What is a Straight Leg Deadlift?

N. Madison
N. Madison

A straight leg deadlift is an exercise used to work the muscles in the back of the thigh and the rear end. A person can perform a straight leg deadlift using either a barbell or dumbbells. If he uses dumbbells instead of a barbell, the exercise is performed exactly the same way, except he has a dumbbell in each hand instead of holding a bar with weights on each end.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

In a straight leg deadlift, the exerciser bends over and lifts a barbell off the floor. While doing so, he is supposed to keep his legs straight. The amount of weight used is up to the individual weight lifter. If he uses weights that are too heavy, however, he may have trouble controlling his movements, which puts him at an increased risk of injury.

To perform a straight leg deadlift, an individual stands with a barbell on the floor in front of him. He then squats and lifts the barbell off the floor. The lift is accomplished by extending the knees while keeping his back straight.

After lifting the barbell off the floor, the exerciser stands up straight again. He then bends forward at the waist until his upper body is positioned parallel to the ground. At this point, his arms should be hanging toward the floor while his knees stay straight. The exerciser should stop lowering his upper body when he feels tension in his thighs and before he starts to bend in the back area. Finally, the exerciser uses his lower back muscles to move back to his standing position, lifting the barbell back up with him.

It’s important to warm up properly before performing straight leg deadlifts. Warming up is helpful for achieving proper form, being able to perform more repetitions, and preventing injury. Additionally, this exercise has a reputation for being hard on a person’s back. Warming up beforehand may also help to protect the back from injury.

Individuals who have back injuries or chronic back pain should usually avoid straight leg deadlifts. Others may perform them cautiously, stopping if they notice pain or strain in the area. Being strict about proper form may help to protect the back. It’s worth noting that this exercise can be hard on the back muscles, even if the exerciser uses light weights. If an individual is new to exercising with weights, he may do well to seek his doctor's approval before he performs this and other weight-bearing exercises.

N. Madison
N. Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments


I believe the straight leg deadlift is the technique used by professional weightlifters to break world records. I remember seeing pictures of a weightlifter from Georgia who deadlifted several thousand pounds and broke his own record. It was like lifting a car two feet off the ground.


I wouldn't even attempt a straight leg deadlift myself. I once tried to pull a heavy battery out of a car using basically the same maneuver, and my lower back slip out of position. I was out of commission for a week. I can't imagine trying it with several hundred pounds of weight. We were always told at work to lift with our legs instead of our backs, but this straight legged deadlift asks people to ignore that piece of good advice.

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