15 Best Stiff Leg Deadlift Alternatives (Easier and Effective)

Published by Roshan S Pillai on

Stiff leg deadlift alternatives

I have seen so many people struggling with stiff leg deadlifts. It is one of the most effective exercise to strengthen the glutes hamstrings and the entire posterior chain. However there are so many people who either do it wrong or are unable to get in to the right position to perform stiff legs.

Some so many people either do a personal trainer, I have seen so many people doing this exercise wrong. Most of them round their lower back or some are uncomfortable with the depth of the movement.

That’s why I have made this article where you will find some of the best alternatives to stiff leg deadlifts which are much safer and as effective as stiff legs. Some of these exercise can be easily done at home with some basic gym equipment. Also, I have shared some bodyweight exercises at the end that you can do easily at home without equipment.

Sumo Deadlift Alternatives

1. Romanian Deadlift

The Romanian deadlift is one of the famous deadlifts to target the hamstring muscles. It looks similar to a stiff leg deadlift. You can replace a stiff leg with a romanian deadlift if you don’t have good flexibility and can’t take the barbell completely down.

Targeted muscles – Glutes, hamstrings, and lower back

How to do

1 Stand with both feet at about shoulder-width apart. Stand close to the bar such that the bar is just above the mid-foot.

2. Reach down to hold the bar by moving the hips back and keeping the back flat. There should be only a slight bend in the knees to keep the tension and stress on the hamstrings.

3. Stop at the bottom when you touch the bar and maintain that position. Hold the bar with an overhand grip or mixed grip ( if you lift heavy). This will be your starting position.

4. Start the exercise by pulling the bar up with the help of your legs and back muscles. You should press down with your feet and generate force from the floor while lifting the weights.

5. Stop at the top and then again bring the bar down while keeping the bar close to your body. Stop at the bottom when the bar reaches above knee level.

6. Pull the bar from the downward position and bring it up. Keep the tension on the hamstrings.

Difference between Stiff Leg Deadlift and Romanian Deadlift

When you perform a stiff leg deadlift, you bring the bar completely down to the floor, which requires your hamstring to be flexible.

However, during a Romanian deadlift, you only need to bring the bar just below your knees. Here, you will not bring the bar down to the floor. So it is much easier and is a safer exercise for people who are just beginning with deadlifts.

2. Hip Thrust

The hip thrust is one of the best exercises to strengthen the posterior chain muscles. This exercise specifically targets the glutes and hamstrings.

Many people have weak glutes and hamstrings and due to this, whenever they do any heavy squats or lunges, they hurt their knees. This is because their hamstrings and glutes are not strong enough to contribute during squats. This puts an extra load on the quads and thus more load on your knees.

Therefore you must have a strong posterior chain if you want to stay away from injuries. So doing exercises like hip thrust is a great way to build stronger glutes and hams just like stiff leg deadlifts.

Targeted muscles – Glutes, hamstrings, and lower back

How to do

1. Place the barbell on the lower part of your abdomen. Hold the bar and then lay on the bench with your shoulder and upper back on the bench.

2. Keep your knees bent at about 90° angle. This will be your starting position.

3. Start the exercise by moving your hips upward. Bring your hips up until the glutes are squeezed at max. Your knee should point out as you move.

4. Stop at the top and squeeze your hips. Pause at the top for a second and then slowly bring your body back to the starting position.

You can also do this exercise without a barbell as it is a difficult exercise, especially for beginners. You should be able to do at least 15 reps easily with bodyweight, before doing this with a barbell.

3. Bulgarian Split Squats

Bulgarian split squat is another awesome exercise you should be doing to target the glutes and overall legs. This is a unilateral exercise like a lunge where you can focus on each part of the leg separately. You should do this with a proper form and technique to get the best results.

Targeted muscles – Glutes, hamstrings, and quads

How to do

1. Hold two dumbbells and stand in front of the bench. Place one foot on the bench and the other on the floor.

2. Take a bigger step from the bench so that you can target the glutes and hamstrings. Then lean slightly forward. This will be your starting position.

