It’s no secret—the Deadlift is one of the best exercises available to you. If you’re trying to put on size, deadlift. If you want to run faster, deadlift. If you’re trying to lose that annoying spare tire around your waist, deadlift. Do you want better-looking dates? Deadlift.
In the short space of this article, I’m going to teach you 10 Deadlift variations, conventional and non-conventional, that will spice up your weightlifting life.
Some important things to remember before the fun begins:
- Deadlifting is a hinge pattern, not a squat pattern. The main movement in the Deadlift is hip extension, with minimal knee extension. The glutes and hamstrings are the prime movers, not the quads. The Squat is primarily a knee extension exercise. The hips are moving, but the knees are moving equally. Don’t squat the Deadlift.
- Deadlifting will not hurt your back if you use proper form. Lifting weight off the ground with improper form can hurt your back.
- Deadlifting is for 99 percent of the population—men and women.
- Learn to brace and hold. Bracing your core while taking a big deep breath can save your life.
- Bodies are different. Choose the Deadlift variation that allows you to lift the heaviest weight.
10 Highly Effective Deadlift Variations
1-4: Conventional, American, Romanian (RDL), and Sumo Deadlifts I’m not going to cover. Read one of the 14 million articles here.
5. Pause Deadlifts. I prefer to call them Red Light/Green Light Deadlifts. Implement this Deadlift for athletes who require optimal reactiveness (e.g., cornerbacks, outfielders, point guards and wrestlers). Set up in a conventional Deadlift and lift the bar 1-2 inches off the ground. Cue the athlete with a magic word, such as “Pizza!” When the magic word is said, the athlete lifts the weight as fast as he or she can.
6. Jefferson Deadlift. Set up in a staggered stance with one foot pointing straight forward and the trailing foot perpendicular. Breathe, brace and lift. Film this Deadlift; in case something happens, it’ll make a great “Deadlifting Fails” video.
7. Windmill Deadlift. Stolen from the great Tony Gentilcore. I modified his Kettlebell Deadlift by adding a barbell. At Show Up Fitness in Santa Monica, I have our athletes explode up while twisting (rotary movement), then I teach them how to optimally deaccelerate the bar onto the opposite side of their body.
8. Plate Grabbers. If you want to look like The Hulk, throw 225 on the bar, grab the end plates, and pull the weight off the ground. This exercise is great for upper-back strength and overall coolness.
9. Single-Arm Deadlift. Another head-turner, the Single-Arm Deadlift is a go-to for core stabilization. It’ll teach you to automatically brace your core and engage your back optimally.
10. Band-Pull Deadlift. We implement Band-Pulls with a lot of beginner athletes, because it forces them to engage the posterior chain. Be careful, because the first rep will pull you forward. But once you realize the need to engage your posterior chain, you will have better motor control. This exercise helps teach proper form, and it transfers over o cleaner conventional Deadlifts.
Wait a second, Bucko. Before you run off to the gym and try these variations, understand that the purpose of this article is to add variety. You need to stick with your main Deadlift (conventional, Sumo or American), and lift according to your goal (strength, hypertrophy, or speed/power). After you complete Deadlift exercise No. 1, choose a couple of variations for exercises 2 and 3.
The next time you enter the gym, repeat the protocol, but change exercises 2 and 3. Exercise 1 should rarely change other than sets, reps and intensity.