Difference Between SLDL and RDL

I am amazed that people spend so much time and energy arguing about the difference between these two exercises – The stiff legged dead lift and the romanian dead lift.  Personally, I dont like either exercise which is why I made up my own variant of these exercises which I call the SDL or Scooby Dead Lift.  Although Mark Rippetoe is the acknowledged expert on strength training, many people still disagree with his definitions of these two exercises.  Before I describe the SDL and why I like it so much, lets talk about the RDL and the SLDL.   The most widely accepted form for these exercises would be the form described by Mark Rippetoe.  Although he would probably describe these exercises in a different way, here are the form elements:

Romanian Deadlift (Isolation exercise)

  • starting position is from the hang position, not with the bar on the floor
  • knees straight but not locked
  • double overhand grip
  • back remains in neutral position
  • set is one fluid motion without bar ever resting on ground between reps

Stiff Legged Deadlift (compound exercise)

  • starting position is bar on the floor
  • knees bent at bottom, straightened at top
  • double overhand grip
  • back remains in neutral position
  • each rep starts again with bar resting on ground
  • bar does not touch legs till its higher than the knees

Now lets talk about what a lot of people disagree on.   Some people describe the RDL as also starting from the hang rather than with the bar on the floor.  Many folks do not keep the back in the neutral position in the SLDL but roll the back over like a hissing cat to allow the bar to go lower.   Some people to the RDL with the knees bent rather than straight which really blurs the line between the SLDL and the RDL.   So rather than get involved in what is “right” I have come up with my own exercise,the SDL.  By some peoples definition, my SDL is an RDL but to avoid arguments, I have given this exercise a new name :)

Goals of the SDL (Scooby Dead Lift)

  1. Increase hamstring strength
  2. Increase hamstring flexibility
  3. Safely increase spinal extensor strength
  4. Safely increase spinal extensor muscular endurance to help prevent lower back pain*

Here are the form elements of the Scooby Deadlift (SDL)

  • use opposing grip
  • start from hang position
  • back is motionless in neutral position
  • bar slides along the front of the leg all the way up
  • legs remain straight but not locked during whole movement
  • set is one fluid motion without bar ever resting on ground between reps
  • go slowly, 2s up 2s down – goal is to make the set last at least 30s
  • stretch hamstrings at bottom but keep back in neutral position
Scooby Deadlift (SDL)

Here is a video showing how to perform the SDL:


* Biering-Sorensen F., “Physical Measurements As Risk Indicators for Low Back Trouble Over a One-Year Period,” Spine, Vol. 9, No. 2, 1984, pp. 106-119.

23 thoughts on “Difference Between SLDL and RDL”

  1. Hi, Scooby, I love your website.

    I’ve been reading up on flexibility for tai chi, yoga and other martial arts and I want to be able to touch my toes.

    Will these deadlifts increase flexibility?

  2. Hi scooby, first of all please apologize my english! i ‘ve found your site, your youtube channel very interesting but i can see there are very few leg exercises explained!I think we all would be very grateful to you if you add some more leg exercises! However, i really love what you i do and what you ‘ve done by now! Go on! Cheers An italian fan

  3. Hi Scooby. You have mentioned that you have a chronic lower back injury, but you are obviously able to use your back. I am curious what your injury is. I ask because I have a chronic back injury that I work around. I work very hard on hamstring flexibility, lower back strength, etc., too. Just curious to gauge what you are capable of versus the severity of your injury. Cheers.

  4. Hee Scoob,

    Nice to hear you’re from the Netherlands.

    Where were you born and were did you live during your stay in this little country ?

    great site you have here !

    Cheers mate.

    Matty Noordberg
    Voorschoten – the Netherlands

  5. Hams are knee flexors and hip extensors. Although I like deadlifts, I’m still thinking in the back of my mind that exercises like the ham glute raise come closer to the natural function of the hams. But I haven’t found a good way to do ham glute raises at home. Do you have any suggestions Scooby?

      1. Thanks mate, good information for the home trainee! The only exercise I feel is missing is some kind of hip extension exercise. Right now I’m doing “single leg stiff legged kickbacks” but I’m looking for an exercise whith a little more weight/resistance.

      1. Thanks, Scoob! Will take a look.

        But out of deadlifts — is there such a thing as isolating lower back more between all the variations?

        Logic would tell me that those that keep your legs stiff would hit it most, while deadlifts where you push up with legs a bit as they start bent would take some of the focus away from the lower back. (Keeping the weight constant.) But I have a feeling that that’s not true and I’ve seen one site saying that the RDL/SLDL is better for lower-back, and another that the standard deadlift is better, etc.

  6. justin van Oeveren

    I agree Scooby. It seems pointless to argue about a name. Thanks for sharing your version of the deadlift. I will be doing these at home with dumbbells because I don’t own a barbell.

    1. I’ve always wondered why people spend so much time and energy arguing about what something is called. Decide your goals for the exercise and do whatever it takes to accomplish those goals. Many people seem to turn their brains OFF while lifting and blindly lift without thinking what they are doing. One should always be thinking – what muscles are being worked now? Why am I using the form I am using?

Leave a Reply