3. Start the exercise by lowering the body while bending the knees. Keep the tension on the glutes as you go down.

4. Stop at the bottom when your knees are at a 90° angle. Then push the floor with your feet to return to the starting position.

Make sure that as you go down, your knee should not come outside the toe. This will put less stress on your knee joint. Also fo this exercise with proper focus and concentration.

4. Dumbbell Sumo Squats

Sumo squat is a great exercise to strengthen the glutes and hamstrings. It is a great alternative to a stiff leg deadlift. If you want to lift heavy squats or deadlifts, then do this exercise. This exercise will work on your weak muscles and will help you in lifting heavy.

Targeted muscles – Glutes, hamstrings, and inner quads

How to do

1. Grab a dumbbell from both hands and stand with both feet wide such that when you bend down, your shin is perpendicular to the floor.

2. Stand straight with your chest up and keep your hands straight down, holding a dumbbell at the center. This will be your starting position.

3. Now start the exercise by driving your hips back as you move down. Keep your chest up and knees out as you go down.

4. Stop at the bottom position until the dumbbell is almost touching the floor.

5. Then push your feet towards the ground and return to the starting position.

You can also do the same exercise with a barbell. But it might be uncomfortable for those who have hip mobility issues. So it’s better to start with dumbbells. After some time you can also do barbell sumo deadlifts in place of sumo squats.

5. Single Leg RDL

You must have done Romanian deadlifts in the past but I think most of you have not done it with a single leg. Romanian deadlift with a single leg puts extra focus on one side.

So if your one leg is weaker than the other or if you don’t have a good mind and muscle connection developed in one side of the leg, then you should do this exercise.

Targeted muscles – Glutes, hamstrings, and lower back

How to do

1 Stand straight while holding a dumbbell in each hand. Now move your one foot back. This will be ypur starting position.

2. Start the exercise by moving your hands down while keeping your back straight. Keep most of the load on your front leg. Use the back leg just for balance.

3. Go down while keeping a slight bend in the knees. Stop at the bottom when your knees start bending too much and you start loosing mobility from your hamstrings.

4. Push the floor with your leg and then return to the starting position. Switch your legs and then repeat.

You can also do this exercise by placing the other leg on the bench. Make sure that you squeeze your glutes at the top. This exercise is for both glutes and hamstrings so you must focus on those muscles when you do the exercise.

6. Kettlebell Swings

The kettlebell swing is another great exercise you can do at home. This will help you in strengthening your glutes and hamstrings and is a great alternative to the stiff leg deadlift. All you need is a kettlebell and that’s it.

If you are an athlete or you play any sport, this exercise is very helpful in improving the power and speed of your lower body. Most of the sport you play will require you to bend, jump run and drift. And for that, you need to develop a great technique and strength to perform the movement effectively without injury. So this exercise will help you to perform better in the field.

Targeted muscles – Glutes, hamstrings, and lower back

How to do

1. Grab the handle of the kettlebell with both hands and stand straight with both feet wider than the shoulder width. Keep your hands down. This will be your starting position.

2. Start by bending with your knees and bringing your hips back as you go down. Don’t bring your knees in front of the toes. Keep it back always.

3. Keep your chest up and back tight and stop at the bottom when your hamstrings are stretched at max. The kettlebell should move back in stead ofgoing straight down.

4. From the downward position do a hip hinge movement by powerfully swinging the kettlebell up and driving your hips forward at the same time.

5. Extend your hips completely at the top and squeeze your glutes. Then repeat the movement.

You can go heavy on this but make sure that you do not too much lower back here. There is a tendency of putting extra tension on the lower back instead of the glutes during this exercise. So always start with light weights and try to learn the form properly.

Once you master the form and you can feel your glutes working well. Then you can try with a heavy kettlebell. Never compromise your form for the safe of lifting heavy. Or else you can injure yourself.

7. Cable Squats

Cable squat is another great alternative option you have if you find stiff legs difficult. You can use this exercise at the end of the workout to get a massive pump on those legs. It is also used at the beginning of the work out as a warm-up set before doing any barbell compound exercise.

Targeted muscles- quads, hamstrings, and glutes

How to do

1. Attach a straight bar at the bottom pulley of the cable machine. Now hold the bar and stand at a shoulder-width stance. Your toe should point out.

