Brent "Sgt. Rock" Howard
Maurice Jones, born 1912, around his top bodyweight of 230-235 at 5' 8.5". A slightly earlier advocate of the Stiff Leg Deadlift, he did 425 for 15 in ultra-strict style, standing on a bench and lowering the bar to the tops of his feet. Jones said that at times the poundage may have wandered a little higher.
As with many exercises, there's more than one way to do the stiff leg deadlift correctly. It all depends on what you want to get out of it.
I use them as a HEAVY assistance movement, a plateau killer, and a great base builder. The Finns love these, as do many all time powerlifting greats, including "The King" Ed Coan.
When to Do Stiff Leg Deadlifts?
For me, I do them nearly year round now. Right now I am a long way out from my next meet. So most of my pulling is in the form of stiff leg deadlifts (SLDL). When I start pulling heavy from the floor, I always do one set of 5 reps after my heavy deadlift work. Nothing keeps your back tight and strong like a heavy set of stiff legs.
What Equipment Do I Need?
Opinions vary. I feel a 3-inch block is perfect for these. I was doing them off a 4.5-inch block and it was just too much. I am not very flexible, and really had to alter my natural groove to touch the floor. I pull these with a contest deadlift bar so I can really get used to the knurling and feel of the bar. I personally prefer an Okie bar and to wear my contest deadlift shoes (wrestling shoes). Other than that, chalk your hands and put on your belt. Throw your straps away as well, not needed.
What is the Proper Technique?
Here is where opinions really vary. I have made my money, so to speak, by keeping the bar in close to my body. It is safer this way and more like a contest pull because you are trying to minimize gravity's grasp. Bend your hips on the first rep, like a contest pull and lock it out. This is the starting point. Next, keep your HEAD UP, and lower the bar slowly. Fight to keep your head up on the whole descent. Let the weight touch the floor only slightly, and while remembering to keep your head up and the bar in close to your body, lock it out. I prefer to wear sweat pants when I SLDL, to create a little extra friction and make the movement harder.
Stiff Leg Deadlift Cycle
Here is a solid, proven routine to give you a great cycle for the off season. It is a plateau destroyer. Whether you pull sumo or conventional, stiff legs are a great way to get your pull moving.
All stiff legs are done off a 3-inch block, with a belt only. I am not a slave to percentages, but I will give you them. Don't deviate too much either way. A good goal is 70% of your best contest pull for 5 reps. For example, if you can pull 700, your goal weight would be 490 x 5 on the stiff leg deadlifts. Some will do more and some less. Sumo pullers are generally not as strong in this movement. If you pull sumo, you will need to feel it out and adjust as necessary. I have trained numerous people who thought 70% for 5 was unattainable. In the end they all did it, but had to work hard for it.
The SLDL is no joke and you must work hard. It is money in the bank with a good plan, proper form and execution.
This cycle is based on a 700-lb. puller. My best is 455 x 10 and 525 x 5 thus far --
soon to change!
45% for 3 x 10 reps - 315 pounds
48% for 3 x 10 - 335
51% for 3 x 10 - 355
55% for 3 x 5 - 385
58% for 3 x 5 - 405
61% for 3 x 5 - 425
64% for 2 x 5 - 455
67 % for 2 x 5 - 470
70% for 1 x 5 - 490
No pulling. Start pre-contest cycle of different off-season cycle.
The sets of 10 are tough, but you have to get through it. In the past with my pulling, I have done a two week on/one week off with good results. I have recently switched to a weekly pulling scheme, taking one week off every 10 weeks or so, with good results. It's all about lifestyle, nutrition, work schedule and supplementation. If your karma is good in life, you can pull every week for a long time. If I feel stiff or don't have the mental tenacity to pull, I simply won't.
This routine will work, and has for many. Three days before this should be your squat day (e.g., squat on Monday, deadlift on Friday). During off-season I recommend alternating box squats and regular squats, with a belt only. Box squats for 8 (sets) x 2, and regular squats for 10 rep sets for a few weeks, then five reps sets, much like this SLDL routine.
You didn't really think you were done yet, did you? Here is the assistance work to really make this routine work for you:
Bent Rows off a 3-inch block, 2 x 5 reps. No straps, no belt. Don't be afraid to use a bit of body momentum here. Use big weights when you get used to this movement (my best: 455 x 5) .
Front Chins, with weight if you can, 2 x 5-7 reps.
Front Lat Pulls or Cable Rowing (alternate), 2 x 7-10.
Dumbbell Shrugs, 2 x 20 reps.
Regular (also called Russian) hyperextensions, 2 x 10 with weight, 1 x 20 to really flush out your back.
Weighted Abs, you choice of movement, 4 x 12-20.
On Squat day do glute ham raises for 4 x 10, and heavy abs.