Alternatives to Barbell Deadlifts

Lifing is not easy
A woman is preparing to deadlift with a barbell. (Image: BartekSzewczyk/iStock/Getty Images)

The barbell deadlift works nearly every muscle in your body and is effective for developing the lumbosacral, trapezius, quadriceps and gluteal muscles. This total-body exercise can take the place of several single-joint exercises, saving you valuable time in the gym. However, proper form can oftentimes be difficult to master, resulting in excessively sore muscles and sometimes injury. Fortunately, there are several alternatives to the barbell deadlift that are slightly less physically demanding.

Sumo Deadlifts

The sumo deadlift is different from the classic deadlift in that your pelvis is not as tilted so your lower back is worked less. This alternative exercise also works the quadriceps and adductors more intensely than the classic version. Stand facing a bar with your legs wider than shoulder-width and your toes pointing out in line with your knees. Bend your legs until your thighs reach horizontal then grab the bar with a shoulder-width overhand grip. Contract your core and press through your heels to extend your legs, bringing the torso vertical and pulling your shoulders back. Carefully return the bar to the floor.

Dumbbell Deadlifts

Dumbbell deadlifts put less stress on your back because you don't have to reach over your legs to get to the weight. This exercise works the same muscles as the barbell deadlift so it is also a great alternative if you simply don't have access to a barbell. Stand with your legs slightly apart, and place a dumbbell on the outside of each foot. Bend your legs, and lower down until your thighs reach horizontal. Grasp the dumbbells, contract your abdomen, straighten your back then, keeping your arms straight, press through your heels to extend your legs and return to the standing position. Pull your shoulders back at the top of the movement then return the weights to the floor. A trap bar can be used in place of the dumbbells.

Straight-Leg Deadlift

While the straight-leg deadlift doesn't work the quadriceps, it does work the same deep spinal muscles, glutes and hamstrings to the same extent that the barbell deadlift does. Stand with your feet slightly apart with a barbell resting on the floor in front of you. Bend forward at the waist, keeping your legs as straight as possible and grasp the bar with an overhand grip. With your arms relaxed, stabilize your core and push your hips forward to stand up straight. Bend forward and return to the initial position, but without returning the bar to the floor. Keep your back straight throughout the exercise to avoid injury.

Good Morning

The good morning is another alternative to the barbell deadlift as long as you avoid heavy weights and do not exceed a comfortable range of motion. The movement of this exercise works the glueus maximus, the spinal group and is especially effective for targeting the hamstrings. Stand with your feet slightly apart and a barbell resting across your upper back and shoulders. Secure the bar in place with a comfortable overhand grip. Contract your abdominal muscles, straighten your back then bend forward at the waist, keeping your legs as straight as possible. Use your glutes and hamstrings to push your hips forward, and return to the starting position.

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