If you have a hard time feeling your hamstrings working with the standard Stiff-Legged Deadlift exercise, this is a great method for fixing that.
You're going to construct a very simple machine out of two barbells set in the power rack.
This setup will help stabilize your body so you can take balance mostly out of the equation and focus on hamstring stretch and contraction instead.
You get the benefits of the machine (stabilization) and the benefits of free weight (freedom of movement) within the same exercise, allowing you to get more actual hamstring work out of the stiff-legged deadlift exercise.
To set this up, set one of the safety rails on the rack to about 2 to 2 1/2 feet off the ground. Set the other safety rail down at the bottom. Set two bars on the rails and load the top ends to counterbalance the "working" ends.
Now load 25 lb plates onto the lower bar ends. The reason for using 25's is that anything larger will force the bars to be wider apart, which makes the grip wider and a bit more awkward.
The ends of the bars should be about 5 to 6 inches off the ground. If you need to start from a higher position, it's very simple! Just raise that bottom safety rail up to the appropriate notch and you can start from wherever you like.
Step up to the bar ends and get in position for the Stiff-Legged Deadlift. Grip the ends of the bars, bend your knees a bit and tighten up your core and lower back. Your lower back should have an arch in it to best protect the spine.
Now get some stretch tension in the hamstrings, easing the bars off the rail. Try to really feel the stretch in the hamstrings and engage them on the pull up.
The visualization I like to use is a rope connecting the back of my head to my heels. Rather than focusing on just standing up with the weight, I think about somebody pulling that rope DOWN, which then leverages my upper body UP, kind of like a pulley system. This fires the hamstrings nicely.
Come all the way to the top then lower back down slowly.
On the next rep, set the weight back down on the rail but don't release tension in your lower back or hamstrings. Use that momentary respite to reset your back and body position, making sure you're in the optimal position to perform the exercise.
Then go again.
On a side note, if your rack has steel safety rails that the bars slide on, you'll wan to be sure you're not pushing forward on the bars as you stand up. Learn back a bit into the movement as you stand up so that the bars get pulled up against the rails rather than pushed forward.
Bottom line, this setup for the Stiff-Legged Deadlift is going to allow you to really focus on activating the right muscles.
Rather than worrying about standing up with the weight, you can focus on feeling the hamstrings stretching and contracting, which is the real purpose of the exercise.
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