10 Deadlift Variations You Have to Try
I love me some deadlifts. Nothing shows pure strength like picking something dead weight off of the ground.
It's just you and the bar. Do you grip and rip it or do you let it psyche you out?
It's no secret that deadlifts are great for overall strength and muscle development, but performing some deadlift variations can help push your gains to the next level.
As you progress with lifting heavier and heavier weights, eventually your body will not be able to consistently lift more. This is when using variations to strengthen weak links come into play.
Related - 7 Deadly Deadlift Sins
Please research each variation for proper form — I will give you the gist of the exercise, but if there's something you don't understand, look it up.
10 Deadlift Variations
1.) Conventional Deadlifts
One of the most primal moves we can do, deadlifts will build mass and improve strength throughout your body.
Stand with your feet about hip-width apart, grabbing the bar just outside of your feet. Instead of "pulling the weight," I want you to think about standing up. You want to engage your glutes, hips, and posterior chain while you brace your core and keep a neutral spine position.
Focus your gaze in front of you, keeping your head pointed in a neutral position. Grip and rip.
Return the weight in a controlled manner to the ground and repeat.
If you are looking for more form practice, completely let go of the bar, step back, and redo your setup. This creates good habits and allows you to execute better form.
2.) Sumo Deadlifts
Sumo deadlifts really hammer on your quads and hips. Your traps, along with your upper back till have more time under tension, with your lats and lower back having less tension.
This variation can feel similar to a leg press. This lift is a popular variation, allowed in many powerlifting competitions. It's great for taller lifters and is an outstanding movement to build a solid conventional deadlift.
Assume your conventional deadlift stance, but start with your feet placed about 1.5 times wider than your shoulder width. As your hip mobility and overall strength increases, many lifters point their toes pretty far out — almost touching the plates with their feet placement.
Find what width works with your current mobility and body mechanics and hammer them out.
3.) Snatch Grip Deadlifts
If you lack mobility like me, these are going to feel impossible.
The ultra-wide grip of a snatch grip deadlift means you have to be lower to the ground — increasing range of motion and stressing different muscles than a conventional deadlift.
Great for your upper back and traps, this movement can be less taxing on your spine since you can use less weight to get the desired results.
You'll want to assume your conventional deadlift position, but this time you will place your hands apart so your index finger wraps around the marker on the bar. If your bar doesn't have the rings in them, slowly increase your grip width as far as you can.
4.) Trap Bar Deadlifts
If your gym has one, trap bar deadlifts are a great way to train deadlifts with the weight more directly in the middle.
They allow you to be in a more upright position — some even call this a squat deadlift since the weight is more central instead of in front of you.
Use your conventional deadlift stance, grab the handles, and "stand up."
5.) Romanian Deadlifts
Romanian deadlifts are great at hammering on your posterior chain.
Assume the conventional deadlift position. Instead of lowering the bar to the ground, lower the bar to under your knees and stand back up.
You will not be bouncing or touching the weight to the ground. Your hamstrings, glutes, and back will maintain a constant time under tension.
Romanian deadlifts are great at isolating your hamstrings and maintain a greater degree of tension.
6.) Single-Leg Romanian Deadlifts
Best use as a performance-enhancer instead of a deadlift replacement, single-leg Romanian deadlifts are simply Romanian deadlifts with one leg.
This improves your agility and coordination as well as challenges your ankle, hip, and knee joints.
Use light weight and focus on isolating each leg.
7.) Rack Pull Deadlifts
Rack pull deadlifts allow you to target different parts of your lift to improve weak links. The range of motion is significantly shorter, so you can use more weight — effectively overloading muscles.
Pulling from the rack takes a lot more core strength than posterior chain strength, and they are best used as a variation to hammer out your form.
These are not a good replacement to a conventional deadlift, but they will allow you to work on lockouts and increasing your overall strength.
8.) Deficit Deadlifts
Great for adding range of motion, helping you off of the floor and your lockouts, deficit deadlifts achieve a similar effect to snatch grip deadlifts.
You don't need to have a tall box to stand on to feel the difference — using a plate is enough of a change for most lifters. Load your hips and pull.
The increased range of motion along with the extra time under tension really forces the body to adapt.
As your form is perfected and your mobility increases, deficit deadlifts should be a variation you incorporate into your weekly routine.
9.) Dumbbell Deadlifts
Dumbbell deadlifts help with coordination and other muscles that a barbell deadlift can't. Since the weight isn't being held together, extra stabilization, balance, and agility is needed.
Get into your normal deadlift position with a dumbbell outside each foot. The way you hold the dumbbells will affect different muscles. This is great for times when you are working on weak parts of your body or need a change from heavy deadlifts.
10.) Reeves Deadlifts
If you thought the snatch grip deadlift was hard, you should try one of these.
Steve Reeves made this deadlift variation popular, but it is pretty hard to do.
For this variation, you will be grabbing the inside plates instead of the bar. Yeah, my arms aren't that long either.
This will put a lot of strain on your grip and will make your forearms feel like they are going to explode. This exercise doesn't need to be done with super heavy weights — I'd advise against using heavy weights.
Since your arms are all the way out to your sides, your lats are constantly under tension. Your traps and upper back are also put under a lot of pressure.
Reeves was known for hit nice V-tapered body with Popeye-like forearms. This is more of a "fun to try" variation unless you practice and perfect your form.
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