Exercise Profile
  • Target Muscle Group
  • Exercise TypeStrength
  • Equipment RequiredDumbbell
  • MechanicsCompound
  • Force TypePull
  • Experience LevelBeginner
  • Secondary Muscles
    Glutes, Lower Back
Target Muscle Group


Hamstrings Muscle Anatomy Diagram

Dumbbell Stiff Leg Deadlift Instructions

  1. Set up for the dumbbell stiff leg deadlift by choosing a pair of dumbbells and holding them down at your sides.
  2. Stand up straight with a slight bend in your knees and your feet around shoulder width apart. This is your starting position.
  3. Keep your back as straight as possible and bend over at the waist lowering the dumbbells over the tops of you feet. Your knees should be kept stationary during the movement.
  4. Focus on the stretch in your hamstrings, and continue to lower the dumbbells down as far as your hamstrings will let you comfortably.
  5. Now engage the hamstrings and begin to raise the dumbbells straight back up. Your eyes should be facing up and your shoulders back. This will prevent your lower back from rounding.
  6. Squeeze up through the glutes and hamstrings until you're standing straight up.
  7. Repeat for desired reps.

Exercise Tips:

  1. You must keep your eyes looking up at all times. As soon as you look down at the floor your back will round!
  2. The dumbbells need to stay close to your body throughout the set. The further the dumbbells are from your body the more strain is on your lower back.
  3. Focus on stretching the hamstrings out as you lower the dumbbells and contracting them as you raise back up. The greater the mind-muscle connection the more you'll get out of this exercise.
  4. It's best to have your knees slightly bent during the set but fixed (ie: bend them slightly but keep them locked in the same place throughout the set).
  5. During the descent, to protect your lower back, keep your weight back on the heels. Do not let your weight shift forward onto the toes. If you find the your weight on the toes when at the bottom position of the exercise, you are performing it incorrectly.
  6. Do not relax at the bottom of the movement. Keep your legs, back and abdominals tight as you begin the ascent.
  7. Keep the rep timing slow and control the weight, especially when lowering. Remember the focus is on stretch and contraction!
  8. One of the biggest mistakes people make when performing this exercise is bending over at the waist without moving the hips back. Instead of being supported by the large hamstring muscles, the weight is now placed almost entirely on the lower spine. Needless to say, this puts your back at great risk for injury. If you keep the weight close to your body your hips with naturally move back.
  9. Technique is so important with this exercise. If you're just starting out, stand with your side to a mirror with a very light weight and practice the movement. Once you get the technique nailed you'll be able to move up in weight and start building some killer hams and glutes!
Posted on: Fri, 12/29/2023 - 13:36

What exercise(s) could I switch this out for?, I just can't get the form right and endup messing up my back..

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sat, 12/30/2023 - 20:22

Training in a gym or at home, Alex? If at home, what equipment you got? I want to make the best alternatives possible for ya.

Posted on: Sun, 12/31/2023 - 06:16

Hi Roger,

I'm training at home, I have dumbbells, Kettlebells, Barbell and a dip bar as well as resistance bands.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sun, 12/31/2023 - 21:24

Ok. As long as you don't have back issues, you can do them with a barbell with a shorter range of motion. Just stop once you feel the stretch in the hamstrings or the barbell reach the shins. You could also connect the band to a solid object and place the other and around your ankles and do lying leg curls. Dumbbell leg curls and lunges are also options.

Posted on: Wed, 12/06/2023 - 07:59

I am absolutely feeling this in hamstrings. However this move just gives me the heebeejeebees. Is there any other free weight motion that can be used in substitution?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 12/27/2023 - 20:35

Outside of a dumbbell leg curl, hard to recommend anything without knowing what concerns you about it.

Posted on: Wed, 11/01/2023 - 05:08

Is it possible to gain muscle mass without deadlifts. I have been using your workouts for five months , I have history of lower back disc issues and its gone again.I have to stop working out and its a two week wait until I feel OK to start again but deadlifts might be a problem for me. I can do squats as long as I reduce the weight.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 11/13/2023 - 09:49

It is possible, Anthony. No one exercise is the end-all, be-all. As long as you train the posterior chain with other movements, you will be fine. Thanks for reading M&S!

