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January 07, 2022 10 min read

It is undeniable that deadlifts are the king of bodybuilding and strength-training exercises. When it comes to getting a full-body workout, deadlifts are the compound exercises to be included in your routine.

There are various types of deadlifts, but all these variations have one thing in common; they are great muscle and strength-building exercises. Below, we provide you with the 10 best deadlift variations and their effects on your muscles.

Why Deadlifts Are Great Options For You

Many gym enthusiasts and athletes would agree that deadlifts are best for activating multiple muscles all at once.

It doesn't matter if you are looking to get jacked, work on stability, or muscle endurance, deadlifts are the exercises you need. When done properly, deadlifts activate and engage your hamstrings, glutes, trapezius muscles, bicep and triceps muscle groups, core muscles, hip flexors, quads, and muscles of the back.

Most people who work out can tell you that the more weight you can deadlift, the more shredded you are going to be. This is why many gym noobs will more often than not spot a powerlifter pyramiding with heavier weights, trying to beat their personal best. Since body weight and muscle mass play a role in the amount you can deadlift, it makes sense that the more you deadlift, the heavier you can go.

While it might take a bit of dedication to stay in form, deadlifts get less challenging the more frequently you practice. Although this is great news for your muscles, it might get a little uninteresting with time and progressive overload. Mercifully, there are a slew of deadlift variations that are just as interesting and even more challenging than the conventional deadlift.

Deadlift Variations To Get You Shredded

Although it might seem to mirror a squat, the traditional deadlift is done more with the flexion of the hip. Standing with your feet hip-to-shoulder-width apart, shoulders back and chest high, you simply hinge your hip forward while keeping your back straight. As you lift the barbell, dumbbell, or kettlebell, you flex your hip inward till you are standing.Other Deadlift variations make use of a similar range of motion to achieve great muscle results and strengthen your core.

Although the conventional deadlift is a great exercise, coupled with other variations, your workout routine is bound to be a killer superset of deadlifts.While many of these variations are easy to get the hang of if you are used to the conventional deadlift, some others make use of resistance and are tasking to your muscles.

Below are 10 deadlift variations from the easiest to the hardest.

1. Sumo Deadlift


The sumo deadlift looks like the conventional deadlift but provides a shorter and more limited range of motion. This is not entirely bad news, as the sumo deadlift is great for engaging quads and glutes. The major difference between the sumo deadlift and the conventional deadlift lies in your stance. Regardless of this minor change, the sumo deadlift variation is a welcome addition to your workout routine.

To do the sumo deadlift:

  • Begin in a wide stance. Stand upright with your legs wider than shoulder-width or beneath the first ring on the barbell. 
  • Keep your toes forward but at an angle, back straight, and chest proud.
  • Lower yourself by bending at your hip. Your shoulder should be right above the bar and your arms should be inside your knees. 
  • Keep your back straight. Grip the bar in a pronated grip.
  • Just before you lift the bar, inhale. Stand up tall by driving with your heels and hinging your hip. 
  • Hold your form and keep your chest proud. Squeeze your glutes.
  • Hold this position for a second and exhale as you lower the bar back to the ground.

With sumo deadlifts, you can lift more weights and so progressive overload is easier. It is beginner-friendly, increases pulling strength, and places less strain on the lower back.

    2. Landmine Deadlift

       

      The landmine deadlift is a beginner-friendly deadlift variation. With a more upright position, this variation is easier on the spine and thus, is a great option for gym noobs with back problems.The landmine deadlift works the same muscles as the conventional deadlift, with the bonus of better hip hinge training. It is a safer option for training at a higher volume.

      To do this variation:

      • Place one end of the weighted barbell in a landmine plate, or the absence of one, in a corner.
      • Stand in front of the loaded side of the barbell with the sleeve gap in-between your feet which are shoulder-width apart.
      • Sit back on your hips and grasp the collar of the barbell with your arms straight and fingers interlaced.
      • Brace yourself and stand up straight, keeping your back straight as you lift the bar. Engage your glutes and hold this position.
      • Lower yourself by sitting back on your hip and slightly bending your knees until the bar rests on the floor.
      • Repeat.

        3. Trap Bar Deadlift


           

          Although trap bars, also called hex bars, are most popularly used for shrugs, they are equally great for deadlifts. This variation activates and engages the same muscle groups as the conventional deadlift but places less stress on the spine. Research has however shown that you can lift more weight with a hex bar than you can with a conventional barbell.

