At some point you will have performed or witnessed a conventional deadlift - feet hip-width apart, hands outside legs but slightly wider than shoulders, and body in a position similar to a squat with the bar at arms length. But are you missing out on four key variations?
Deadlift variations will work better for different people based on their goals, injury history, and height/body proportions. And they will improve your conventional deadlift form too.
Rack pulls are half a conventional deadlift, starting with the bar raised higher off the floor. If you lack the mobility to lift from the floor, then these are a great option for you. They are also a great way of overloading the muscles you use in a conventional deadlift, because you will be able to lift about 30% more doing rack pulls. Loading up the back during this lift helps develop the upper phase of a deadlift. During this phase most lifters fail or lose form completely so it pays to focus on it.
With a stance that looks similar to Yokozuna preparing to engage an opponent, Sumo Deadlifts are often the forgotten lift. They change the emphasis of the lift and place more work on the hips and quads. However, many lifters are unsure how to position their feet when adopting the slightly wider stance.
When doing the sumo deadlift focus on keeping your knees out wide and pushing your feet out to the sides as if you are trying to spread the floor apart with your feet. At the same time bring your hips forward. This will improve leverage and allow you to lift more weight.
Trap Bar Deadlift
The trap bar deadlift is another variation that takes pressure off the lower back and places it on the quads. Some trainers even refer to it as a hybrid between squats and deadlifts. This type of deadlift uses a Trap or Hex bar (see blog pic above) with the user standing inside. It helps to reduce the amount of sheer force on the spine, as the long lever is shortened along a horizontal axis. Boom! Up goes more weight!
Romanian deadlifts (RDL) place a greater influence on the glutes and hamstrings. It is a great choice for lifters with knee problems. To perform an RDL properly make sure that you bend your knees slightly (they should not be confused with stiff leg deadlifts!) Start from the top and hinge at the hips, keeping constant tension in the hamstrings. But good luck walking to work the next day.
It is not only the type of deadlift that can vary, but also the equipment used to perform them. Kettlebells, ViPRs, barbells, dumbbells and weight plates can all be used to perform deadlifts.
Pick a variation, choose your weight and get deadlifting!
And don’t forget how handy chalk can be. If your grip lets you down, then there’s only so much weight you’ll be able to lift, so chalk up those hands with some liquid chalk and get lifting!