Anthony Byrne
Posted on: Mon, 11/13/2023 - 09:56

Thanks for that, I wasn't sure if the deadlifts were a must do exercise.I will stick to squats and work my weights up again.

Posted on: Tue, 08/01/2023 - 17:21

Is it weird i cant even reach my feet in this position? I get the technique but i got no way to get my back straight lool

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 08/17/2023 - 22:13

It just means you need to work on your flexibility. With reps and commitment to stretching, you'll get better and eventually reach the feet.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 08/17/2023 - 22:13

It just means you need to work on your flexibility. With reps and commitment to stretching, you'll get better and eventually reach the feet.

Markus Webster
Posted on: Mon, 06/26/2023 - 12:57

Hello. I am really struggling to do this correctly. I do not really like the exercise either. If I swapped it for the reverse hyper would that be sufficient or not? If so should I do more sets as the reverse hyper is probably less demanding? Thanks

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 06/27/2023 - 07:55

I am always in favor of reverse hyper, but that is going to do more for the lower back than the hamstrings. A Good morning would do more for the hamstrings. Have you tried doing these single leg?

Markus Webster
Posted on: Tue, 06/27/2023 - 09:45

Hi. I do not like the Good Morning exercises either sorry. I will have to think of something else. I am training at home and limited to what I can use. Hopefully there is a simple exercise using dumbbells that I can replace it with.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 06/28/2023 - 07:48

Check out Exercises section at the top of the page and click the links to the muscle groups you need to find alternative exercises for. We have plenty to choose from.

Posted on: Tue, 03/07/2023 - 12:21

Is it normal to feel this only when going down and stretching my hamstrings and not feel anything at all when coming up with the weights?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 03/14/2023 - 09:48

You should feel some contraction when going back up. Go up slow and stop short of standing completely tall. This may help.

Charles Raney
Posted on: Sun, 10/29/2023 - 00:45

You should feel the hamstring stretch on the way down and actually contract on the way up.On the way going down I usually stop about mid front shiner a little farther.Charles

Posted on: Sat, 03/04/2023 - 07:59

Is it normal to feel a stretching pain rather than the usual lifting / pushing pain? It feels very different than other muscle workouts but maybe that's how the hamstring is.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 03/14/2023 - 09:45

You should feel a stretch that is intense and even uncomfortable, but it shouldn't be extremely painful. If it is, stop doing the exercise.

Posted on: Thu, 01/26/2023 - 04:05

It is really recommended to raise your head as you said. Don't you think keeping the head neutral so the back gets parallel to prevent tension in the neck muscle is better?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 01/27/2023 - 13:56

I personally agree with you on that one, Nuseli. I try to keep my head neutral, but some people feel more comfortable looking forward while the body is in motion. It may be a matter of preference on this one.

Posted on: Sun, 01/08/2023 - 01:47

Any dumbbell only movement to replace this? This is not exercising my hamstrings and leaves me with a terrible lower back pain every time I do it ><

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 01/18/2023 - 21:57

If you're feeling that kind of pain, you should see a doctor. Hard to make a recommendation without knowing if your lower back bothers you in other movements as well. If that is the only time your back bothers you, you could try the dumbbell leg curl with the dumbbell between your feet.

Posted on: Wed, 06/22/2022 - 19:02

Hi when I do this exercise, I feel it in my lower calfs rather than my armstring

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 06/24/2022 - 09:50

Turn your feet slightly out, and place small plates under your heels. Also, make sure your feet are appropriate distance apart. If they are too close, the calves will be more involved.

Posted on: Tue, 01/11/2022 - 03:51

Really wish you guys would update these video workouts. I get that this was made in 2012 but the video quality leaves a lot to be desired in 2022.

Posted on: Fri, 05/14/2021 - 23:34

this is a guaranteed back injury if you don't get the form correct. not even the person in the video has the proper form, it seems.

what would be a better, safer alternative? this doesn't seem to be beginner friendly whatsoever.

