As a woman, you can reap the many benefits of the straight leg deadlift -- also known as the stiff leg or Romanian deadlift – without modifying its form. Despite the macho reputation of the deadlift, this exercise offers a full-body workout for women and men alike, challenging muscles from the thighs to the abs to the glutes. The straight leg variety puts specific focus on the hamstrings and lower back.
Stand with your feet slightly closer than shoulder-width apart, placing your mid-foot directly under the middle of the barbell. Bend your knees to grasp the bar with an overhand, shoulder-width grip and extend your legs to once again return to the standing position. Stand with your back straight, chest out, shoulders back, head held level and eyes forward. Keep your arms straight so the barbell rests approximately an inch from your body at about crotch level. This is your starting position.
Bend at the hips to lower your torso, bringing the bar toward the top of your mid-foot. At the full extension, your torso and hips should form about a 90-degree angle. If you can't bend this far, simply go as far as you can – you'll increase your range of motion as you practice the exercise. Keep your arms extended – avoid bending your elbows – and do not allow the bar to touch your legs. Keep your knees straight throughout the exercise.
Reverse the motion, maintaining straight knees and arms, to return to the starting position. Engage your hamstrings as you raise your body. This completes one repetition.
Items you will need
- Focus on smooth, controlled and deliberate motion throughout the exercise. Breathe regularly and deeply, exhaling on the exertion. Keep your eyes locked straight ahead and avoid rounding your back throughout.
- Start with a small weight load and add weight incrementally. If you don't have full control of the bar at all times, you have too much weight.
- You can also perform this exercise with dumbbells. Follow the same movements, grasping an evenly weighted dumbbell overhand in each hand.
- After one set of repetitions, you should feel a healthy tightness -- but not pain or complete fatigue -- in your quads and hamstrings. Although the amount varies based on your experience level; one to three sets of five to 10 reps each makes a strong addition to your lower-body program.