Barbell-Braced Stiff-Legged Deadlifts - MAXIMIZE Your Hams By Nick Nilsson
Stiff-Legged Deadlifts are one of THE best lower body exercises you can do (not to mention hamstring exercises). This exercise is a variation of the SLDL that turns two barbells into something similar to a SLDL machine.
Why would you want to do that?
The reason is this - improving your balance can help you focus on FEELING the hamstrings working rather than on balancing and worrying about other parts of the exercise.
One of the biggest problems with the SLDL is that it can be hard to feel the hams working. Many people do these and never once feel there hams but get a sore lower back.
So what we're going to do is instead of using regular free weight, we're going to take 2 barbells (you can use 1 if just just have 1) and brace one end against a solid object (in my case, I just have the non-loaded ends up against the bottom support of my power rack).
The "working" end of the bar should be loaded - start moderate until you get a feel for the movement.
The unweighted end of the bar is going to be your pivot point, basically making this into a lever type of machine.
A simple machine, of course, but that bracing of the barbell ends really improves the stability of the exercise without taking away the benefits of it being a free weight exercise - it's a nice combination.
The nice thing about this setup is that you'll be grabbing on the ends of the bar, which means you don't need to load the "pivot" end of the bar. When you do the exercise, because the weight plates are in between you and the pivot, the ends will stay down on their own.
So get into position as you normally would for a Stiff- Legged Deadlift. Knees slightly bent, a tight arch in your lower back, eyes looking forward. Then perform the exercise.
As you start coming up, LEAN FORWARD into the bars so you're pushing the bars against their pivot points. This also has the beneficial effect of FURTHER increasing hamstring activation.
How? It has to do with hip extension. The function of the hamstrings that we're working with the SLDL is hip extension (the other end is knee flexion, which is worked by the leg curl).
Leaning forward into the bar adds a bit more tension to the hip extension as you come up. Normally, when you do free weight SLDL's, you lose most hamstring tension halfway up and it's almost nothing at the top.
With this lean forward, you keep it on a bit longer and you increase it more by pushing forward against the bar more.
Keep going all the way up to the top.
That's a rep - just lower the bars down and repeat. You may need to adjust your feet a bit to get the best feel on the exercise - in the demo video, I move my feet forward a bit to get a bit better stretch on the hams.
To perform this exercise with one barbell, just setup the bar as above except with more weight, and grip it on the end with both hands.
You can also do this exercise with your toes raised up, either on a couple of 25lb weight plates or foam wedges.
This elevation of the toes really helps to increase hamstring stretch at the bottom of the exercise - you can demonstrate this for yourself quite easily! Stand up and set your foot on your chair with your leg straight and do a hamstring stretch. Keep your foot relaxed. Now lean forward, keeping your lower back straight (no bending forward at the stomach). Hold that position now pull your toes back. Feel how the stretch instantly increased? Now imagine doing that with a loaded barbell! THAT is the effect you get with this one.