Do you have a hard time feeling your hamstrings working when you do stiff-legged deadlifts? You will never, EVER have that problem again after you read this tip.
The stiff-legged deadlift is one of the best exercises you can do for your hamstrings. The only problem is, it can also be one the hardest exercises to perform properly.
For years, I tried to feel my hamstrings working when I did the stiff-legged deadlift. I knew it was the best exercise to work the hip extension function of the hamstrings but I never succeeded in feeling my hams work until I came up with this simple technique.
Let me tell you, the very rep of the very first set I used this technique on, I could feel my hamstrings like never before! It was like a revelation. It was also extraordinarily simple. I guarantee if you’ve never had success with stiff-legged deadlifts, you will definitely have it after applying this technique.
The trick? Elevate your toes on weight plates while you do the exercise. That’s it! It’s very simple but very elegant in the way it addresses the kinesiology and anatomy of the hamstrings. I will explain exactly how to set it up and the mechanisms of why it works so incredibly well.
How To Do It:
Set two 25-pound weight plates on the ground butted up against each other (one for each foot). They should be right beneath the barbell you will be using for the exercise and placed side-by-side so you can set your feet on both of them.
Stand in front of the barbell with your feet half on the plates and half off. The front parts of your feet will be on the plates and your heels will be on the ground. Use the weight plates to brace your feet up so that your toes are up in the air and your feet are flexed up (known as dorsiflexion). At the end of this article you will find a link to a picture of how to set up this exercise.
Bend over and grasp the bar at about shoulder width with an overhand grip. Keep your knees locked but slightly bent while doing this exercise and keep a tight arch in your lower back.
Look directly forward while you are coming up and going back down. This will help you to keep an arch in your lower back.
Squeeze the bar off the ground slowly and deliberately, coming up only until your upper body is slightly above parallel. Any higher and you’ll start to lose tension in the hamstrings and throw it on your lower back. The real value of this exercise lies in the stretch at the bottom anyways.
Come down slowly, being absolutely sure to keep the arch in your lower back. As you near the bottom, stick your butt out and try to raise your toes as high up as possible. This dramatically intensifies the stretch you put on your hamstrings. Hold that stretch for a moment or two then reverse the direction without bouncing.
Repeat this for 5 to 7 reps. At the end of the set, place the barbell down gently then get ready to grab onto something for support. If you’ve done this technique correctly and intensely, your hamstrings will probably feel like jelly and you might find yourself prone to falling down suddenly (this is not a joke – I can’t tell you how many things I’ve had grab onto to catch myself on after doing a hard set of these)!
Why Is This Technique So Effective?
The reason this toe-raising technique is so effective for the stiff-legged deadlift comes straight from biomechanics and anatomy.
The stiff-legged deadlift exercise places the most tension on the hamstrings at the bottom, stretched position. Therefore, in order to maximize tension on the hamstrings, we must maximize the stretch on the hamstrings at that point.
In the standard stiff-legged deadlift, this is normally accomplished by simply bending at the hips. But this is not the greatest anatomical stretch that can be put on the hamstring muscles.
As you may or may not know, the muscles of the calves are tied in with the hamstrings. Therefore, placing a stretch on the calves also places more stretch on the hamstrings. This is what the weight plates accomplish – they raise your toes, putting a stretch on the calves, which then puts a greater stretch on your hamstrings.
By stretching the hamstrings at both the hip joint and the knee joint (from stretching the calves), you literally force your hamstrings to activate strongly during the stiff-legged deadlift movement.
The difference is quite amazing! Try it for just one set and I promise you’ll never go back to doing it the standard way ever again!
As explained in the article, the key to really feeling the hamstrings working is to put a stretch on them from both ends, e.g. the hips and the calves.
By raising your toes, you put a stretch on the calves, drastically increasing the effect of the stiff-legged deadlift on your hamstrings.
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