get probably the most positive aspects for your hamstrings and glutes.

Main With Higher Physique

The “purpose” of the dumbbell stiff-leg deadlift seems to be decreasing your dumbbells so far as you’ll be able to with straight legs. People understandably could begin the motion main with their higher our bodies by making an attempt to achieve their dumbbells down. 

As an alternative, concentrate on pushing your hips way back to attainable till you’re feeling your hamstrings stretch. Then begin to attain your dumbbells down however keep pressure in your core and lats.

Rounding Your Again

As you attain farther towards the ground along with your hips hinged, it turns into extra seemingly that you simply’ll lose management of your backbone and begin to spherical your again. It’s essential to maintain your backbone as straight as attainable to keep away from pointless stress in your decrease again.

A person doing a dumbbell stiff-leg deadlift with a rounded back.
Credit score: MDV Edwards / Shutterstock

[Read More: Best Posture Correctors The Provide Posture Support]

Maintain your eyes and chest barely up as you decrease all the way down to discourage your again from rounding. Squeeze your abs as a lot as you’ll be able to. The mind-muscle connection is essential right here — maintain reminding your decrease physique muscle tissue to do the work so your backbone doesn’t inappropriately spherical.

Drifting Dumbbells

One other frequent mistake is letting your dumbbells drift ahead and away from you as you progress by way of your deadlift. This will occur as a consequence of an absence of pressure in your lats and scapula. Maintain your weights near your physique as you decrease down. 

Attempt to squeeze your armpits and maintain your shoulders depressed. This may also help cease your shoulders from rounding ahead and letting your weights get away from you.

Stiffen Up

The dumbbell stiff-leg deadlift will majorly stretch and strengthen your hamstrings whereas working your hip hinge. Stretching your hamstrings below load could make it easier to enhance your hip mobility and adaptability. As you’re employed to maintain your backbone impartial and grasp onto your dumbbells, you’ll be getting a significant core workout whereas constructing grip power all through the motion.

So maintain these legs stiff and get lifting.


Have some lingering questions? Let’s get solutions.

Do I maintain my legs fully straight?

Though it’s known as the stiff-leg deadlift, you’ll bend your knees very barely. It’s best to by no means absolutely lock out your knees and be additional cautious with this you probably have hypermobile joints.

Is the dumbbell stiff-leg deadlift unhealthy for my again?

This train is just not inherently unhealthy for the again. However should you aren’t capable of maintain your core and decrease again muscle tissue engaged, it can really feel unhealthy to your again. Whenever you lose pressure and engagement by way of the remainder of your physique, your decrease again and lumbar backbone can take over and be prone to harm.

What’s the distinction between the stiff-leg deadlift and the Romanian deadlift?

The Romanian deadlift versus dumbbell stiff-leg deadlift is a classically complicated battle. However there are important variations between the 2.

The Romanian deadlift has a barely deeper knee bend. For those who’re utilizing a barbell for each lifts, the stiff-leg deadlift is supposed to start out and finish on the ground, with the barbell coming to relaxation on the ground with every rep.

However, the Romanian deadlift begins from a standing place and also you don’t decrease the bar to the ground. As an alternative, you’ll cease the raise and reverse path when the bar will get to knee or shin stage.


  1. Alizadeh S, Daneshjoo A, Zahiri A, Anvar SH, Goudini R, Hicks JP, Konrad A, Behm DG. Resistance Coaching Induces Enhancements in Vary of Movement: A Systematic Evaluation and Meta-Evaluation. Sports activities Med. 2023 Mar;53(3):707-722.
  2. Rodgers CD, Raja A. Anatomy, Bony Pelvis and Decrease Limb, Hamstring Muscle. [Updated 2023 Apr 1]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. 
  3. Elzanie A, Borger J. Anatomy, Bony Pelvis and Decrease Limb, Gluteus Maximus Muscle. [Updated 2023 Apr 1]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. 
  4. Jeno SH, Varacallo M. Anatomy, Again, Latissimus Dorsi. [Updated 2023 Mar 5]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. 

Featured Picture: Yakov Oskanov / Shutterstock

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