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Lifts like a deadlift [Article]

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

Feb 26, 2019 9:30:00 AM

Attention to detail

Lifts like a deadlift

The most relevant variations are the sumo and Romanian deadlift. Another wide field is equipped lifts using chains and bands

Deadlift calculator

What is your why 


Before we go in the little details of lifts which are similar to the deadlift Let me dig a bit deeper with you:


  • Why do you look for lifts like the deadlift?
  • Why do you want to deadlift 
  • Why do you want to get stronger 
  • Why do you want to pack on muscle 
  • What happens if you do 
  • What happens if you don’t 


Many don’t ask themselves these questions. While you might find them trivial or irrelevant these questions make all the difference. They will determine whether you stay dedicated. Success in fitness is muscly not about what and how you do it but why you do it. Most people would think about their life like this:


  • What do I want 
  • How do I get it 
  • Why do I want it 


This is how New Year's resolutions start. You set the goal to get stronger. You try for a month. Nothing happens and you give up in February. Back to the grind, it is. If you change your thought pattern to:


  • Why do you want something 
  • How do you get it 
  • What do you need to do 


You change the entire game. All your actions, thoughts and dreams will be connected to a meaningful outcome. People will also notice the difference and be more likely to hell you on your way. 


For me personally, this changed things like this:


  • What: I want a family 
  • How: I get a girlfriend 
  • Why: Because i want to 


That did not work for me whatsoever. I had no stable relationship for a long until I changed my viewpoint to. 


  • Why: I want to be the best husband I can be 
  • How: By providing to the family 
  • What: be truthful and reliable 


Since that change, I have all I wanted. Maybe except for a lottery win. If you are not convinced yet check out Simon Sinek's TED talk on the golden circle. 


Conventional deadlift 


The conventional deadlift is the most commonly known variations of the deadlift. You grip the bar with your arms outside of your legs.


This variation is usually better for lifters with relative long extremities to their torso. While the conventional deadlift gives you better leverages off the ground it has a longer bar path than the sumo deadlift. This makes it more likely to fail the lift on the way to lockout. The biggest deadlifts ever to be recorded are mostly conventional pulls.


Sumo deadlift 


The sumo deadlift reverses the positioning of your arms in legs. In this version, you look for a wide stance to shorten the range of motion. 


Your arms come down between your legs. This is why it is called the sumo deadlift. In the lowest position, you will look like a sumo wrestler ready to pounce. 


This variation is said to be more technical and demanding on mobility. It is usually a better choice for lifters whose extremities are short in relation to their body.


The sumo deadlift gives you worse leverages off the ground while you have to pull the barbell not as far as with the conventional deadlift. Some of the biggest pound for pound deadlifts have been performed as sumo deadlifts. 


Deficit deadlift 


The deficit deadlift is a variation in the deadlift which increases the range of motion. The idea is to make braking ground harder by putting you in a disadvantaged position compared to pulling right off the floor. 


You see deficit deadlifts more commonly performed by conventional than sumo deadlifters. The setup is just more complex while in a sumo stance. To perform a deficit deadlift you can pull from plates. Pick relatively flat ones. The bigger the deficit the less carryover this exercise has to the deadlift. 


The biggest advantage of the deficit deadlift is that it helps to break ground. Some lifters are very strong but have trouble to overcome the dead weight at the beginning of the pull. Deficit deadlifts at Lower weights which are still challenging can remedy this. 


Deadlift with chains 


Deadlifts with chains have been made popular by the west side method. The basic idea is to train harder for longer by manipulating the strength curve. 


To do a deadlift with chains you put chains over the bar. This enables you to have a higher weight at the top than at the bottom of the lift. 


Deadlift with chains is especially helpful for lifters who are good at breaking ground but struggle with their lockout. Overloading the top of the lift can remedy this. 


The biggest advantages of chains are that they are easy to apply to the deadlift and can rack up to a heavy load. 


The biggest disadvantages are that they are quite loud, take up a lot of space in the gym while you get little use out of them and the way they make the lift harder. If you don’t j is how to apply them to the bar uneven loads are common. 


Deadlift with bands 


Bands follow the same idea as chains. You apply them to the bar to make the top of the lift harder. 


To achieve this the bands are either applied to the outside or inside of the bar depending on your setup. If you have the right rack you can also use hands coming from the top to help with breaking ground. 


If you are serious about deadlifting a deadlift platform might be a good investment. A deadlift platform will have anchors for bands. Products like the rogue power racks do you use puns to attach bands.


