One Leg Stiff Leg Deadlift – Muscles Worked, Exercise Video, and Benefits

Hamstring training is key for strength, power, and fitness athletes, as it often provides the muscular force we need to pull, push, and move. When looking at how to maximize hamstring development, we need to make sure we also address unilateral movements, like the single leg stiff leg deadlift, which can help us to address movement and muscle development asymmetries, imbalances, and potential injurious compensation patterns.

Therefore, in this article we will discuss the single leg stiff leg deadlift and uncover some unique benefits it has to offer strength, power, and fitness athletes.

Muscles Worked

The one leg stiff leg deadlift is a unilateral exercise that primarily targets the muscles within the posterior chain, which is key for strength, power, and fitness athletes. The below muscles listed are some of the main groups targeted when performing the one leg stiff leg deadlift.

  • Hamstrings
  • Lower Back (spinal erectors)
  • Glutes (Buttocks)

Exercise Demo

The one leg stiff leg deadlift is very similar to the single leg Romanian deadlift (RDL) pattern, which was discussed in an earlier article. As you can see in the video below, the one leg stiff leg deadlift focuses on keeping the tension more on the hamstring by limiting the hinging of the hips (and knee bend) as the lifter executes the movement. The one leg stiff leg deadlift places the load slightly in front of the position of typical RDL, which can be a limitation if looking to mimic bar path in movements like Olympic weightlifting and deadlifts (for those athletes looking for sport application rather than muscle activation).

One Leg Stiff Leg Deadlift vs Single Leg RDL

Both the one leg stiff leg deadlift and the single leg Romanian deadlift have an individual perform a hinging movement on one leg, which will increase the loading placed upon the lower back, hamstrings, and glutes, respectively. When looking at both these movements, it can be confusing as to what are the actual differences between the two. The key here is to pay attention to the hip angle and knee bend. In the single leg RDL, the individual pushes their hips back greater (by allowing the knees to bend), which mimics a lot of the loading patterns in deadlifting and Olympic weightlifting, which in turn places the lifter’s torso in a more horizontal position. By doing so, the movement places additional emphasis on the glute and lower back, rather than keeping more tension placed on the hamstrings (such as in the one leg stiff leg deadlift).

3 Benefits of the One Leg Stiff Leg Deadlift

In the below section we discuss three benefits of the one leg stiff leg deadlift that coaches and athletes can expect to gain when performing these unilateral leg exercises into training programs.

Hamstring Development

Hamstrings play a critical role in pulling, squatting, and human movement. Increasing the size, strength, and function of the hamstrings will help you perform better at nearly anything you set out to do, physically. By increasing your hamstring development on a unilateral basis, you can also ensure proper hip function and muscle development which may otherwise go unseen in bilateral movements.

Application to Pulling Movements

Increasing the function and strength of the hamstrings is key for pulling movements. Movements like deadlift, kettlebell training, and Olympic weightlifting (as well as running, jumping, etc) all require strength and coordination of the lower body to promote force for exercise. Increasing unilateral capacities (see below) and hypertrophy (see above) can impact your ability to produce force and overcome higher amounts of loading when done in combination with larger movements like the full lifts. While this exercise should not be done with heavy loads (relative to one’s strength), it can be done to aid in the overall development of pulling performance (in addition to the actual strength and power lifts).

Injury Prevention

Unilateral training, especially of the hamstrings, can play a role in the injury prevention of hamstring issues for strength, power, and fitness athletes. Seeing that we ask so much of our hamstrings, ensuring proper development and function on an individual basis (unilateral) can ensure that both hamstrings are firing properly, have no limitations in functioning, and both can promote force in a stable position across the entire range of motion.

Posterior Chain Articles

Take a look at some of these other powerful movements to increase posterior chain performance.

Featured Image: on Instagram

Mike Dewar

Mike Dewar

Mike holds a Master's in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Mike has been with BarBend since 2016, where he covers Olympic weightlifting, sports performance training, and functional fitness. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at New York University, in which he works primarily with baseball, softball, track and field, cross country. Mike is also the Founder of J2FIT, a strength and conditioning brand in New York City that offers personal training, online programs for sports performance, and has an established USAW Olympic Weightlifting club.

In his first two years writing with BarBend, Mike has published over 500+ articles related to strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, strength development, and fitness. Mike’s passion for fitness, strength training, and athletics was inspired by his athletic career in both football and baseball, in which he developed a deep respect for the barbell, speed training, and the acquisition on muscle.

Mike has extensive education and real-world experience in the realms of strength development, advanced sports conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, and human movement. He has a deep passion for Olympic weightlifting as well as functional fitness, old-school bodybuilding, and strength sports.

Outside of the gym, Mike is an avid outdoorsman and traveller, who takes annual hunting and fishing trips to Canada and other parts of the Midwest, and has made it a personal goal of his to travel to one new country, every year (he has made it to 10 in the past 3 years). Lastly, Mike runs Rugged Self, which is dedicated to enjoying the finer things in life; like a nice glass of whiskey (and a medium to full-bodied cigar) after a hard day of squatting with great conversations with his close friends and family.

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