2. With your hands straight, start going down by squeezing your glutes. Your hands should be straight forward. Your neck should be in line with the spine.

3. Go down to the bottom and pause when your upper quads are parallel to the floor. Your knee should not come over your toes and your lower back should not bend.

4. Come back to the starting position by squeezing your glutes and moving your hands towards you.

Recommended reps – 10-20 reps

This exercise should be used to isolate the legs. But it cannot replace the regular squat exercise you do with a barbell. But it’s great if you add as an accessory movement.

8. Cable Pull Through

Another great exercise for your glutes and hamstrings. This is similar to kettlebell swings. Cables will put more focus on isolating your glutes and hams. As it targets the hamstring and glutes with a hip hinge movement just like a stiff leg deadlift, so it can be a great alternative option you should consider.

Targeted muscles – Glutes, hamstrings and lower back

How to do

1. Attach a rope at the bottom of a cable machine and stand with your back facing the cable machine.

2. Bend down and hold the ropes and come forward until the weights are resisting the arms.

3. Now stand straight with your hands straight down while holding the ropes. This will be your starting position.

4. Now start taking your hands back behind the body by bending your back. Your knee should be slightly bend and your hips should go back.

5. Return to the starting position by bringing your body up. You should use your glutes to get back up and not your hands. Your hands should just hold the ropes.

Recommended reps – 12-20 reps

You have to squeeze your glutes and make it a dominating muscle during this exercise. Otherwise, your lower back will work the most. So always contract your glutes at the top.

9. Goodmornings With Resistance Band

Good mornings are another great exercise to strengthen the glutes and hamstrings. You can do this with a barbell however it might not be safe for beginners or people with lower back pain to do this with a bar. Therefore you can try it with a resistance band. You can do this even at home or any other place.

Targeted muscles – Glutes, hamstrings and lower back

How to do

1 Take a resistance band and stand on the band while holding the bar with your hands.

2. Roll the band onto your upper back and hold the bar while keeping your hands up to the side just like in the above video. Keep ypur chest up and look straight. This will be your starting position.

3. Start the exercise by moving your hips back and going down while keeping your chest up. Your knees should be slightly bent.

4. Stop until you reach a position where your hamstrings are at their maximum stretch. Then slowly return to the starting position by generating force from your hips.

Recommended reps – 10-12

This is a hip hinge movement similar to a stiff leg deadlift and you can use a barbell if you want. Make sure that you have less stress on the lower back and more on your glutes and hams. Your lower back should not be the prime mover.

10. Seated Band Leg Curls

This is an easy exercise that you can do with a resistance band. The seated band leg curl is good for those who have weak hamstrings. You can also do this exercise before any compound exercise to activate the hamstrings before heavy deadlifts or squats.

Targeted muscles – Glutes, hamstrings, and lower back

How to do

1. Attach a resistance band to a pillar or a rack. Roll a band over the lower part of the leg ( just above your ankles) and sit on the bench.

2. Place both legs on the floor and then move the resisted leg up. This will be your starting position.

3. Start the exercise by curling with your leg and squeezing your hamstrings at the bottom.

4. Slowly move your legs up towards the starting position and then repeat. Do the same with the other leg.

Recommended reps – 12-15

You can make this exercise challenging by using the high resisting bands.

11. Paused Sumo Leg Press

The paused sumo leg press is an amazing exercise you can add to your workout program. This is a more advanced version of the leg press. Here, you pause for a second at the bottom to put extra tension on the legs. This can be used by powerlifters who want to focus on improving their depth in squats.

So next time before getting onto a leg press machine to perform leg press, try to add this variation which will strengthen your glutes and hamstrings just like stiff leg deadlifts.

Targeted muscles – Glutes, hamstrings, and quads

How to do

1. Keep both feet at the top side of the leg press platform and keep your toes pointing out. Sit straight and unrack the weights.

2. Start the exercise by bringing the weights down slowly while breathing in on the way. Keep your knees pointing out.

3. Pause at the bottom for 2-3 seconds and then push the weights up at a faster pace. Bring the legs back to the starting position and then repeat.

