8 Awesome Deadlift Variations and What They Do

STACK's Andy Haley describes 8 Deadlift variations you can use in your training to become a stronger, more complete athlete.

If you're not doing Deadlifts in your training program, you have a problem. It's one of, if not the most important exercises you can do to get better at your sport.

Not convinced? Just look at the benefits of the conventional Deadlift—the fancy term for the Deadlift version you see performed most often:

  • Develops glute and hamstring strength and power. These muscles contribute to nearly all athletic movements, including sprinting and jumping.
  • Reinforces the hip hinge, which is a fundamental movement pattern needed by all athletes. If you can learn to hip hinge correctly, you'll maximize your power and protect your lower back.
  • On that note, Deadlifts are incredible at strengthening your back. Your lower back helps you pick up the heavy weight, and your upper-back muscles work to hold it.
  • And because you're holding heavy weight, the Deadlift crushes your grip and traps.
  • Improves core strength and teaches you to keep your core strong during athletic movements.

Sounds pretty convincing, eh?

RELATED: Fix the 10 Most Common Deadlift Technique Mistakes

However, conventional Deadlifts are not for everyone, and they do not accomplish every goal an athlete might have. Below are eight variations of the Deadlift you can use in your training to become a stronger, more complete athlete.

1. Sumo Deadlift

Sumo Deadlift

Using an extra-wide stance switches the primary muscles used. The lower back doesn't work as hard, and the hips, hamstrings and quads pick up the slack. It's a great way to improve mobility—a benefit not often associated with heavy lifts.

RELATED: Sumo Deadlift

2. Deficit Deadlift

Deficit Deadlift

Deficit Deadlifts involve standing on a small box or a plate to increase the distance the bar travels as you lower it to the ground, thereby moving you through a greater range of motion. It's more challenging to pick up the bar from this position, so you won't be able to lift as much weight; however, it's a fantastic way to increase strength and even improve your conventional Deadlift.

3. Block Deadlift

Block Deadlifts

This is the opposite of the Deficit Deadlift. You elevate the bar on blocks, plates or rack pins to reduce the range of motion. This allows you to lift more weight, challenges your nervous system and develops the top part of your Deadlift.

4. Dumbbell Deadlift

Dumbbell Deadlift

You won't build max strength or get huge just by using dumbbells. But the Dumbbell Deadlift is a great variation for learning the exercise. You can also perform it for high reps during conditioning circuits or finishers to build endurance in the muscles on the backside of your body.

RELATED: The Dumbbell Deadlift: Perfect for Weight Room Beginners

5. Romanian Deadlift

Romanian Deadlift

The RDL is a variation of the conventional Deadlift in which you sit your hips back and lower the bar down your shins. You might not be able to touch the bar to the ground because of limited hamstring flexibility. It shifts the focus from your lower back to your hamstrings and glutes.

6. Single-Leg RDL

Single-Leg RDL

The Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift is one of the best ways to eliminate muscle imbalances in your glutes and hamstrings on the left and right sides of your body. It also improves balance, stability and core control.

RELATED: The 12 Best RDL Variations

7. Snatch-Grip Deadlift

Snatch-Grip Deadlift

This is the same as the conventional Deadlift (or other variations), except you change your grip. When you use an extra-wide grip, your back and traps work harder to hold the weight. You also increase the range of motion of the exercise, so it functions similar to Deficit Deadlifts.

8. Trap Bar Deadlift

Trap Bar Deadlift

The Trap Bar Deadlift is easier to perform than the standard Deadlift because you stand in the middle of the weight instead of holding it in front of your body. You can perform all of the Deadlift variations mentioned above with a Trap Bar, except the Dumbbell Deadlift.


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