Trade Secret #77: "Stiff-Leg Dealift"

Create: 02/05/2008 - 07:54
By Marty Gallagher After an extended absence, Marty has posted the following at his website: Keith jogged my brain this past week by asking about tips the other day. I thought back and what percolated to the surface of my memory was the stiff-leg deadlift. Done as an assistance exercise for regular deadlifts, I was first introduced to them by the great Hugh Cassidy, the carefree Nietzsche of powerlifting. Hugh didnt cotton to too many exercises past squat, bench and deadlift, but the stiff-leg deadlift was one he insisted on. Religiously he'd have us do two sets of stiffs after completing regular deadlifts. The technique was important. The bar stayed in contact with the leg the entire time, over the total length of the rep stroke. The hips were the hinge, the fulcrum, and this is where the real action took place. We all used a narrow-stance conventional deadlift style as per Hugh, with maybe six inches between the heelswe learned how to do the bow and arrow technique using a conventional pull stance. The stiff leg was the number 1 assistance exercise. It worked the hell out of the hinge and thats what Cassidy wanted: to turn spinal erectors into industrial cranes. One Hugh truism which always stuck with me was, The best assistance exercises are the ones that most closely resemble the lift itself. That is profound if you ponder it.ergo, narrow and wide grip flat bench presses are superior assistance exercise to say the incline barbell or dumbbell press. Narrow stance high bar squats are a superior squat assistance exercise than leg presses. Stiff-leg deadlifts are therefore better than rows or cleans. We stiff-leg pulled the 1st rep off the floor in conventional style. Once erect we lowered in stiff-leg style until the barbell quietly and evenly touch the platform. Pull erect with bent yet stable knees. The back is held rigid; ultra-tight, every back muscle taunt to the max. For variety we would perform our stiff-leg deadlifts standing on a 3-inch thick 100-pound plate lay flat. We knew if we could drive the stiff poundage upward the conventional deadlift would have to improve. My ratio was fifty pounds we all had ratios mine was 50, Peck was 40.whatever I could stiff I could do 50-additional pounds in the conventional deadlift. If I could stiff 550 x 5 I could do 605 x 5 using conventional style. The week before I pulled 705×3 I had set a stiff PR of 655×3. Drive the stiff upward and the regular dead would head upward. Lots of top guys did them. I trained with 220-pound national and world champion Mark Dimiduk. Duck was a Cassidy protg and Mark could stiff 715 for 5 picture-perfect and could pull 780 at 220. He was 5-10, way way too tall for 220 yet could squat 785 picture perfect and bench press 500 without a shirt. Duck was a stiff-leg master. I trained with power legend Mark Challiet for many, many years. Mark was a King Hell deadlifter if there ever was one. Mark would be the first to tell you that the way he trained was crazed - but it worked for him. Each week hed put on all his power gear and work up to a single rep in each lift that was it! Three lifts done on two separate days: squat and bench press on Monday, deadlift on Thursday. About once a month Chaillet would work up to a single or double in the stiff, usually 800. Marks technical twist was to insist the lifter look at the bar for every second of every rep in the set. Looking at the bar makes the lift a whole lot harder and that is exactly why he wanted it done that way. Mark deadlifted with maybe 6-inches between his heels. John Kuc was another stiff-leg user. Kuc was a God he stood 6-foot-2 and at 242 despite looking like a basketball player he squatted 832 super deep in an old school Zangas squat suit. That same day he bench pressed 500 and was called 2 to 1 on 518 (no shirt) to finish the perfect day he deadlifted an 876 world record that stood untouched for sixteen years best of all these lifts were done at an IPF world championship competition, the toughest judging on the planet. Kuc reportedly could stiff 820. Incredibly Eddie Coan always did stiffs, sometimes off the floor and sometimes off a wooden box this makes the difficult more difficult. Ed has stiffed 840 and usually does 5-rep sets. I would say that stiff-leg deadlifts, done correctly, are as close to a deadlift improving secret as I can think of. Ill try and cook up some sequence shots of a correctly done stiff. PS stiff-leg deadlifts ARE NOT for the beginner or intermediate lifter these are technically difficult and potentially injurious. This is juggling chain saws.


Submitted by Jamey (not verified) on
For someone stuck on their deadlift, this was a timely and good post. thanks Jamey

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
Is this with legs-locked that the lower back rounded? Great article, thanks.

Submitted by TheGymMuse on
[quote=Anonymous]Is this with legs-locked that the lower back rounded? Great article, thanks.[/quote] Do not round your back. Keep a slight arch and shoulders pulled back and in-line with the bar. And you can pull with a slight bend in your knees. [quote=Marty] Pull erect with bent yet stable knees. The back is held rigid; ultra-tight, every back muscle taunt to the max.[/quote] Jim

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
Gotcha, thanks for the clarification, Jim. I think I should try reading a bit more!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
Great stuff, any time Marty Gallagher, Ed Coan and John Kuc are mentioned in the same article you know it's going to be golden. For those who haven't done these in a while or who haven't trained them heavy, get ready for the sorest hamstrings of your life. It also builds upper back well I've notice for me.