5 Variations Of The Classic Deadlift

We all love the deadlift, don’t we? Of course we do, the venerable “king of exercises” and all that.  I have always said that you can tell something is worthwhile by looking at how many variations on the basic formula there are. The more the better.

This goes for exercises too! The fundamental exercises have a julienne of ariations while specialized isolation exercises are typically “stand alone”—and naturally the more isolated the muscle is, the fewer exercises target it.

And why shouldn’t there be a julienne of variations for this exercise?

The deadlift essentially works all of the muscles of the lower body, and many of the upper body muscles as well. I’ve said it before and I will say it again; if you’re not deadlifting, get on it. But we’ve already discussed that.

Yours truly doing the standard

And once you’ve mastered the basic deadlift, try a few of these variations:

1. Romanian Deadlift

This is a deadlift variation that hits the hamstrings to a greater extent than the standard deadlift, because it involves the legs being mostly, if not entirely, straight and extended.

To do this, hold a bar at hip level with the palms facing down. Your shoulders should be back, your back properly locked and hollowed, and your knees slightly bent. This will be your starting position.

Lower the bar by moving your butt back as far as you can. Keep the bar close to your body, your head looking forward, and your shoulders back. Lower the bar down to your knees or slightly below it. You should feel it in your hamstrings. Any further movement will put stress upon the spine and thus should be avoided for this exercise.

Once you have lowered the bar, the actual lift is done by returning to the starting position by driving the hips forward to stand up tall.

2. Sumo Deadlift

As its name might imply, this deadlift variation gets its name from the wide legged stance you take which, combined with the arms being held in front of the widely placed legs makes you resemble the starting position of the rikishis.

This variation works the inner thighs to a greater extent than a traditional deadlift, and hits the hamstrings similarly to the Romanian deadlift as well. In addition, those with mobility issues might find this easier to do.

Begin with a bar loaded on the ground. Approach the bar so that the bar intersects the middle of the feet. The feet should be set very wide, near the collars. Bend at the hips to grip the bar. The arms should be directly below the shoulders, inside the legs, and you can use a pronated grip, a mixed grip, or hook grip. Relax the shoulders, which in effect lengthens your arms.

The relaxation makes it a little trickier to do then a standard deadlift, as keeping overall torso tightness makes it easier to keep the back in its proper position. Essentially you are going to have to keep the back tight but relax the arms—start with low weight to get the form down.

Anyway, take a breath, and then lower your hips, looking forward with your head with your chest up. Drive through the floor, spreading your feet apart, with your weight on the back half of your feet. Extend through the hips and knees.

As the bar passes through the knees, lean back and drive the hips into the bar.

Return the weight to the ground by bending at the hips and controlling the weight on the way down.

3. One-Handed

The one-handed deadlift is a variant of the deadlift that unilaterally trains one arm, really blasting the forearms and obliques. I have already written about this in an article, so you can read that—make sure to switch hands!

4. Reeves

Also known as the plate pinch deadlift, this deadlift variation is another one that really hits the hands and forearms, and was indeed invented by Hercules himself, Steve Reeves.

To do this, take a standard deadlift position, but instead of grabbing the bar, pinch the plates instead. Then lift as normal.

If you are using multiple 45 pound plates, put a 2.5 pound plate or 1.25 pound plate in between them to create a space to put your fingers between. Also, if you’re doing more than one plate on this deadlift, you’re probably pretty goddamn strong.

5. Health Lift

And finally, all the way back from the era of the American Civil War—the health lift. Perhaps not the most efficient exercise, but an interesting curiosity.

A more modern name for this exercise would be a partial deadlift or a rack pull.

In the health lift, you keep the back as upright as possible (not just locked out, but upright), and lift purely by lifting with the legs and pushing the knees forward. The bar should be racked and at roughly your knee level.

Use these deadlift variations as you will to build strength for the traditional lift.

