The Bouncing Stiff-Legged Deadlift By Charles Staley
Disclaimer: The following exercise may pose a significant risk to some individuals. If you decide to try this exercise, do so at your own risk. The following article simply chronicles the author's own experiences with the exercise. Your experience may not be as successful.
After watching Phil Stevens playing around (if you call 405x20 "playing around") with this exercise during his regular workouts at Bed & Barbell, I decided to give this unusual drill a shot recently while I was in a knee-rehab phase.
What's nice about the exercise is that it's a great way to train full trunk/hip-extension, with significant loads, while keeping stress off the knees.
We use bumper plates with this drill, which allows us to actually bounce the plates off of the floor between reps.
While it looks a bit haphazard, the bounce actually reduces loading a bit when you're in the greatest amount of flexion, adding a measure of protection to the exercise. If you've got bumpers, give the bounce a try, and you'll find that it only takes a few reps to become very precise and symmetrical with the bounce. If you don't have bumpers, try a more controlled "touch and go" technique with standard Olympic plates.
As the name of the exercise implies, this is a stiff-leg deadlift, not a straight-leg deadlift. Maintaining a small amount of knee flexion gives the glutes a strong anchor via the TFL (tensor fascia latae)/IT-band complex. Without this anchor, the glutes are unable to contribute as strongly as they could otherwise, resulting in higher loads to the remaining structures involved, and reducing the safety of the exercise.
Another unusual aspect of this exercise is that we don't keep the bar snug against the legs, as you typically would during a standard deadlift, clean, or snatch. There are two reasons for this- first, the speed used in both directions make it very difficult to keep the bar any closer than what's shown in the video. Second, as the bar is lowered, the hips are forced aggressively backward, which means that even though the bar doesn't stay against the legs, it remains well within the center of gravity of the lifter-barbell unit.
This movement seems more suited to repetition-work as opposed to maximum loading. We suggest starting off with sets of 10 initially, and then once you become comfortable with the movement, you might consider gradually working up to 20 reps for a single set. Use straps so your grip won't be the limiting factor in the exercise.
One caveat is in order before you attempt this drill: it's important that, at the bottom-most position, you're able to maintain a neutral spine. This requires long hamstrings. If you don't have the hamstring length required to keep your spine neutral throughout the entire range of motion, simply shorten the range of motion by placing elevated platforms (perhaps in the form of small flooring squares or plates) under your plates.
The bouncing stiff-leg deadlift is a fantastic way to strengthen the posterior chain with minimal load to the knees. It'll pack lean mass onto your spinal erectors, glutes, and hamstrings. If you have no known orthopedic issues, and you decide to try this exercise, use caution for the first several sessions until you're sure you can perform it safely with significant loads.
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