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.
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.
- Lower Back (spinal erectors)
- Glutes (Buttocks)
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.
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).
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.
- The Strength Athlete’s Guide for Training, Caring For, and Maximizing Their Posterior Chain
- Activate Your Glutes, Lower Back, and Hamstrings with Reverse Hollow Rocks
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