The idea of lifting dead weight from the ground while the bar bends, nothing shows pure strength like the deadlift.
It’s just you and the barbell. Do you grip and rip it or let it psyche you out?
There is no denying that deadlifts are great for overall strength and muscle development, but performing different exercise variations can help take your gains to the next level.
As you progress with lifting heavier weights, your body will be unable to lift more at some point consistently. This is when using variations to strengthen weak links comes into play.
Please research each variation to ensure you are using the proper form. We will cover an overview of the exercise, but if there is something you don’t understand, please look it up.
1) Conventional Deadlifts
Deadlifts are one of the most basic and effective exercises for building strength and mass throughout your body.
Stand with your feet about hip-width apart and grab the bar just outside of your feet. Instead of “pulling the weight,” focus on standing up. Engage your glutes, hips, and posterior chain while you brace your core and keep a neutral spine position.
Keep your gaze focused in front of you, keeping your head neutral. Grip and rip.
Return the weight to the ground and repeat.
If you want to improve your form, completely let go of the bar and step back to reset your position. This will help ingrain good habits and allow you to execute the movement with better form.
2) Sumo Deadlifts
The sumo deadlift is an excellent exercise for building strength in the quads and hips. The traps and the upper back will have more time under tension, while the lats and lower back have less tension.
The leg press is a popular variation of the deadlift allowed in many powerlifting competitions. It is excellent for taller lifters and is an outstanding movement to build a solid conventional deadlift.
When performing a deadlift, your feet should be about 1.5 times wider than your shoulder. As your hip mobility and overall strength increase, you may find that you can point your toes further out, almost touching the plates with your feet’ placement.
Find a width that works with your current mobility and body mechanics, and practice until you perfect it.
3) Snatch Grip Deadlifts
If you have mobility issues, these may be difficult for you.
The ultra-wide grip of a snatch grip deadlift means you have to be lower to the ground, which increases the range of motion and stresses different muscles than a conventional deadlift.
This movement is excellent for your upper back and traps and can be less taxing on your spine since you can use less weight to get the desired results.
Assuming a conventional deadlift position, place your hands apart, so your index finger wraps around the marker on the bar. If your bar doesn’t have rings, slowly increase your grip width as far as possible.
4) Trap Bar Deadlifts
If your gym has a trap bar, deadlifts are a great way to train with the weight more directly in the middle.
Some people call the deadlift a squat deadlift because you are in a more upright position when you do it. This is because the weight is more central instead of in front of you.
Assuming your conventional deadlift stance, take hold of the handles and stand up.
5) Romanian Deadlifts
The Romanian deadlift is an effective exercise for building strength in the posterior chain.
To perform a Romanian deadlift, start in the conventional deadlift position. Instead of lowering the bar to the ground, lower it only to under your knees. From there, stand back up and repeat.
When lifting weights, it is essential to maintain a constant time under tension in your hamstrings, glutes, and back. This can be done by avoiding bouncing or touching the weight to the ground.
Romanian deadlifts are effective for isolating your hamstrings and maintaining a high degree of tension.
6) Single-Leg Romanian Deadlifts
Single-leg Romanian deadlifts are an excellent way to improve performance, rather than simply replacing regular deadlifts. To perform a single-leg Romanian deadlift, merely follow the same steps as a traditional Romanian deadlift but with one leg.
This helps improve your agility and coordination while also challenging your ankle, hip, and knee joints.
Use light weights and focus on isolating each leg.
7) Rack Pull Deadlifts
Rack pull deadlifts are a great way to target different parts of your lift to improve weak links. The range of motion is significantly shorter with this variation, so that you can use more weight effectively to overload muscles.
Pulling from the rack requires more core strength than posterior chain strength, and they are best used as a variation to improve your form.
This exercise is not a replacement for conventional deadlifts but can help you work on lockouts and increase your overall strength.
8) Deficit Deadlifts
Deficit deadlifts are an excellent exercise for increasing your range of motion, helping you with your lockouts and getting off the floor. They have a similar effect of snatching grip deadlifts.
Most lifters find that using a plate is enough of a change to make a difference in their workout. Load your hips and pull to get the most out of your workout.
The extra range of motion and time under tension forces the body to adapt.
As you perfect your form and increase your mobility, deficit deadlifts should be a variation you incorporate into your weekly routine. This exercise will help you build strength and improve your overall lifting performance.
9) Dumbbell Deadlifts
Dumbbell deadlifts help with coordination and other muscles that a barbell deadlift can’t. The weight isn’t being held together, so extra stabilization, balance, and agility are needed.
To do the dumbbell deadlift, start by getting into your normal deadlift position with a dumbbell outside each foot. How you hold the dumbbells will affect different muscles, so this exercise is excellent for working on weak parts of your body or needing a change from heavy deadlifts.
10) Reeves Deadlifts
The snatch grip deadlift is a challenging variation of the traditional deadlift. Steve Reeves made this variation popular, but it can be challenging to perform. You will grab the inside plates rather than the bar for this variation.
This exercise can be quite strenuous on your grip and may cause your forearms to feel fatigued. It is advisable to use lighter weights rather than heavy weights.
Engaging your latissimus dorsi muscles throughout the exercise helps to build strength and definition in the back. Additionally, maintaining tension in the lats keeps the traps, and upper back engaged, helping to avoid injury.
Reeves was known for his V-tapered body and Popeye-like forearms. This variation is more “fun to try” unless you practice and perfect your form.