In this two-part article we take a look at possible variations of the deadlift and how these different variations may benefit your workout.
The deadlift is one of most challenging and effective weight training exercises you can do. You may have heard the deadlift being described as the king of all exercises, and for good reason. Deadlifts (and Olympic lifts) work more muscles simultaneously than any other weightlifting exercise. The benefits deadlifts have compared to Olympic Lifts are they’re relatively safe to perform and simple to learn.
Conventional deadlifts, the most common form of deadlift practiced, work the entire posterior chain, including your hamstrings, glutes, erectors, upper back musculature, and traps.
Another benefit of a conventional deadlift is that it has more carry over to everyday movements outside of the gym, making this form of deadlift a great functional exercise.
Deadlifts can be modified to add mass, lose fat, and increase health and performance. The versatility of the deadlift does not stop there however. In my squat article I wrote about the many benefits of varying an exercise. To learn more about why adding variation into your training is beneficial please refer to this article.
Single Kettlebell Suitcase Deadlift
An advanced version of the suitcase kettlebell deadlift is the single arm suitcase kettlebell deadlift. In this exercise only one kettlebell from the side of the body is lifted at one time. By working one side at a time, an uneven load is placed on the body, making the core stabilization muscles work extremely hard to stabilize (balance) the weight during the lift. This style of deadlifting therefore would be a great choice if you wanted to target the core muscles.
The Hex Bar Deadlift (or Trap Bar Deadlift)
The hex bar deadlift is performed with a bar that allows the hands to be placed at the sides of the body during the lift instead of in front on the body as conventional deadlifts performed with an Olympic bar are. The shoulders are back during the movement as well, making it easier to maintain correct posture alignment during the lift.
The quadriceps complete a large percentage of the work during hex bar deadlifts, making this style of deadlifting beneficial for those who suffer from lower back pain as the lower back muscles are less stressed. This movement can also be used to target the quadriceps.
The hex bar deadlift can also be done by lifting kettlebells from the side of your body. This exercise is called the suitcase kettlebell deadlift but is very similar to the hex bar deadlift.
A sumo deadlift is performed with a stance wider than shoulder-width, toes pointed outwards, and the body positioned upright. The muscles on the inside of your thighs, the adductors, have to work extremely hard when the feet are placed in this position, so the sumo deadlift would be a good choice if you wanted to target the muscles on the inside of your thighs.
Sumo deadlifts may also be a good choice for people recovering from lower back problems as the lower back muscles are less stressed when the body is positioned upright as it is in during this movement.
Sumo deadlifts are commonly seen at weightlifting competitions because using a wide foot placement shortens the range of movement, enabling more weight to be lifted.
Tall people also tend to find this form of the lift more comfortable to perform.
Romanian deadlifts are performed with the knees bent at approximately 20 degrees throughout the entire movement. Performing deadlifts in this way places greater stress on the posterior chain and less stress on the quadriceps. This movement could then be used if you wanted to target the erectors, glutes, and hamstrings.
This movement can be performed one leg at time, placing an uneven load on the body and making the core muscles work harder to stabilize your body during the movement. This variation would therefore be a good choice to work the core muscles as well as the posterior chain muscles.
A cautionary note: this style of deadlift can place greater stress on the lower back, so use a sensible weight while performing the Romanian deadlift.
Most people think the Romanian and Stiff Legged deadlifts are the same exercise as the movement looks identical for both. However if you look closely you will notice the difference is the hips move backward during Romanian deadlifts whereas the bar tends to move forward during stiff legged deadlifts.
In part two of this article, coming out in a couple weeks, we look at snatch and partial deadlifts, raising the toes while deadlifting, dumbbell and kettlebell deadlifts, deadlifting with chains and different grip variations.
I would like to thank Ricky Light and James Waggitt from www.effectusfit.co.uk for helping me with the demonstrations and letting me use their awesome studio!