The 9 Best Deadlift Alternatives

Deadlifts are a very popular exercise among many athletes. From those who enjoy casual weight lifting to bodybuilders, deadlifts are common in many strength training programs. The deadlift exercise is also one of the 3 events in many powerlifting and strongman competitions.

However, deadlifts are said to cause 31% of weight lifting injuries. Injuries during deadlifts usually happen when lifters use too heavy of a weight and/or improper form. Injuries can include muscle strain or tear, a herniated disc, joint sprains, or other major back pain. It is essential to start any weight lifting regimen by building foundational skills. These skills will help you to complete more advanced and difficult exercises such as the deadlift.

If you have suffered from a deadlifting injury, want to avoid the possibility of injury, or are just wanting to build your skills, there are plenty of deadlift alternatives. 

What Is a Deadlift?

Before finding your ideal deadlift alternative, it is important to understand what a deadlift is. Recognizing the muscle groups used during a deadlift can help you to identify which areas a deadlift alternative should focus on.

A deadlift is a compound exercise. It will work with every large muscle group along your posterior chain. It also helps to build overall muscle mass and improve several different muscle groups. This exercise is known for increasing your heart rate, providing a full-body workout, and helping lifters to burn calories while building muscle.

To complete a deadlift, get into a standing starting position. You will need a barbell placed directly in front of you. Strength training Coach Andy McKenzie explains further, “Lift the bar by driving your hips forwards, keeping a flat back. Lower the bar under control – though once you get up to really heavyweights, it’s OK to drop it on your final rep”. In this movement, you will need to maintain a strong core and stable body. Keep the bar close to your body and pull straight up. Many even say that the bar should scrape your shins. 

Why Do a Deadlift?

The deadlift exercise is a popular choice because they are a full-body movement. It can enhance your strength throughout your entire body. Deadlifts will help you to create stronger legs, a stronger back, better core strength, as well as better grip strength. It also helps to improve posture. Deadlifts are also a great tool to help burn more calories.

The benefits of deadlifts are quite impressive. It is essential to find alternatives that have similar benefits to achieve similar results.

Best Deadlift Alternatives

Luckily, if deadlifting is not for you, there are a lot of great alternatives to the move. You may also need some deadlift alternatives if you want to improve your current deadlift. Lifting heavy can be a fun way to burn extra calories and see how far your body can take you. You never know what you are capable of until you try. As long as you take the appropriate precautions, you can complete any move in the gym safely. Here are the best deadlift alternatives:

Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift

The Romanian deadlift alternative is an excellent choice compared to a conventional deadlift. This strength exercise will also help to build muscle along your posterior chain. This includes muscle groups such as the hamstrings and glutes. NSCA personal trainer Sherry Ward, states that Romanian deadlifts, “can improve mobility and flexibility [of the hips] as well as unlock faulty movement patterns, which will decrease the risk of injury”. Exercises such as the Romanian Deadlift work great to help prevent injuries. Building your muscles can assist in providing you with the additional support you need.

To do a single-leg deadlift, get into a standing start position. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and shift your weight to one foot. Lean forward on your weighted leg until the dumbbells reach the floor. Keep a soft bend in your knee throughout the movement. Try to extend your opposite leg as much as possible. Tighten your lower body and stand back up. This is one rep.

You should aim to complete 2 to 3 sets of Single-Leg Romanian Deadlifts with 5 to 10 repetitions per leg.

A Romanian deadlift differs from a traditional deadlift in that the emphasis will be heavier on your hamstrings than on your lower back (burn those legs, baby!). Keeping a strong core throughout the movement will also help to build better connections between your upper and lower body. Completing the single-leg movement also allows you to use less weight while still getting plenty of muscle fatigue. The Romanian deadlift can also be an excellent starting point if you are working up to a traditional deadlift. 

one leg dead lift

Pause Deadlift

The pause deadlift is one of the best variations of a traditional deadlift. It is considered a staple in many athlete training programs. A pause deadlift will work most of your lower body. It also will strengthen your lats, traps, obliques, and abdominal muscles.