Read Next: The King Of Exercises Is The Deadlift

24 thoughts on “5 Variations Of The Classic Deadlift”

  1. Deadlifting is a favorite in gyms because novices can toss around a lot of weight when doing it. Nothing puts a gym rat on the injured list faster than deadlifting. I especially like the dudes that feel it necessary to strap their arms to the bar because they’re so exceedingly powerful. The guys with bloated guts damn near rupture a gonad while deadlifting more weight than they should. Deadlifting is like riding a motorcycle. It’s just a matter of time.

    1. If its done right ( the posture and the move ) with self awareness of how much you can actually lift. it can be very useful. along with squatting.
      And I agree with you to a certain extent. its the ego boost that gets to you sometimes and rushes to lift more than you can handle. and the human body is tricky too cause the side effects will not appear instantly but after a while in which the person would still adds more weights lol.

        1. Beacause you dont lift at all gollum. Lol nice virtue signalling faggt! I bet your forearm is muscular from all the jacking off on webcam bich

        2. madman marz
          You are equally presumptuous as you are an atrocious speller. I got news for you. I think you are struggling with that one homo experience you had in community college. Experts say you’re not a fag, but we all know better.

    2. Damn you are a fucking homo. Seriously? No deadlifting because i might get hurt. ROK is filled with beta male orbitor faggts. Go jack off in your closet you fucking pussy

    3. D Lifts and Deep squats are what separate men from sissys.
      Form matters. Size soon follows a rigorous 5×5 workout.

  2. I never liked the sumo deadlift. It feels like cheating (less distance traveled, less range). Gotta get your dick in the dirt. Get the joints at 90’s.

    1. When you sumo dead 95 on the bar like a lil bitch then yes you are valid. Hey ashole grow a pair before you put any comments down

  3. I love the deadlift I have to have two gyms one for working out and planet fitness because there are so many chicks in there two a-days are the way to go

    1. Pretty sad you pick up those sleezy planet fitness ditch hogs. Lets be honest are you actually picking up gay men at planet fitness?

  4. I once read that if you have nothing positive to say, you should not say anything and I think that it’s fair advice in many situations and let me preface this by saying that I’m sure this dude has done well for himself in the gym but it seems like he’s been writing and managing to get published several articles as of late where he advocates all the riskiest lifts; some of them conventional and some of them absurdly inconvenient (unilateral freak lifts).
    I’m never deadlifting anything again and have not done conventional powerlifts in ages. I have herniated discs and herniating my discs was the wake-up call I needed (even my dad’s similar injuries did not smarten me up earlier) to rethink my training and drop back squats, deadlifts, standing bent over rows etc. and now my body looks much better than it did ever before because I go straight to the muscle, use a neutral back and yes, I do get stronger very consistently; I simply do not look for convenient leverage positions where I can turn myself into a human crane at the expense of my joints and spine. This is not jiu-jitsu, it’s bodybuilding; were’ not in this sport to overcome large objects with clever tricks but to sculpt muscles.

    1. Coming from the guy who jacks off 2-3 times a day lol. Great advice bro!

      1. I have never talked about my masturbation habits here so I have no idea what you are talking about. I merely said (under a completely unrelated article) that no-fap broscience needs to be approached with caution.
        Now would you like to discuss the actual subject at hand?

  5. You forgot deadlifting on your knees! It’s great when you have a leg injury but still want to deadlift!

  6. Sounds like no one on this thread actual lifts. Soy boys talking about sumo deads are too hard and fucking deadlifting from your knees. Are you fucking retarded? ROK hits another low point. Sounds like a group of faggts sucking each others dicks in planet fitness sauna! Yall suck dick

  7. Romanian Deadlifts take the cake.
    Better ROM, solid eccentric portion to the lift (more beneficial for growth), benefit from the stretch-shortening cycle, etc
    Quads get hit better from other exercises, so usually opt to program RDLs over conventional style

  8. Variation on the Pinch Grip is The Snatch Deadlift.
    I’ve been doing 20 rep deadlift sets 3 times a week with a snatch grip (hands placed on the bar as wide as possible) and I’ve seen massive width to my back in just a few short weeks.
    Not only that, but it changes the angle and forces you to get lower which greatly improves glute strength and growth.

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