Posted on: Wed, 09/22/2021 - 20:01

Agreed. The guy in this video rounds his back when he lowers the weight. I would compare this to the video of the Romanian deadlift. In that video, he starts the exercise with bent knees and deadlifts it into position. Then each rep is taken down to about knee level before lifting again. He keeps his spine neutral throughout the workout. If you just imagine dumbbells instead of a barbell, that would seem like the best technique/form of the exercise.

Posted on: Sat, 02/13/2021 - 00:38

Will 5 reps x 3 sets with a heavy weight build more muscle than 10 reos x 3 sets of a lighter weight?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 02/15/2021 - 09:47

Hey Steve - it also depends on the other exercises you're doing and what you do outside of the gym. Check out this article: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/creating-effective-muscle-bui...

Posted on: Wed, 01/20/2021 - 18:57

RIP my lower back.

Posted on: Fri, 09/17/2021 - 05:37

same LMAO

Noah Griffiths
Posted on: Mon, 11/22/2021 - 02:23

good that I'm not the only one

Karl Eludo
Posted on: Sun, 12/13/2020 - 09:56

I'm a beginner with little experience way back. This is extremely hard for me, I'm mostly top heavy, and my weight shifts forward as I go lower. It hurts my lower back so much, it's almost a session breaker. I'm afraid I might injure my back so I'm taking this workout easy.

Frank Reyes
Posted on: Sat, 01/02/2021 - 11:34

Practice on form and technique with little to no weight. Then research each exercise from YT from credible sources. It’s like learning to crawl and walk to get the locomotion and motor movements down then learning/applying to run. I still practice on my non-workout days (no weights) to practice and perfect my technique and form.

Carolinaa Huerta
Posted on: Sun, 09/13/2020 - 21:13

is this the same as a romanian dead lift?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 09/25/2020 - 16:11

Hey Carolinaa - it is a similar movement but not exactly the same. Check out our Romanian Deadlift video here: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/exercises/romanian-deadlift

Posted on: Sun, 08/23/2020 - 05:45

Aren't the front legs should be locked in straight as they are when standing?

Posted on: Fri, 12/06/2019 - 21:22

I really need help I couldn't reach far enough to the ground like the video shown, is it ok that I can't quite reach the ground or is that a must do on the exercise?

Posted on: Tue, 02/02/2021 - 10:55

You must work on your mobility

Rhys J
Posted on: Tue, 06/08/2021 - 11:38

Don’t listen to the “improve mobility” comment, if you’re feeling the stretch in your hamstrings then you’re working them, flexibility and mobility for this movement will improve over time, you’ll find you’re able to stretch them further the more you do it. Lower the weight as much as comfortably possible, as long as you’re feeling tension in your hamstrings, you’re working them.

Posted on: Tue, 05/07/2019 - 15:01

Didn't feel any burn on my hamstrings, so I added more weight. Didn't feel anything but noticed them trembling alot. Wasn't until a few hours after working out that I felt super sore.

Posted on: Thu, 01/10/2019 - 17:20

This video seems kinda misleading because in the video you can see the person bending his back.

Posted on: Thu, 12/06/2018 - 10:30

Actually this exercise is not for hamstrings, it's works for completely lower back. I feel nothing on hams, all weight is on my back. I dont know if i should go on doing this.

Posted on: Wed, 12/19/2018 - 07:44

That unfortunately means your form isn't good. There should be no real strain on your lower back or you're rounding your back during the exercise.

Posted on: Thu, 08/29/2019 - 18:11

That's because you are bending at your waist in the same manner as a regular DL. You have to do it at your hips, sticking out the butt as you lower the weight and sticking it in as you lift.
It's tricky, but once you realize the proper form you'll never want to left this exercise out off your routine.

Posted on: Sun, 01/15/2017 - 23:16

This workout doesn't seem to do much for me at all......I am obese and trying to work out at home because I know I will be shamed if I go to the gym. But when I do this exercise it doesn't make my legs feel tired at all but my upper body gets very very tired from doing this.....I find that it's impossible to keep my back straight because my body is naturally round. When I am fully leaned over I am almost forced to look at the ground because my neck doesn't bend far enough to keep it facing the wall..........

Any tips for obese people?

Posted on: Wed, 04/25/2018 - 11:17

I don't know dude, maybe you will need help from professionals. But try to do, this with one leg,for example, unilateral exercise.