          To do the Trap bar deadlift:

          • Stand in the hexagonal part of the bar with a hip-width stance, your feet lined up with handles of the bar, and your toes forward.
          • Reach down and grab the handles, then sit back on your hip. Push your chest forward and your shoulders back while keeping your back straight.
          • Keeping your gaze forward, straighten your hip and knees till you are standing tall.
          •  Squeeze your glutes at the peak of your movement before lowering the bar back to starting position.

          Using the trap bar allows you to position your hips low, like the conventional deadlift or higher to put more weight in your legs.

            4. Rack Pull Deadlifts


              Many lifters often dismiss the rack pulls as a poor variation of the conventional deadlift. While admittedly, the range of motion in this variation is shorter, it is a great way to bulk up the upper back muscles while activating similar muscles as its conventional predecessor.The rack pull deadlift increases pulling strength and is a great option for men who suffer from lower back pain, as it is easier on the lower back muscles.

              To do rack pull deadlifts:

              • Set up your rack to a comfortable height. Most of the common starting positions are below the knee, above the knee, and mid-thigh.
              • Stand in front of the weighted bar with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes forward, shoulders back, and chest proud.
              • Bend your knees and lean forward at the hips. Grab the bar with your arms outside your knees.
              • Inhale, brace yourself, and lift the bar by driving your feet into the ground. 
              • Hold the weight and exhale as you return to the starting position.

              Other than being a great exercise to prepare your body for other pulling exercises, the rack pull deadlift is a functional exercise for healthy muscles and better performance.

                5. Romanian Deadlift


                  If you have mastered the art of conventional deadlifting, the RDL is a walk in the park. While it might be classified as a little challenging, the RDL is a more isolated exercise that helps to work your hip and knee joints. Although many newbies often confuse RDLs with the conventional deadlift, the major difference is you are not lowering the barbell to the ground. In RDLs, the bar remains in the air throughout the sets.RDLs can be a barbell or dumbbell deadlift.

                  To do the Romanian deadlift:

                  • Like the conventional deadlift, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arcs beneath the barbell. 
                  • Keep your shoulders back, back straight, and chest proud.
                  • Bend and grip the bar with your hands wider than shoulder-width apart and knees over the ankle. Avoid rounding your shoulders.
                  • Engage your core as you lift the barbell off the floor. Squeeze your glutes and hold this position.
                  • Lower the bar by pushing back with your hips as far as it will go until you feel the tension in your hamstring. 
                  • Push your hips forward and squeeze your glutes, returning to the starting position.

                  For many beginners, the tension in the hamstring is a limiting factor to how low you can go. With time, this improves.The RDL is a great exercise for strengthening the posterior chain. It is also a brilliant choice for your leg day routine, as it strengthens and builds up the hamstring while improving overall muscle strength.

                    6. Snatch Grip Deadlift


                      The snatch grip is a more difficult barbell deadlift variation with an increased range of motion. This variation works the same muscles as the conventional deadlift but, thanks to the extremely wide grip position, focuses more on the muscles of your upper back while sparing your lower back.

                      To perform the Snatch grip deadlift:

                      • Begin in the usual deadlift position with your feet wider than the hip. 
                      • Position your feet with the middle bar right over your mid-foot with your toes angled outward. 
                      • Lower yourself at the hip till your shins are barely touching the bar
                      • Grasp the barbell wide with a wide grip. The type of grip used is important, and most bodybuilders opt for a snatch or hook grip. Many gym enthusiasts and athletes opt for using straps to maintain their grip and reduce pain in the fingers, as the hook grip can be extremely painful.
                      • Your index finger should be outside of the ring on each side. The width of your grip, however, depends on your height and arm’s length, and so if you are on the shorter side, you might end up gripping the bar with your pinky inside of the ring.
                      • Once you are in form, set your shoulders, lock your elbows.
                      • One helpful cue for keeping form is trying to pull the bar apart sideways. Keep this in mind as you lift your chest, drive your feet into the ground, and lift the bar.
                      • Inhale, engage your core, and keep the bar close to your body as you lift. Once fully extended, hold this position for a few seconds.
                      • Lower the bar and exhale. Repeat for as many reps as possible.

                      Although it requires more mobility, this variation is great for grip and posterior chain strength. A less common variation, the snatch grip provides great muscle results for those who dare.

