A popular exercise among athletes, bodybuilders and general gym-goers, the stiff leg deadlift (SLDL) is extremely effective at targeting the hamstring and glutes via extension of the hips. Whilst this profile discusses the use of a barbell for the SLDL, the exercise is also commonly performed with dumbbells.
By fixing the leg during the deadlift, the exercise places greater emphasis on the hamstrings compared to that of the traditional barbell deadlift. This is because greater force is placed on the hip, which the hamstrings are responsible for extending as they contract.
An area of confusion surrounds the difference between a stiff leg deadlift and a Romanian deadlift. This is not unsurprising; as both exercises are extremely similar, and you may see athletes performing a Romanian deadlift and state it is a stiff leg deadlift, and vice-versa. The difference between the two can be found in hip movement and the position of the bar during the execution. During a stiff leg deadlift the hips remain pretty much fixed in position and do not travel forward or backwards. The bar therefore travels forwards somewhat as the athlete descends. On the other hand, during a Romanian deadlift the athlete pushes the glutes back during the descent and allows the bar to travel very close to the body. The hips are then pushed forward back to position as the athlete ascends.
The dumbbell stiff leg deadlift (SLDL) is an excellent exercise for stimulating the muscles of the posterior chain, or in other words; the spinal erectors, glutes and hamstrings. The SLDL can be performed with either a set of dumbbells, like discussed here, or with a barbell.
As mentioned, due to keeping the legs fixed in position during the lift, much of the emphasis is placed on the hamstrings as they work to extend the hip. The SLDL therefore is more effective at directly targeting the hamstrings compared to the traditional deadlift which also involves the extension of the knee.
Always keep the back straight and chest up whilst performing the deadlift; never allow your back to round. Rounding of the back may be an indication of too much weight being used, poor form, or flexibility issues which require attention.