Written by Jack Boardman
Alternative Deadlift Exercises
Think you know deadlifts? Everyone’s favourite leg day compound lift is not as limited as you might have thought when it comes to switching things up.
Here are some alternative deadlifts that you might not be as familiar with.
Sumo deadlifts are a popular alternative choice for working your hips more than a standard lift. This is a good option for people unable to assume the positions required for traditional deadlifts and doesn’t require as much mobility from your ankles or t-spine mobility.
For these, your feet should be wide apart beyond your shoulders. Bend at the hips when reaching for the bar with your arms in line with your shoulders and your grip inside the width of your legs (so that your feet are wider than your hands). By relaxing your shoulders your reach will effectively be longer. Face forward when lifting with your chest up. You should bear the weight at the back of your feet and hips. When you straighten, pull your shoulder blades back together.
With a little ingenuity, one step better than your average deadlift will see your glutes lower to the floor and your hands wider apart with your shoulder blades retracted. For this you can lower the weight you lift so that you really channel the hamstrings.
Next up is the Romanian deadlift, which is about keeping your legs still. You should avoid locking your knees by keeping them a little bent. When you reach to lift the weight, round your back and lift slowly and purposefully upwards, feeling it along the backs of your calf muscles, hamstrings and glutes.
Trap Bar Deadlift
Deadlifting from inside the hexagon-shaped trap bar is said to reduce the torque on your back, as it means you balance more of the weight in front of you – think the deadlift version of a front squat. This is because this lift shifts the weight from your back and hamstrings to your quads. For many people, deadlifts are omitted from their workouts because of back issues. If this applies to you, give a trap bar a go.
Hack lifts are close to standard deadlifts, but the bar is behind you. It’s considered a difficult and even dangerous lift compared to other lifts available to you, and naturally, poses problems with balance as well as excessive strain on your knees. If you try it, do so at a light weight with a good amount of space around you.
There’s much to be said in favour of deadlifts on a platform, which some claim as a cop out. These would mean that you needn’t get as low to the ground. If your knees or back are an issue, this might be a good option for you. Further to this, deficit deadlifts mean that you would bear more of the weight in your hamstrings and quads.
These are the exact opposite of the aforementioned. For these you stand on a platform with the bar beneath you, thus calling on more muscle groups.
These will channel your core as much as the leg being worked but will mean that you can’t lift the same amount that you would with a standard deadlift – not by a long shot. Good for balance work and focusing on weakness in one leg – particularly following injury – you could mix things up with the use of kettlebells, dumbbells or a barbell, varying the hold in front of your or at your sides.