Deadlifts are a type of movement that involves hinging at the hips to pick a weighted barbell or bar up to a standing position.
There are many benefits to performing them regularly, although a lot of people are cautious about weighted deadlifts for fear of injury.
Luckily, doing a deadlift correctly with the proper form and not overloading the barbell can significantly improve your strength and fitness, whether you’re a fitness newbie or a seasoned weightlifter.
After all, deadlifts are a full-body workout! They work your hamstrings, glutes, calves, back muscles, core, and arms.
But, if you’re performing the same type of deadlift every time you visit the gym, you’re bound to hit a wall where you just can’t lift any heavier. You may lose hope, and your weightlifting goals slip further away.
What you need to do is switch up your moves!
By utilizing variations of deadlifts, it’s easy to target different muscles. By alternating between different types of lifts, you can start to build muscle in all areas rather than focusing on one. So next time you approach the bar, you will feel stronger.
Let’s learn a little more about the different types of deadlifts and what muscles they target.
Different Types Of Deadlift
There are several variations of the deadlift. Give them all a go to decide which is your favorite and most suited to your goals, strengths, and weaknesses.
If you are new to weightlifting, it can be helpful to perform these under the supervision of a personal trainer or fitness coach.
Remember never to push yourself past your capabilities, as this can result in injury. And always start with low weights and work your way up to heavier ones.
1. Conventional Deadlift
The conventional deadlift is the type of lift you should start with if you're new to the deadlifting game. It involves standing with feet hip-width apart and gripping your hands just outside your feet. Depending on your preference and ability, you can either use a barbell or a set of dumbbells.
The conventional deadlift is a great all-round workout, targeting the lower back, calves, forearms, glutes, hamstrings, lats, mid-back, quads, and triceps.
The most important thing to remember about your form is to keep a straight back. As soon as your back begins to round, you should drop the weights. If you’re new to deadlifting, ask a trainer or gym buddy to check your form for you - it can be hard to tell sometimes!
2. Sumo Deadlift
As the name suggests, this deadlift is similar to the sumo squat. It involves placing your feet wider than your hips, with your hands reaching down inside your feet.
The sumo deadlift is great for strengthening your quads and hip muscles. Lifting in this way also allows you to lift heavier weights, as your wide-legged stance provides a strong, powerful base.
3. Snatch Grip Deadlift
The snatch grip deadlift is a type of Olympic lifting that focuses on strengthening the hamstrings, back muscles, and grip.
The hands are placed in a much wider grip to increase your range of motion and help you improve the art of snatching. It is essential to do this one correctly otherwise, you may risk injuring your back.
4. Hex or Trap Bar Deadlift
This deadlift involves using a specialized hexagonal bar which you step into and lift from the handles. These are a good option for beginners as they keep your weight closer to your center of gravity to make the lift easier. They also help guide you into better deadlift form.
Hex bar deadlifts work the same muscle groups as conventional deadlifts and put less stress on your lower back and biceps than others.
5. The Hack Lift
In the hack lift, the bar is placed behind the back of the legs in the same form as the conventional deadlift. It can help keep the back upright and focuses on strengthening your quadriceps.
However, this one puts extra strain on the knees and is a more risky deadlift. Only include it in your exercise routine if you are experienced.
6. Deficit Deadlift
This variation involves elevating yourself off the ground by standing on a block or plate. Doing so increases your range of motion so that when you lower and reach for the bar, you have to travel further than the conventional deadlift.
The deficit deadlift exercises more of the muscles in your posterior chain and quads. It definitely adds an extra challenge to the conventional lift, so don’t expect to lift as heavy!
7. Romanian Deadlift
Also known as the stiff-legged deadlift or straight-legged deadlift, this one is a slight variation of a conventional deadlift. It involves a shorter range of motion, and often you don’t actually put the barbell back on the ground.
In the Romanian deadlift, the back and knees remain straight at all times. All bending comes from hinging at the hips. In doing so, this lift targets the glutes and hamstrings and is less straining on the lower back.
8. Single Leg Romanian Deadlift
The single-leg Romanian deadlift involves the same movement and exercises the same muscles as the standard Romanian deadlift but focuses on working one leg at a time. So usually, it is performed using a dumbbell or kettlebell.
This variation helps seriously work on your balance! As well as strengthening your core.
The Correct Deadlift Form
Now you’ve learned about all the different types of deadlift, it's time to talk about form. This is the most important thing to consider when deadlifting in order to maximize results and protect you from injury.
A conventional deadlift form involves:
- Starting with the correct stance, with feet just narrower than shoulder-width.
- Bending knees to pick up the bar using an overhand grip, with arms vertical to the floor.
- To lift, keep your back as straight as possible and bend through the knees, pushing into your heels. Make sure to keep the torso upright, as well and your chest facing forward and shoulders directly over the bar.
- Lift your chest and keep your shoulders, back, and chest as wide as possible without squeezing your shoulder blades too much. Avoid rounding your back at all, as this increases the risk of injury.
- Once you have lifted the barbell, make sure you don't lean back - keep that chest wide and proud.
- Keep your chin tucked in to keep your head in line with the rest of your spine.
- Don’t look up at the ceiling! This is a common mistake.
- To put the barbell down and go back to the starting position, bend your knees and hinge the chest and torso forward while engaging your glutes and pushing back into your heels.
Some important points to remember:
- Always keep weight in the middle of your feet and heels
- Move upwards and downwards at the same speed
- Keep the chest upright and open and the back straight
- Keep arms straight, never bend or pull
- Keep the bar close to your body
- Squeeze those butt muscles as you pull!
Deadlifting is a great full-body workout that can significantly improve your strength, power, and fitness. But don’t just stick to the same type of deadlift, switch up your moves to maximize results! Variety is always best and targets different muscles you wouldn’t normally.
Interchanging between any of the deadlifts mentioned in this article can help you reach your weightlifting goals faster. It can also prevent the risk of overuse injury.
Perhaps you want to work more on strengthening your back muscles, or maybe you need to exercise your quads more. Keep your goals in mind and choose which deadlifts you want to incorporate into your workout routine accordingly.
The most important thing to remember when performing deadlifts is to focus on your form. Primarily, keeping your back straight and not overloading your barbell. When executed correctly, deadlifts aren’t as risky as many people think they are, and can benefit people of all experiences and abilities.