To complete a pause deadlift, start in a regular deadlift position. Make sure your weight is as close to your body as possible. Pick up the weight off the floor and pause for two seconds somewhere between the floor and your knee. Ensure that the 2 seconds are completely motionless. Bring the weight up until your knees have reached the lock-out position. Then return the weight to the floor.

Try implementing a pause deadlift into your workout routine by completing 4 sets of 3 to 5 reps.

Although the pause deadlift setup is similar to a traditional deadlift, it does have some differences. First, in a pause deadlift, you will not need to use as heavy of a weight. This can help eliminate back strain and avoid many of the risks that come with heavy lifting. This movement is also different because of the slight pause. You will need to pause in the same consistent spot for at least two seconds to get the full effects. A pause deadlift is a great alternative exercise. Pause Dead lift

Deficit Deadlift

A deficit deadlift is a variation option for more experienced weight lifters. The deficit deadlift provides a wider range of motion than the conventional deadlift. This move will help you to improve many of your other exercise movements as it strengthens your entire posterior chain.

To do a deficit deadlift, you will need to get an elevated surface. The surface should be anywhere from 2 to 4 inches in height. Some options for your surface can include a wooden box, metal weight plate, or rubber plate.

Once you have prepared your surface, complete the same movements as you would in your traditional deadlift. You will need to focus on your hip thrusting movement to gain the added benefit from the elevated surface.

You will only need to complete 2 to 3 sets of 6 to 8 reps to get the benefits of your deficit deadlift. They are a great deadlift alternative for experienced lifters looking to improve and intensify their workout.

Barbell Rack Pull

A barbell rack pull is a solid deadlift alternative choice for those who have access to a gym or home gym. This exercise will allow you to lift a heavier weight than the conventional deadlift. The shorter range of motion and heavier weight can help to improve your form and build strength to improve other exercises.

The barbell rack pull will work your lower and upper back, glutes, and hamstrings. It also will help to improve your grip strength.

To do a barbell rack pull, you will need to set up some blocks or a rack. You can vary the height of your blocks or rack. Heights can include mid-thigh, knee-length, or just below the knee. A lower height will involve your hamstrings and glutes. A higher position will focus more on your back. Once you have decided on a height, place your barbell on the blocks. Your starting position will be the same as a deadlift. Take a firm stance and keep your core tight. Reach your hands down about shoulder-width apart. Send your hips back while you grab the barbell. Bring your hips forward in a hip thrust motion and lift the weight until you have reached the locked knee position. Then, lower the weight back down.

Add this barbell deadlift alternative to your routine by completing 2 to 3 sets of 10-12 reps each.  

Pendlay Row

This alternative is similar to a barbell row. But, when completing the pendlay row the only part of your body moving is your arms. This exercise uses your lats, traps, and rear delts. It also uses your biceps and lower back. The Pendlay row is a great exercise to help build and strengthen your lower back. We’re sure that many over the age of 30 feel this deep in their soul. 

A pendlay row is often used to help heavy lifters with other movements such as deadlift exercises and squats. Using alternative lifts to help build foundational skills is a great way to improve. If you are struggling to increase your deadlift weight or are just having a hard time with your lifts, the pendlay row can be a great alternative.

To do a pendlay row you will need a barbell. Place the barbell in front of your body, just ahead of your feet. Lean forward by hinging at your hips. Grab the bar with an overhand grip and then lift the weight upwards. Pull the bar until it reaches your chest and then lower it back down.

Incorporate this movement by doing 5 to 10 reps for 2 to 3 sets. 

Sumo Deadlift

This deadlift is a common variation of the conventional deadlift. A sumo deadlift is a compound movement. It can be a bit easier on your back than the regular deadlift exercise. But, it offers the same strength benefits. This lift helps to build overall strength. This deadlift variation focuses on the quads and glutes. It also helps with your posture and hip mobility.

