Straight-Leg Dead Lift Exercises

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Straight-leg dead lift exercises work several muscle groups in your lower body simultaneously. This simple exercise involves only one joint movement. Be sure to learn proper form for straight-leg dead lifts as improper form can compromise the health of your lower back. Include all the different straight-leg dead lift variations to keep your routine fresh.

Muscles Worked

Straight-leg dead lifts, often called stiff-leg dead lifts, work multiple muscles of the back and lower body. The hamstrings, on the back of your thigh, are the primary movers. The gluteus maximus, your buttock muscles, assist in the movement. Several other muscles act as stabilizers that work to maintain your body in the proper position throughout the range of motion. The stabilizers for the straight-leg dead lift exercise include the muscles of the lower and upper back.

Standard Straight-Leg Dead Lift

Perform the standard straight-leg dead lift with a barbell. Grasp the bar with an overhand grip. Stand upright, your feet hip-width apart and your arms hanging down in front of your body. The bar should rest against your thighs. Inhale as you bend at the hips, lowering your upper body toward the floor. Tilt your tailbone back, keep your back straight, your knees soft but straight and look forward as you descend. Keep the bar close to your legs. If the bar moves away from your legs, this places increased stress on your lower back. Stop the motion when you feel a slight stretch in your hamstrings. Exhale as you stand back up.

Single-Leg Dead Lifts

The single-leg version of the straight-leg dead lift works the same muscle groups as the standard version, but the glute muscles are the primary movers, with the hamstrings assisting. Focus on one leg at a time. Start in the same position as for a standard straight-leg dead lift. As you lower your torso forward, allow your left leg to lift off the ground. The right leg is the working leg. When you stop your descent, your left leg should be almost parallel to the ground behind you. Exhale as you return to the start position.


You can do straight leg dead lifts with most types of resistance. Instead of a barbell, grab a couple of dumbbells, which make the single-leg version more comfortable. You can also use resistance tubing, although the tension will not be particularly heavy for such strong muscles. The single-leg version is a better choice if you are using resistance bands. You can also use a cable machine, lever machine or a trap bar. Try all the different versions to see what works best for you.