                        7. Stiff Leg Deadlift


                          The stiff leg deadlift, also known as the straight-leg deadlift is another deadlift variation that works wonders on the posterior chain. It is an entirely different option from the conventional deadlift as it changes the starting position, leg posture, and range of motion. The major difference is the degree of knee flexion throughout the exercise.

                          To do the stiff leg deadlift:

                          • Stand with the bar over your mid-foot with your feet shoulder-width apart.
                          • Hinge forward at your hip till your torso is almost parallel to the floor and your back is straight. 
                          • Your knees should only be bent slightly and your shins should remain upright.
                          • Lean forward till you grip the bar, keeping your arms straight. 
                          • Brace your core, inhale, and lift the bar.
                          • Straighten your back until you are standing tall. Keep your back straight and the bar close to your body.
                          • Exhale as you lower the bar, keeping your legs straight.

                            8. Touch n Go Deadlift


                              Many gym enthusiasts steer clear of the touch n go deadlift, leaving this variation for the tough guys and seasoned powerlifters. This variation is a fun way to increase muscle hypertrophy, explosive power, and grip strength.The Touch n go variation movement is in its name; instead of resetting each rep by dropping the barbell to the floor, you slightly tap the floor with the barbell and repeat.  

                              To do the touch and go variation:

                              • Assume the same stance as you would a conventional deadlift.
                              • Lower yourself and grip the bar, keeping your hands outside your knees. 
                              • Lift the bar by driving your feet into the floor and flexing your hip inward.
                              • As you lower the bar, simply tap the floor instead of dropping the barbell, and then stand up once again. Repeat for as many reps as are in your set.

                                9. Single-Leg Barbell RDL


                                  If you are in the mood for a bit of a challenge, the Single-Leg RDL is no doubt a staple on the “deadlift exercises you should do” list. This variation is a unilateral exercise that activates the muscles of the entire posterior chain. While it might be tricky to balance on one leg and keep the proper form, the SLRDL allows you to target one side of your body at a time.

                                  To do the Single-leg barbell RDL:

                                  • Assume a deadlift position with the barbell over your mid-foot and your feet hip-width apart. 
                                  • Hinge forward at your hip and lower yourself till you hold the bar in a shoulder-wide pronated grip.
                                  • Deadlift the barbell until you are in a standing position. Start by balancing on your right leg, unlocking your left knee, and sitting back into your hip. 
                                  • Push your left heel as far back as you can without rotating your hip. 
                                  • Keep your back straight and your left knee angled softly.
                                  • As soon as the barbell hits the floor, drive your feet in the ground and extend your hip back to the starting position. Complete your set before switching to the left leg.

                                  While the Single-leg RDL is a great way to gain killer calves and firmer glutes, it requires stability and upper body strength. This makes it difficult for noobs to perform.

                                    10. Deficit Deadlift


                                      This is a deadlift variation performed on an elevated surface. The deficit deadlift is an advanced option not every gym goer is privy to.The deficit deadlift provides increased leg strength, better pulling strength, greater posterior chain strength, and better force production. The elevation empowers you with an increased range of motion and improved time under tension. This variation engages the same muscle groups as the conventional deadlift but provides better lats activation, hip flexion, and lower back strength.

                                      To perform this deadlift:

                                      • Stand on an elevated platform, such as weight plates, of optional height (mostly between 1-4 inches)
                                      • Position your mid-foot underneath the barbell with your feet shoulder-width apart. As usual, keep your shoulders back, back straight, and chest proud.
                                      • Lower yourself as you would in a conventional lift and keep your chin tucked.
                                      • Grip the barbell and engage your arms. Inhale as you stand by driving your feet in the ground.
                                      • At the peak of your movement, engage your glutes. Hold this for a second before hinging your hips backward and lowering the bar.

                                      The Best Deadlifts For You

                                      The best deadlift variation for your workout routine depends on your fitness goals. Are you looking to have boulder-like shoulders and bigger arms? Or are you more interested in working your lower body to strengthen your hamstrings and the muscles in your thighs?There are many variations tailored to suit your workout needs.

                                      These variations can be made even more challenging by using resistance bands and weighted vests. Regardless of your choice of workout, it is important to listen to your body, stock up on your macros, and incorporate the ULTIMATE MASS STACK for increased muscle hypertrophy and muscle fullness.