The thing about the deadlift is that it targets its focal muscle groups, then recruits many more to help support and stabilise the movement. It’s simple to incorporate into your workout routine and allows for progression by working up the weight.
The posterior chain is a group of muscles that run down the back of your body, including your back, glutes, and hamstrings. The deadlift recruits all the muscles in your posterior chain and works the quads, meaning that you can develop your lower body strength with this one simple exercise.
The deadlift is a crucial player in strength training. So, here are some variations to incorporate into your routine.
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The conventional deadlift
Let’s start with the traditional deadlift. There are four phases to the deadlift, and it’s important to nail all of them.
1. The set up involves you getting into position. The barbell should be on the floor in front of you, with the bar touching or almost touching your shins. Take a grip of the bar with both hands, slightly outside the legs. Hinge forward at the hips as you do and make sure your weight is predominantly in your heels. Push your shoulders away from your ears.
2. The drive is the big movement. Using the force in your legs and glutes, drive upwards and lift the bar from the floor.
3. The lockout is the squeeze at the top. When standing, your arms should be straight down your sides. Keep your back and core tight. Drive your hips into the bar and squeeze your glutes. Make sure your shoulders are down and back.
4. Return the weight back to the floor by slowly lowering it down your shins to the starting position. Keep that back flat and your spine neutral throughout.
There are many different ways you can grip the bar when deadlifting, and often it just comes down to preference.
The double overhand grip is the most natural way to lift. Your hands should be over the top of the bar, with your thumbs under. This is the most common and the safest way to grip the barbell.
The mixed grip involves one hand gripping over the bar and the other under the bar. This is used when your grip strength becomes a limiting factor in lifting. Lots of powerlifters struggle with the issue of not being able to lift as heavy because their grip strength is fatigued, but not their legs. So, to combat this and stop the bar rolling out of their hands, they place one underneath. The only thing to watch here is that you swap your hands around frequently. Having a different grip recruits slightly different muscles in the arms, and you don’t want to develop any imbalances.
The hook grip is when you hook your thumb under the bar and wrap your fingers around it. It helps stop the bar slipping but is quite uncomfortable and will take some getting used to.
So you’ve chosen your grip, you’ve nailed the conventional deadlift, and you’re now looking to mix it up. Well, you’re in luck. There are many different types of deadlift you can do to test your strength. They vary in difficulty, range of motion, and muscles recruited. You can incorporate them into your workout routine however you like.
The Romanian deadlift is a slight variation of the conventional deadlift that recruits the glutes and the hamstrings more and the lower back less. It has a shorter range of motion, and you might not put the barbell back on the ground. There’s a slight difference in how you hinge at the hips, meaning that the tension is kept mainly in the hamstrings.
The Single leg RDL
RDL stands for Romanian deadlift, so this version has the same aim as the above, but working one leg at a time. This means it’s often done with a dumbbell or kettlebell instead of a bar. It looks a lot different to the double leg version and is quite the test of balance too. Say hello to core control.
The word sumo in relation to exercise often describes a broader stance, which is the case with the sumo deadlift. With a wider than shoulder-width stance, the sumo deadlift activates the glutes and muscles in the legs and the traps at the back of the shoulders. There’s less emphasis on muscles in the back like the erector spinae.
Hex bar deadlift
The hex bar deadlift can also be called the trap bar deadlift. It just depends on what you call the bar used. It’s a hexagonal bar, which you step into and lift from the handles. It allows for more even weight distribution and helps perfect your deadlift form and lift heavy.
Snatch grip deadlift
This variation sees your hands much wider and further apart than the traditional deadlift. The snatch grip increases your range of motion, making your back and traps work harder.
You need to stand on a block or plate that lifts you about 4 inches off the ground for this variation. This means when you lower the bar, you have to travel further than the conventional deadlift. This increased range of motion recruits more of your posterior chain and more of your quads. It also makes it much harder, so you won’t be able to lift as heavy.
Once you’ve nailed your deadlift form and got your grip down, there are plenty of deadlift variations to try out. You can find out which one suits your routine best.
The conventional deadlift is one of the most effective exercises you can do and should definitely play a part in your workouts. With all these different types, you can pick a deadlift to compliment the muscles you’re looking to target.
Pay attention to your posterior chain with the deficit deadlift or the sumo deadlift. Get heavy on your hamstrings with the RDL. Or engage the lower back with the snatch grip deadlift.