Walk into any public gym in America and you’ll see plenty of people banging away on the Leg Curl or Smith machine.
What will you rarely see?
Heavy conventional Deadlifts done with good form. Picking up something heavy and moving it through space is not only manly, but it also makes you physically and mentally tougher.
Though a great exercise, conventional Deadlifts off the floor are not suitable for everyone. They can cause back pain, particularly if you don’t have good mobility or have existing lower-back issues. So although you may not want to pull off the floor with a straight bar, powerlifting-style, I believe a suitable Deadlift variation exists for everyone in the gym.
The following four variations can be added to your workouts if you can’t—or don’t want to—Deadlift the conventional way.
1. Trap Bar Deadlift
Compared to the conventional Deadlift, the Trap Bar Deadlift has three big differences:
- Neutral hand position
- Slightly elevated handles
- You’re standing inside the bar, not behind it
The latter two points mean that you can start the exercise in a more upright position, which places less stress on the lower back. You can move some serious iron around with a trap bar, and it’s the preferred heavy Deadlift variation I use with most of my hockey players.
2. Romanian Deadlift
What if you don’t have access to a trap bar, as is the case with many public gyms? You’re stuck training with a straight bar. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re stuck with conventional Deadlifts.
Instead of pulling the bar from the ground, you can try Romanian Deadlifts, where you’ll start the movement from a standing position. This changes the Deadlift from a max strength exercise into an exercise where you’ll really want to feel certain targeted muscles performing the work. With Romanian Deadlifts, you should feel your hamstrings and glutes working. Focus on a good, nice stretch on the way down and finish the lift by squeezing your glutes and extending your hips at the top of the movement.
3. Landmine Deadlift
Landmine Deadlifts are even less stressful on the spine than Trap Bar or Romanian Deadlifts. You can’t go super heavy on these but that doesn’t matter—your entire lower body will experience a great training effect.
To make this movement even more challenging, loop one end of a resistance band around the bar and place the other end under your feet. The band provides accommodating resistance as you move closer toward a standing position, giving you a glute pump that’s out of this world.
4. Single-Leg DB Romanian Deadlift
Switching from bilateral to unilateral Deadlifts is another way to decrease lower-back stress. As with the barbell Romanian Deadlift, a good hamstring stretch on the eccentric is the key here. Keep your hips level at all times and finish the lift with the glutes.
No matter what anyone tells you, you don’t have to Deadlift from the floor unless you’re planning to compete in a powerlifting meet. Use these four alternative Deadlift variations to strengthen your lower body while steering clean of injury.
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