Rack pulls 


Rack pulls are the opposite idea of a deficit deadlift. Instead of increasing the range of motion you decrease it. This way you are able to pull more weight


To set up a rack pull you place the safety pins at a certain height in the rack. You put the barbell on top and start pulling. My rack pull max is 250kg while it is 190kg for the conventional deadlift. 


The biggest advantages of the rack pull are how heavy you can go and that you can overload your posterior chain. 


The biggest disadvantages are that you can get injured very quickly as you get carried away with the weights and the setup. Gyms often have different power racks with not a lot of options for the safety pins


Kettlebell deadlifts 


Kettlebell deadlifts are a variation which can be interesting for women and beginners. 


Pavel Tsatsoulin and Andy Bolton recommend the kettlebell deadlift as a valid option for beginners. The kettlebell deadlift is basically a sumo deadlift with a kettlebell


The biggest advantages of the kettlebell deadlift are that it is easier on the lower back and hands and easier to execute than a barbell deadlift. 


The biggest disadvantages are the limited capability to work with heavy weights and a different position for the body. You will feel the difference when you have tried both. 


Dumbbell deadlifts 


Next in line are dumbbell deadlifts. Instead of a barbell, you can also use dumbbells to do deadlifts.


You walk up to two dumbbells and place them beside your legs. Go down to grip both dumbbells at the same time. Build tension off the floor just like with the conventional deadlift. Lift the weights up to your hip. Bring the dumbbells down again. Repeat the process until finished. 


The biggest advantages of the dumbbell deadlift are that it is easier on the lower back and takes up less space. Especially in a home gym with limited dimensions you can use dumbbells instead of a barbell to perform the deadlift. 


The biggest disadvantages of the dumbbell deadlift are that it puts less emphasis on the hamstrings and takes special equipment to load heavy. Very heavy dumbbells, especially when used for the deadlift, are single purpose use for most weekend warriors. 


Hack squat 


The hack squat is a deadlift behind your back. This is an interesting lift that not many do. Start slow and work your way up. 


The hack squat starts with the barbell behind your back. The rest of the movement is very similar to a conventional deadlift. It trains the quads to a greater extent than the hamstrings. You will also train your traps, glutes and lower back.


The biggest advantage of the hack squat is that it provides you with a variation on your training to keep progressing. Sometimes you have to switch things up a little to continue to grow in strength and size. 


The biggest disadvantage of the hack squat that it can terribly wrong when you lose control of the weight. If it drops uncontrolled it hits the back of your feet the back of your shins. Only for experts and under strict instruction. 


Between the legs deadlift 


Together with the hack squat one of the lesser known variations of the deadlift. In this version, you keep the barbell between your legs. 


Step over the bar with one leg and get into a stable position. Test out where you feel strongest. Lower yourself to the bar and grip it with both hands. Build tension and initiate the pull. Pull the bar up to the Crown Jewels. Set it down again. Repeat. 


The biggest advantages of this variation are that it is safer than the hack squat while giving you an interesting variation on the conventional deadlift. It can also be used as a variation to a barbell lunge when your back gets injured.


The biggest disadvantages of the between the leg deadlift is the stability. Wear proper shoes and take care that your feet have a grip. You don’t want to end up doing the splits while 100kg+ dangle between your legs. 


Snatch grip deadlifts 


The snatch grip deadlift is a popular variation for weightlifters and people who want to train their grip. The idea is to place your hands on the outer knurling emulating the starting position of a snatch.


The snatch grip deadlift trains your hamstrings, quads, traps and lower back. The wide grip limits the maximum weight you can move. It gives you worse leverages. 


The biggest advantages of the snatch grip deadlift are training the grip and mixing up the routine when the conventional and sumo deadlift become stale. 


The biggest disadvantages are the little carryover for powerlifters and that the snatch grip deadlift can be misleading to train grip strength. There are more efficient and effective ways to train your grip like Iron aMind grippers. 


Why should you mix things up 


All of these options will help you to keep training interesting and address specific weak points in your deadlift. Experiment which versions work best for your personal progress. 


I personally use the following variations: 


  • Conventional 
  • Sumo 
  • Deficit


I used to do snatch grip deadlifts but changed to IronMind grippers to train my grip. I’ve also tried band and chain work and found it too cumbersome for the deadlift. That kind of training is also a better fit for suited lifters and I prefer to lift raw. After watching some tips from Ben Pollack I started to pull Sumo and conventional. So far the results are good. I worked up to a 140kg sumo deadlift for reps in two months. 


Further reading 



Topics: Lift stronger, Deadlift, Fitness, Strength