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Sometimes an exercise is born that stands the test of time.  An exercise that everyone should regularly be doing from the age of 18 to 118.

Sure, you tube came along and we can now watch people doing a mixture of crazy and highly impressive workouts.  But there is one exercise that has been with us since day one and will continue to be the cornerstone of your exercise programme and also, we bloody love it!

If you want a strong pain free back, a super toned bum, a super toned, lean yet strong and functional legs (hamstrings and calves aka back of your legs) and not to mention a good core then read on.

Still here? Excellent, then let’s do this.

The stiff leg or Romanian deadlift is the exercise in question.  Just a superb exercise for strength and sexy lean muscle tone.

Without wanting to sound to bossy, but obviously that’s exactly how I am going to sound! You now need to be doing this exercise at least once a week.

A picture or in this case a video speaks a thousand words so here is Stef doing what she does best (ironically, she’s Romanian too!)

Here are the key teaching points

  • Shoulder width apart stance
  • Ensure your hand grip is even in terms of placement on the bar. Either an under over or neutral grip is fine to start.
  • Start standing up straight.
  • Begin to bend at your waist, as you do push your bum out and allow your knees to bend slightly.
  • Your back should remain in a neutral position. Position Stef demonstrated at the start.  Your back shouldn’t round in anyway.
  • The neutral position is the one where the body is at is strongest when lifting weights.
  • Keep your shoulder blades (scapula) squeezed back.
  • Keep alignment with neck and back, no need to over extend your neck completely to look forward and definitely avoid looking down and back towards your feet as this will round your neck. The body tends to follow your eyes so work on keeping your head in a nice neutral position.
  • Keep your heels flat on the floor and imagine driving up through your heals as you stand up.

This really is a great exercise and to get you started below is a simple breakdown so you can decide where your best starting point is.

Are you a beginner / completely new to exercise or completely new to weight training?

Start on a mat with the super man and back extensions exercises in the video.   These will begin to develop your back and core strength are actually great exercises to do anyway.

3 x per week for 6 / 8 weeks.

Start with 2 sets of 10 each of each exercise

Rest as you need, 30-60 seconds should be about right.

Build up until you can do 3 sets of each exercise for 15 reps with 30 seconds rest between sets.

Once you have reached this progress the exercise on to the back extension machine, again start with 1-2 sets of 10 and build up to you have reached 3 sets of 15 reps

Follow a well-balanced exercise programme.

Practice the deadlift exercise technique with a light bar or dumbbell.

Intermediate Exercisers:

Start her if you regularly exercise at the gym and have done exercises such as squats and lunges and or have been regularly playing sport or running for several years.   Start with deadlifting once or twice per week.

Practice technique until you can do it without having to check your form in the mirror and then start increasing weight about 1.25 / 2.5kg every 2nd or 3rd session.  Technique and form always come before increases in weight.

Your deadlift workout would look something like this

Twice a week, 2/3 days between each deadlift session.

Select a weight where you can start with 10 – 15 reps x 3 sets.

1 minute rest between each set.

Tempo 2 seconds up and 2 seconds down.

Once you reach 3 sets of 15 increase the weight by 2.5kg total, not each end of the bar, and start working back to your 3 sets of 15.

Some of you may progress slightly quicker than 2.5kg so you have to gauge how things feel yourself. your sets may look like this as you progress.

Set 1 = 15 reps

Set 2 = 12 reps

Set 3 = 9 reps

That’s fine, just don’t increase the weight until you get your 3 sets of 15.

In this phase, you are still practicing your form and gradually building strength and muscle tone.  Don’t progress too quickly in terms of increasing weight as you will only increase your risk of injury.

Include the core superman exercise in the video in your workouts twice a week too.

After 8 – 12 weeks keep increasing the weight but bring the reps down to 10 and then start working towards 3 sets of 10 reps.

You can now start to increase intensity and you should be close to reaching your maximal weight for 10 reps.  Intensity should now be high enough that you can bring the number of deadlift sessions down to once per week.

You’re now doing 3 sets of 10 reps with 1 minute rest between each set. Tempo 2 seconds up and 2 seconds down.

Always remember technique before weight.  So, if you feel your technique is being lost then reduce your weight or stop your set, regardless of the number of reps you’ve done.  Once you can no longer maintain form stop the set.

Advanced Exerciser

You have been weight training for several years or more and or compete at a good standard of sport.

The Romanian / Stiff Legg Deadlift should already be part of your workout, if not what the hell is going is on! But never fear as you’ve been training well for several years so you can dive right in and start smashing it.

If you have never done the exercise start with 3 sets of 10 reps and practice technique before increasing weight.  1 minute rest between sets and tempo of 2 seconds up and 2 seconds down.  Do this for 6-8 weeks once or twice per week.  Increase weight gradually as you go.

After 6-8 weeks change tempo to 3 seconds down, then explode up in 1 second.  This will increase the eccentric (downward part of the exercise) and then also your challenge your fast twitch muscle fibres due to the fast-upward motion.  Slowing down the downward motion (aka eccentric movement) is great way to build strength and muscle tone and is a more advanced training method.

As you progress you can introduce heavier weight and less reps.  For example, 5/6 reps.  If you do this have a longer rest of 2 minutes between sets.  Or pyramid train where change your rep numbers i.e. 12, 8-10, 4-6.  The lower the reps the heavier the weight should be.


We really do love this exercise.  It’s a true body shape changer and the number one exercise for building strength in your back and improving your posture.  You sit at a desk all day, right?!

Like any new exercise start slowly and gradually progress in terms of how much weight you’re lifting.

You should still be following a well balance training programme the rest of your week and crucially make sure you’re doing regular core work to take the pressure off your back and reduce your risk of injury.

This is a technically challenging exercise so if you are having any problems with your form take a quick video of yourself doing the exercise and pop it up on our Facebook page or email it over to us and we’ll take a look for you.

Happy Training:-)