Recommended reps – 10-12

If you are a beginner, then stick with the basic leg press exercise and don’t add too much variation to it. Once you develop reasonable strength and build a solid base, then go for this exercise.

Sumo Deadlift Alternatives At Home

12. Elevated Glute Bridge

The elevated glute bridge is an easy exercise you can do at home. You just need a bench, box, or anything you have at home where you can place your feet. This exercise will target the glute and hamstrings. So you can replace stiff legs with this exercise.

Targeted muscles – Glutes, hamstrings, and lower back

How to do

1. Lay down on the floor and place both feet on the bench or box. Keep your knees at a 90° angle. This will be your starting position.

2. Start the exercise by pushing down with your heel on the bench and start lifting your hips. Make sure that you push downward to activate your glutes.

3. Raise your hips while keeping your core tight and stop at the top when your glutes are fully contracted.

4. Slowly lower your hips and bring your body back to the starting position.

Recommended reps – 12-15

You can also do this exercise with a single leg. It will be more challenging and you can focus on each leg separately. So try both and do what works best for you.

13. Lying Leg Curls

This is another great way to train your hamstrings at home. All you need is a dumbbell and a floor. This exercise is similar to the leg curls you do on a machine. So if you are looking to train your hamstrings at home, then consider this alternative.

Targeted muscles – hamstrings

How to do

1. Lay down prone on the floor while keeping both hands on the floor. Keep your chest up and look down.

2. Keep a dumbbell between your toes and keep your knees bent. Keep your upper back arched by raising from your abdomen. This will be your starting position.

3. Start the exercise by curling with your legs and bringing the dumbbell up.

4. Stop at the position where your legs are perpendicular to the floor. Then slowly move your leg backward while resisting the gravity.

Recommended reps – 10-12

Make sure that you do this exercise slowly and concentrate on your hamstrings when you curl. Hamstring muscles are not used quite often during our day-to-day life and thus these muscles are underactive. So you must train these muscles with proper mind and muscle connection for best results.

14. Squat Jumps

The jump squat is another great exercise to target the glutes. This exercise works the entire posterior chain. Glutes, hamstring lower back, and calfs all are engaged during the movement. So you can replace stiff leg deadlifts with jump squats as your glutes and hamstrings are working the most here.

Targeted muscles – Glutes, hamstrings, calfs, and, quads

How to do

1. Stand straight with both feet at about shoulder-width apart. Keep your toes pointing out at about 60° angle and keep your hands close to your chest. This will be your starting position.

2. Start the exercise by lowering down while keeping the weight on your heels and the outer part of the feet. Keep your chest up and drive your hips back as you go down.

3. Stop at the bottom when your quads are parallel to the ground. Then push the floor with your heels and then go straight up and jump at the end while engaging your hips.

4. Land on your feet and set yourself back to the starting position. Then repeat the movement.

Recommended reps – 12-15

Make sure that as you go down to the bottom position, your knee should always be behind the toes. Other wise you can put extra tension on your knees and is not good for your knee joint.

You can make this exercise difficult by holding a plate in your hand and keeping your arms straight up. You can do this when bodyweight jump squats are easy for you and you can do 15- 20 res easily.

Final Words

So these were some of the best stiff leg deadlift alternatives. You can do most of these exercises at home and are much easier than stiff legs. So next time when you have pain in your lower back or are unable to perform a stiff leg deadlift properly, then consider these alternatives discussed in this article.

Also, make sure that you design your workout program by selecting and combining exercises that hit all parts of the muscles. So if you do your leg workout, you should do exercises like squats and lunges to target all the muscles of your leg rather than just focusing on hamstrings and glutes.

It is always recommended to seek a fitness or health professional before starting any exercise or workout.

If you found this blog helpful, then do share it with your friends or share it on social media so that we can reach more people and can grow our website. Also, if you know of any other alternative exercises, then do mention that in the comment section below.

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Roshan S Pillai

Roshan Pillai is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer with more than 6 years of experience in lifting weights and guiding people to get fit. He has worked as a personal trainer in gyms and is the owner and editor of fitnessproworkout.com. He is passionate about fitness and helping people to get in shape.

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