Facebook Pixel
Brookbush Institute Logo

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Exercise Police - Straight Leg Deadlifts

Brent Brookbush

Brent Brookbush


Panel Discussion: Exercise Police - Enough with the Straight Leg Deadlifts

If it were up to me I would banish this exercise, what is it about this exercise that I am missing?

Note I am talking about the straight-leg, locked-knee or near locked-knee deadlift - not the power lifting style deadlift.

Is this exercise functional, do the benefits outweigh the risks of injury, what is the goal of the exercise and is it effective for achieving that goal?

Moderated by Brent Brookbush DPT, PT, MS, PES, CES, CSCS, ACSM H/FS

This Panel Discussion was originally posted on my facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/brent.brookbush - on October 7th 2012

Bryan Yam Haha Brent Correct me if I am wrong, first thing that comes to mind is the correlation with SLDL to laying on a incline chair for bicep curls. Is there even a benefit for your biceps to stretch beyond their optimal length to produce force? Potentially going into passive insufficiency and produce a concentric contraction which is usually initiated by momentum any way. I believe there is that old school vs new school mentality. Why fix something that has been used and for so long. in my perspective SLDL has similar concepts to the hammies and glutes. I believe as health professions and coaches we have to really break down that fallacy of doing things because they look cool. I am firm believer of knowing what I am doing first than doing something because the guy next to me said it is awesome.

October 7 at 11:51am

Brent Brookbush Nice points Bryan… Even without a significant range of motion or stretch on the hamstrings I think we could also consider the stress on the LCL, MCL and PCL significant, not to mention the recruitment pattern that may increase biceps femoris over - activity and shut the glutes down.

October 7 at 12:13pm

Stephanie Anderson Derfus In your opinion, what then is the best exercise for hams if there is no seated or lying curl machine?

October 7 at 12:38pm

Bryan Yam If I may, Glute Ham raise in my opinion. Though you have to make sure your patterns are firing correctly.

October 7 at 12:52pm via mobile · Like

Charles Austin Uh Oh, that's scary. I just implemented those into my routine ~:-|

October 7 at 1:02pm

Murray Olexan I find that I can do them no problem, but I have had many years practice. But it is the hardest exercise to get a client to do when they have never done them before. I now have clients do glute bridges and prone dumbbell hamstring curls on a bench, for example.

October 7 at 1:06pm

Brent Brookbush This is turning into a great discussion, let's keep it up!!! You can read my view on deadlifts in the following article (complete with videos) - http://b2cfitness.com/cpt_blog/deadlift-progression/

Deadlift Progressions |


Deadlifts represent an alternate route in our stability and relative flexibility…See More

October 7 at 1:13pm

Brent Brookbush P.s. I rarely, if ever, worry about hamstring strength and/or development. More often than not, the biceps femoris becomes synergistically dominant for an inhibited glute complex. Generally some hamstring release and active stretching followed by some glute work will increase performance better than any single hamstring exercise could. Just my thoughts… Keep your comments and questions coming.

October 7 at 1:16pm

Karam Al-hamdani Single leg deadlift good option, bridge straight leg bridge cook hip lifts, eccentric upper body lowering all examples of good functional exercises to replace straight leg deadlift for a problematic population.

Question though, for PURE strength of posterior chain what else would you suggest?

October 7 at 3:44pm

Brent Brookbush Hey Karam Al-hamdani,

That's an easy question… Bent-knee or "lifting-style" deadlifts

Keep in mind that as a more or less single joint motion this is not necessarily the best choice for posterior kinetic chain exercise - wouldn't a squat or even better a squat to row involve more of the posterior kinetic chain?

October 7 at 3:49pm

Stephanie Anderson Derfus This info is just good. Thank you!

October 7 at 4:58pm via mobile

Brent Brookbush Your welcome Stephanie Anderson Derfus

October 7 at 4:59pm

Jan Heller I used to think straight leg deadlifts was the best thing for hamstrings, anyway it always made them sore. It was pointed out to me, that the reason they were sore was from the stretch not from actual work.

October 7 at 6:09pm

Michael Adam Clark Hamstring injuries are common in sports that demand sprinting. The hamstrings must decelerate knee extension. If the athlete does not do isolated strengthening, especially to strengthen the hamstrings during the eccentric phase then this could create muscle imbalances in the hams to the ipsilateral quadriceps. The SLDL may not be completely functional, but leg curls and the SLDL may be a good option for athletes.

October 7 at 8:51pm

Michael Adam Clark This study was interesting to read if anyone is truly interested in the question… http://iconperformancenetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/EMG-Hamstring-Study.pdf

October 7 at 9:01pm

Janet De Sena Awesome! Thanks for ur great link! I know what I'm doing at the gym later today now!!

