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Training

The Top 3 Deadlift Variations To Try

The Top 3 Deadlift Variations To Try

One of the greatest overall mass-building, body fat torching and posture correcting exercises you can perform is the deadlift. But deadlifting day after day can be taxing on the CNS as well as fatiguing your interest to keep going. Performing different versions of the conventional deadlift can not only lead to greater posterior chain strength but will also directly relate to speed, power and increased performance in your conventional deadlift moves.

deadlift variations


Sumo Deadlift

The sumo deadlift is a great variation of the normal deadlift you may be used to because of mainly the grip. Since you’ll start this move with your legs a lot wider than shoulder width apart, your grip happens to be fairly narrow and on the inside of your legs. Your legs won’t be as bent either in this setup which is great for improving that final hip drive through the end of the movement.

deadlift variations

  • Set up with feet about 6 inches wider on each side than shoulder width apart
  • Grip the bar on the inside of your legs with hands close together about 4 inches apart
  • Keep the toes slightly pointed out and engage the lats while pulling the bar up and back to your midline
  • While pulling be sure to lead with the hips and legs – not the back

Sets and Reps: 4 x 6-8


Deficit Deadlifts

deadlift variationsThe deficit deadlift is a great way to work on the bottom half the movement by increasing power and speed out of a deeper hole than you’re used to. This type of deadlifting hits the quads quite a bit more since the range of motion will be increased. By pulling from a greater distance from the ground the weight should not be as heavy but the form will be even more critical since there’s more room for error in the plane of movement.

  • Set up this deadlift variation by stacking 1-2 flat 45 plates on top of each other (1 for beginners)
  • Keep the feet a little narrower than shoulder width apart (so they’ll stay on plate), with the hands then just outside of the knees
  • Lead with the legs and hips while keeping the scapula pulled down and back throughout the lift
  • Slowly lower the weight back down and touch the ground, then repeat

Sets and Reps: 4 x 10-12


Straight Leg Deadlifts

deadlift variationsPart of the reason for so much injury in the world of sports is due to imbalance in the body. A majority of the power you’re able to exert comes from the posterior chain – meaning the hamstrings, lumbar and back. With a week set of hamstrings, pulls and tears definitely have a better chance of being in your immediate future. To isolate more of the hamstrings and lower back, the stiff-legged deadlifts or RDLs (Romanian Deadlifts), is a great option to strengthen these areas more specifically without too much lat and quad involvement.

  • Grab a barbell with a slightly wider than shoulder grip and the knees on the inside
  • Starting from the upright position, shoot the hips back and keep the knees straight (not locked)
  • Keep the bar as close to your body throughout the movement and stretch as far down as possible
  • When the back position starts to break, engage the hamstrings to pop back up to the top and squeeze the glute/hamstring tie in

Sets and Reps: 4 x 15 (work the negative for a 4-count)


Take-Home Message

Although the conventional deadlift will still reign supreme, these accessory deadlift movements will help increase your overall deadlift strength and numbers. Specifically working on parts of the movement like finishing the hip drive through sumo practice, getting out of the hole with deficit pulls and isolating the posterior chain with the RDL’s, will all contribute to making you a great deadlifter!



Tyler Stark

Tyler Stark

Writer and expert


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