Adding variety to your workout is very important! Not only does it improve your athletic performance overall, but it also challenges you to approach a technique you’ve mastered differently. This also makes a certain exercise less likely to perpetuate ‘bad muscle habits’ and cause injury. Sometimes even switching from a wide grip to a slightly wider grip can save your life.
More importantly, variation exercises will target different muscles that a conventional exercise neglects because it always focuses on the same old thing. So, these deadlift variations target different muscles in different ways for results you didn’t even think of! They are also recommended when you start feeling pain in your lower back, hams or quads. Because switching it up a bit will put less pressure where you’re hurting, and work on your weaker points.
1. Sumo Deadlift
Sumo Deadlifts makes lifting more stable due to the stance borrowed from Sumo fighters. It targets the hip muscle and releases more tension on the lower back. It also helps you maintain a good posture. Because of this, it limits the range of motion, thus enabling you to lift more weight than you do with your conventional deadlift.
- Place your feet at a wider stance and your hands inside your feet;
- Squat down and grab the bar with a shoulder width mixed grip;
- Keep your shoulders up, arms and back straight, chest up, hips low and look forward;
- Drive your feet outwards as you pull the bar and your chest up;
- Pull the bar just above your knees as you extend them. Keep your chest up and your shoulders back as you lift;
- Return to the starting position while keeping your chest high and back straight.
2. Romanian Deadlift
The Romanian Deadlift especially targets the hamstrings and improves mobility at the hip joint by focusing on the hip hinge. RDL is also called 'stiff leg deadlift' because it is performed by keeping your knees straight. It is also mandatory that you keep a correct posture and your back straight.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, maintaining a neutral spine and holding your barbell at hip height;
- Bend your waist and sit your hips back while sliding the barbell down your thighs;
- Hinge at the hip and allow a slight bend to your knees. Load your hamstrings to perform the exercise with a full range of motion;
- Make sure the bar travels in a straight line and close to your body at all times;
- Continue sitting your hips back. Slide the barbell down your body, keep it close to your shins. Go as low as you can;
- Reverse the movement. Pull with your hamstrings, tilt your glutes backward and snap the hips through. Your back should not lean outwards, so make sure you contract your glutes to extend at the hips.
3. Deficit Deadlift
This deadlift variation increases your range of motion by standing on a weight plate and raising yourself just a little bit above ground level. Because of this, it recruits more of the posterior chain and quads.
- Stand on a weight plate or short platform with the barbell above your feet;
- Squat down and grab the bar with a shoulder width or slightly wider than shoulder width mixed or overhand grip;
- Extend your hips and knees completely as you lift the bar;
- Lower the bar as you bending your hips back and your knees forward. Keep your back straight at all times.
4. Hex/Trap Bar Deadlift
This variation involves a different kind of bar, known as Trap bar or Hex bar. It recruits the hams, quads, flutes, mid and lower back muscles. It is great for those who face difficulties with the conventional deadlift and the results are great!
- Stand within the bar with feet placed at shoulder width or slightly narrower than that;
- Squat down and grasp the handles on each side;
- Fully extend your knees and hips as you lift the bar;
- Allow your knees to bend forward and your hips to bend backwards as you lower the weight. Keep your back straight at all times!
5. Hack Lift
This variation mostly recruits your quads and focuses on strengthening them. It mimics the conventional deadlift, with the difference that the bar will be placed behind you. It is also a very difficult variation, best suited for those who are a bit more experienced with their deadlifts.
- Place the barbell behind your legs;
- Squat down and grab the bar with an overhand grip;
- Fully extend your hips and knees as you lift the bar;
- Keep your back straight, your knees and feet pointing in the same direction, bend your knees forward, your hips back and squat back down;
- Lower yourself until your thighs are close to the floor and the bar is behind your legs.
Start by performing the variations which allow you to easily maintain a neutral spine and proper form. This way it will promote correct movement and bio-mechanics which is involved in your body's ability to exercise, and to maintain good posture in your daily life too.
Move on to more complex variations once you've mastered the ones that felt easier for you in the beginning. Any beginner should start with the Romanian Deadlift. It works on establishing a solid foundation for the conventional deadlift, and strengthening your posterior chain, hams and quads too.
Remember to always keep a straight back and the barbell close to your body as you perform any deadlift variation. And keep in mind that you will descend with the same speed as you raise the bar. These factors will reduce the risk of injury. Wearing gloves for a stronger grip and knee sleeves for support will also prevent damage or trauma that slight form or posture mistakes could cause.
As a result from varying your deadlift movements, you will notice increased strength and hypertrophy. And you will prevent damage and reduce the risk of overuse injuries. Find out which variation allows you to use correct form and posture and start lifting!