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Master the Stiff-Leg Deadlift

Target your lower back (spinal erectors) with the stiff-legged deadlift.


The Start

Step 1: Stand erect holding a barbell with your feet shoulder width apart, toes pointed slightly out.

Step 2: Straighten your legs but make sure your knees aren’t locked out; keep your head neutrally aligned.

Step 3: Hold the bar with an alternating grip (one hand pronated, the other supinated) just outside your thighs.


Step 1: Bending at the waist, lean forward allowing the barbell to travel toward the floor. Keep your knees soft; they should be neither locked out nor able to bend to a significant degree.

Step 2: Don’t arch your back, but rather allow yourself to round your lower back as the bar approaches the floor. Because your lower back is rounding, keep the bar under control at all times. 

Step 3: Keep the bar away from your legs (about 10-12 inches).

Step 4: When you feel a good stretch in your low back, reverse direction, keeping the bar away from your legs until you reach the standing position. Press your hips forward as you come to the top.


The SLD is an extremely advanced movement for the lower back. Do not mistake it for a romanian deadlift, which targets the hamstrings and glutes. (Do that exercise on leg day.) Do the SLD last in your back routine because you want to fatigue your low back only when you have nothing to follow it. If you’re new to the exercise, begin with very little weight (perhaps an unloaded bar) and slowly progress from workout to workout, adding weight as your strength increases.

Biggest Training Errors 

1. Keeping the bar too close to your body. As opposed to the romanian style, you want to keep the bar away from your legs to help shift the emphasis from your hamstrings to your lower-back muscles.

2. Arching your back. Contrary to virtually every other exercise in your repertoire, for which you want to keep a slight arch in your back, here you do not. Doing so will throw the emphasis onto the upper hamstrings/lower glutes.

3. Craning your neck. Arguably one of the most popular and destructive habits on this movement is attempting to look up while descending. Focus your eyes on the floor a few feet in front of you. Keep your neck in line with your torso at all times.

Best Alternative: Barbell Good Morning 

Another good low-back exercise – perhaps one you can use to strengthen your back before the SLD – is the barbell good morning. Position the bar across your upper back (as opposed to hanging it down in front of you with the SLD). Your legs remain fairly straight as in the SLD and you focus entirely on your low back. Perform inside the safety of a power rack so that you can raise and lower the safeties according to your ability and range of motion.