October 8 at 4:23am

Jan Heller My other favorite hamstring exercise is a lunge to a reach, usually with med ball, sometimes changing rotation of front foot. It does take down the hammies in an eccentric sort of way.

October 8 at 5:45am

Brent Brookbush Hey Jan Heller… That is a great exercise, but the prime mover should be your glute max, right? After all, your glute complex is your strongest extensor and external rotator of the hip. Many of the hamstring injuries that we have inferred in the posts above can be explained by the glutes not taking on their "fair share of the work"

October 8 at 3:56pm

Brent Brookbush Hey Michael Adam Clark,

Thank you for the study, I need to do a better job of posting relevant research myself. Way to kick it up a notch!!!

However, we do have to be very specific about what this research tells us… it does not demonstrate that leg curls are better for improving performance, or reducing the risk of injury during functional tasks. If you note that the hamstrings are under-active - than according to this study I could see using leg curls to increase activity and strengthen the hamstrings, even over using single leg deadlifts or squats alone. However, this is rarely, if ever, the case… hamstrings become overactive and synergistically dominant for an inhibited glute complex in almost every postural dysfunction, and/or compensation pattern adopted post injury. If you use leg curls to strengthen the hamstrings you will also increase their activity and make this situation worse. If athletes would stop doing leg curls (and stop stretching their hamstrings for that matter) and start focusing on hip extension extensibility and glute activation I think we would note fewer hamstring issues.

Your thoughts?

October 8 at 4:06pm

Michael Adam Clark I'm tracking with you Brent and I agree with what you've stated, unfortunately there really isn't the space to go into detail on fb all that needs to be said.. In short, the gluteus maximus does not decelerate knee extension, which is important for any athlete who performs sprints. Decelerating knee extension is essential for speed. The gluteus maximus should be the dominant hip extensor during a sprint because the hamstrings must work to decelerate knee extension. You are correct, if the the glutes are weak then the hams are working twice as hard to extend the hip and decelerate the knee. Opposite to the hip extensors, the vastus group extends the knee which reduces the force production of the semitendinosus. To improve speed and reduce hamstring injuries, sprinters could perform single-leg dead lifts (not mentioned in the study) during the anatomical adaptation phase; this will also engage the glutes by making them stabilize the LPHC; instead of simply letting them hang out. But like you said, this probably won't be the case for most people.

October 8 at 4:49pm

Brent Brookbush Hey Michael Adam Clark,

Food for thought… the hamstrings get plenty of conditioning as a hip extensor - do you really think they could ever get weak enough to lose the ability to eccentrically decelerate knee extension - they do this in an open chain (leg swing phase) against the momentum essentially created by your lower leg alone?

October 8 at 4:54pm

Michael Adam Clark As I stated, fb post doesn't lend itself to present the research as needed for as deep as we are addressing this subject, but as you know, many different studies are there. Here is just one study to anyone who is interested in further research. If you have access to a database it is an excellent study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11912088

Hamstring muscle strain recurrence a… - PubMed - NCBI


PubMed comprises more than 22 million citations for biomedical literature from M…See More

October 8 at 6:32pm · Edited · Like · Remove Preview

Michael Adam Clark You do make some valid points Brent.

October 8 at 6:29pm

Brent Brookbush Nice study Michael Adam Clark, I am definitely going to look up the full study. It's nice to see studies examining more complex relationships between muscle function, over the isolated strength of individual muscles… or in the case of the knee, more…See More

October 8 at 7:18pm

Jan Heller Ok Brent let me try to express why I think the lung to reach with varied foot positions qualifies as a hamstring exercise in an "eccentric " sort of way. I am sure you and others will kindly correct me if I am incorrect, if I am too screwed my ex physiology tutor (Tom Spring) will chuckle a bit and fix me…so here goes. A role of the hamstrings eccentric role is to decelerate knee extension and isometrically stabilize the knee. When I was first taught this exercise it was because I was having knee trouble and conned my doc into giving me a script to Gary Gray's clinic (happens to be in Michigan) they told be that the different positions would " "isolate" the 3 hamstrings. That therapist knew I was a new trainer and cautioned me to keep med ball or other resistance low because this exercise can really make u sore, he was right! So, I finish my defense with the statement that I recall, not sure I can prove that NASM back when I was a baby trainer stressed the eccentric role of the hamstring as a critical function. I rest my case…ps I knew I was wading into deep water and its just good practice! Thanks for the opportunity !

Wednesday at 6:26am

Jan Heller Ps, meant lunge to reach smile

© 2014 Brent Brookbush

Continue the conversation using the comment boxes below – questions, comments, and criticisms are welcomed and encouraged!!!