Kettlebell Stiff Legged Deadlifts


The Deadlift is a major lower body exercise that falls into the pulling movement category. It works just about all the muscles on the back of the body, but especially around the hips. Traditional Deadlifts with a barbell pulled from the floor can be challenging because good form is difficult to learn and maintain. A nice alternative is the Stiff Legged Deadlift. It tends to be easier to learn and still works the same muscles. Using a kettlebell also makes the exercise easier to do because it eliminates having to hold a barbell or dumbbells in front of the thighs.


Start with feet a bit wider than shoulders and knees bent slightly. Hold a kettlebell with arms straight and upright posture.


The Stiff Legged Deadlift is essentially a hip hinge with soft knees. Start by sitting back into your hips to bow forward.  A key to good form is maintaining a flat back throughout the exercise with no breakdown in spinal integrity. If you have trouble with that, practice the Waiter’s Bow exercise until you can do a proper hip hinge without rounding your spine.Once you have the hip hinge mastered, add the kettlebell.

If you want an additional challenge, try the single leg version. Hold the kettlebell in the hand opposite the stance leg.

How much and how often

The Waiter’s Bow can be done for three sets of 15-20 repetitions every day to acquire the hip hinge motion. Start the Stiff Legged Deadlift with one set of 6-10 repetitions. Gradually build to multiple sets as you progress. To increase strength, stay in the 6-10 repetition range with challenging weights. If muscle endurance is your goal, do between 12 and 20 repetitions per set.

Like all strength training exercises, Stiff Legged Deadlifts can be done 2 to 3 days per week on non-consecutive days.

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Michael Bento is an Advanced Trainer at the Clubs at Charles River Park. He holds a Masters degree in Human Movement and is certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine as a Corrective Exercise Specialist and Performance Enhancement Specialist.

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