To do a sumo deadlift, you will need to use a barbell. Your feet should be in a wide stance, greater than shoulder-width apart. Your toes should point out at a 45-degree angle. You can grab the bar either overhand, underhand, or in a mixed grip. Bend at the hips and grab the weight. Keep your back flat as you lift the weight to a standing position. Be sure to engage your core as you squeeze your glutes and hamstrings.

Complete 3 to 5 sets of the sumo barbell deadlift with 7 to 10 reps each. sumo deadlift  

Farmer Carry

One of the biggest benefits of deadlifts is their ability to strengthen your grip. The Farmers’ carry is known for the same thing. A strong grip is essential to many different exercises and daily tasks. But, it can be hard to build this type of strength. The farmer’s carry is also a great exercise to help build your upper back, biceps, triceps, shoulders, and obliques. It is a great full-body exercise that can target any area.

A farmer’s carry is simple. You just need one dumbbell in each hand. Push your shoulders back, keep your chest up, and walk.

You can complete this movement for either time or distance. Start by carrying the weight for 30 seconds. You can then adjust as needed to reach muscle fatigue. You can also increase your weight. The farmer’s carry is an essential tool to help build grip strength.

Glute Bridge

It’s time to work that cake! Glute Bridges are one of the best deadlift alternatives for beginners. They require no extra equipment and can be done almost anywhere. This movement creates no pressure on your low back so it is also a great option if you are recovering from an injury.

As the name would suggest, this exercise is great for building glutes. It is also great to help increase your lower back strength as well as your core stability. Glute bridges are a great foundational exercise. Building solid muscle through your glute bridge will also help you to improve both your squats and your deadlifts.

To do a glute bridge, you will want to lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Your arms should be down by your sides with your hands near your bottom. Push through your feet to lift your hips toward the ceiling. Pause at the top of the motion for 2-3 seconds and lower your hips back down. During the movement, focus on stabilizing your core. You will also want to squeeze your glutes and hamstrings.

For the best benefit to your workout, complete 3 sets with 15-20 repetitions. Introduce glute bridges into your next workout for a solid deadlift alternative.  

Barbell Hip Thrust

There’s a trend now about getting the weight of your partner or crush and hip thrusting that weight to prove your ability to, um, perform. But that’s barely grazing over the benefits of the move. The Barbell Hip Thrust is one step above the Glute Bridge in difficulty. This movement will place a large amount of emphasis on your hamstrings and glutes without the lower back pressure experienced when deadlifting. Barbell hip thrusts are a great deadlift alternative as they also activate the muscle groups on your posterior chain. As an added benefit, this movement can improve your hip flexors. Many people have issues with their hips and continually working on this muscle will help protect your body against injury. Hip mobility is essential to your everyday life.

To complete a barbell hip thrust you will need a barbell. You can add weight to the barbell if you desire. You can also use a bench if you have access to one.

Get in the same starting position as you would a glute bridge. With your back on the floor and your knees bent. Place the barbell across your hips and then drive your hips upwards. Focus on a strong core and squeeze your glutes. You can then lower your body back to the ground.

To add the barbell hip thrust to your workout regimen, complete 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps. You can intensify the movement by adding on additional weight. The barbell hip thrust is a great exercise to help build a better deadlift.  

One Rep, Two Rep, Hard Rep, Last Rep

Deadlifts are often seen as the best total body workout. They focus on your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. They are also great to improve your grip strength, hip mobility, and core strength. But, deadlifts can cause back injuries. They may also be too difficult for beginners. Each of the listed options can be the best deadlift alternative based on your goals. Those who are still building their strength can complete glute bridges or barbell hip thrusts. While more experienced lifters may want to do deficit deadlifts and pause deadlifts. Some moves such as the farmer’s carry are excellent choices to improve grip strength and other needed muscle groups for deadlifts. Each of these moves works well to help increase your heart rate and burn calories. Try adding these moves to your workout routine to build and enhance your strength. Your deadlift sets will thank you!

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