Exercise of the Week – Straight Leg Deadlift

by Tia Dewick in Training

Targeted Muscle Groups

The primary muscles used for the straight leg deadlift are the hamstrings and the secondary muscles include the back, gluteus maximus and the abdominals so it’s a great all round workout!


Why Should I Use the Straight Leg Deadlift Exercise in my Gym Routine?

The straight leg deadlift is a very important exercise to ensure the hamstrings get a good workout. For optimal functioning and to minimise the risk of injury the strength ratio of the hamstrings to the quadriceps should remain at a 2:3 ratio, respectively. However as most exercises overpower the quadriceps most people even struggle to reach a 1:3 ratio which causes them to be much more susceptible to injury! Stay healthy and stay active by working the hamstrings in the perfect ratio to the quadriceps!



  1. First of all, position your feet shoulder width apart with a slight bend in the knee and ensure your back remains upright.
  2. Then, whilst holding your equipment of choice (i.e. dumbbells, kettlebell, barbell), position your equipment in front of your hips (with your palms facing your hips), begin to lower the weight along your thigh until you reach either your knees (to work the lower back more) or your ankles (to work the hamstrings more) and be sure to keep your back straight all of the way through the exercise.
  3. Once you reach either your knees or ankles lift the weights back up to your starting position and keep repeating to meet the reps and sets required for your session.
  4. Ensure that you do not make the bend in your knee any more pronounced, simply maintain a consistent knee depth.


Common Problems with Technique

  1. The most common flaw with the straight leg deadlift is arching of the lower back. Due to the increasing prevalence of desk jobs, individuals may suffer from a weak lower back and so may compensate during the straight leg deadlift as a means to increase the comfort of the exercise. However, by arching the lower back you may be making your lower back worse. Alternately when completing this exercise be sure to use a mirror to look out for that lower back arch! If you cannot perform this exercise without the arch, be sure to seek professional advice.
  2. A further technique deviation lies most commonly amongst women whereby the individual may bend and extend their elbows throughout the movement in a rowing-like motion. However this takes the tension away from the back and hamstrings and begins to work the biceps and triceps. Therefore, for a full leg workout be sure to keep your arms at a full extension throughout the exercise.
  3. The final common flaw we shall discuss today is similar to the elbows whereby the individual may bend and extend the knee as the weights elevate and descend through the exercise. However this begins to utilise the quadricep muscles whereas we want to concentrate on the hamstrings during this exercise! So be sure to maintain a constant knee depth for the straight leg deadlift.