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7 Deadlift Alternatives to Help You Dominate Your Workouts

Deadlifts are basically the best full body movement out there, targeting everything from your traps to your calves and quite honestly everything in between if done properly.

However, much like the bench and squat, you may be looking for great deadlift alternatives  because of injury or some other thing that may prevent you from deadlifting. Or you may just be looking to sprinkle in some variety into your training. 

Did your favorite deadlift alternative make the list?

Table of Contents

  • Block Pulls
  • Romanian Deadlift aka R.D.L
  • Deficit Deadlift
  • Single-Leg RDL with a Dumbbell
  • Bulgarian Split Squat
  • Pendlay Row
  • Farmer Walk

Block Pulls

What You Need:

  • Barbell
  • Plates
  • Something to elevate the bar, either blocks or plates to set underneath

Block pulls are a style of deadlift that reduces the range of motion in the lift so the athlete can focus solely on the upper portion of the lift.

Setting the bar and plates on an elevated surface, or pins if nothing is available, the bar is raised to typically mid to upper shin. The height of the elevation will depend on how much ROM you are wanting. The average most people do is about 1-3 inches of total elevation.

This top end in the range of motion puts a greater demand on loading the hips and back. One thing that is misunderstood about this lift however is while some people CAN lift more weight this way, some lifters actually find the higher starting position harder to initiate the lift, especially in conventional.

How to Move

  1. Elevate the barbell to your desired height. We recommend 1-3 inches.
  2. Set your grips and stance in your traditional deadlift position
  3. Have your shoulders in line with the barbell, which may result in a slightly forward lean.
  4. Brace your core, tuck your lats into your back pockets and shove your hips forward
  5. Keep the barbell close to you throughout the pull
  6. Squeeze your glutes at the top (but don’t overextend them)
  7. Lower the barbell
  8. Repeat the Rep

Romanian Deadlift aka R.D.L

What You Need:

  • Barbell
  • Plates
  • Or dumbbells

The Romanian Deadlift aka R.D.L is a deadlift alternative that focuses on the rear and low back of a lifter.

The athlete will start and hinge heavily at the hips, pushing them more back than a regular deadlift. There should be VERY little knee bend in this exercise, just enough to activate your hamstrings and keep your body safe.

This is a pretty taxing exercise on your grip as the barbell (when performed correctly anyway) should rarely touch the ground. You can counteract the taxing grip by using straps. To ensure you can get a good range of motion, some athletes choose to stand on a block while performing the R.D.L.

How to Move

  1. Start with the barbell resting on the ground and get into your normal deadlift position
  2. Lift the bar off of the ground exactly as you would a traditional deadlift.
  3. At the top, break at the hips and PUSH your butt towards the wall
  4. Think about keeping your weight on your heels during the movement
  5. Go down until you feel a good amount of tension in your glutes and hamstrings then squeeze them to go back up.
  6. Repeat

Deficit Deadlift

What You Need:

  • Barbell
  • Plates
  • Small Elevation/Plates to stand on

Deficit deadlifts are the polar opposite deadlift alternative to block pulls.

The lifter will stand on an elevated area, typically extra horse stall mats or plates which increases the range of motion on the deadlift.

The deficit actually helps some get a better pull by forcing them to think more about hip position. While this is a bit more advanced than a regular deadlift, you would be remiss not to have it in your training routine from time to time.

How to Move

  1. Set up the mats or plates in your preferred stance.
  2. Position yourself closer to the barbell than you would with a regular deadlift, but place your hands in their typical spot.
  3. Set your hips to the spot where you feel your hamstrings start to activate, this may be slightly lower than a typical deadlift.
  4. Start by “pushing the floor away.
  5. Finish the deadlift in the same way you would regularly
  6. Set it back down safely and repeat the process.

Single-Leg RDL with a Dumbbell

What You Need:

  • Dumbbell…

Ok, we know we already talked about the RDL… But that one was with a barbell.
The single leg RDL is an exercise that is basically exactly like a barbell movement, but just a bit different.

The movement is changed by placing one leg in the back of the other to focus more heavily on a single limb at a time, which forces you to work on imbalances and also work with a bit lighter weight.

While you won’t be able to go as heavy on the single leg variation, this is about building more muscle and improving motor control within the whole posterior chain as a whole.

How to Move

  1. Grab a dumbbell (or kettlebell) in each hand
  2. Place one foot behind the other, balancing lightly on the back foot toes, while focusing highly on the front foot for weight.
  3. Hinge at the hip, pushing your glutes back towards the wall while having a minimal bend in the front knee.
  4. Keep your hips neutral, and lats tucked into your pockets.
  5. The dumbbells will still be hanging semi-in front of you instead of close to your shins/body
  6. Return to the top, repeat until done with one side, then start again.

Bulgarian Split Squat

What You Need:

  • Dumbbells/Kettlebells
  • Bench

Bulgarian Split Squats are the bane of many lifters existence, but may be considered the king of single let movements.

When taking the stance for a BSS, you’ll want to take a long stance, similar to a lunge, however your rear foot will be elevated off of the ground.

The movement can be done with any way to elevate the rear foot and any kind of weight to provide a stimulus. Some people like using a bench and smith machine and other psychos prefer to have dumbbells and a banded variation.

The big benefits of the Bulgarian Split Squat is that you are working on imbalances by focusing on one side at a time instead of both legs at the same time.

How to Move

  1. Set your bench in the right spot
  2. Place one foot in front of the bench and the other on top. We rest the top of our foot on the bench.
  3. Like a lunge, legs should be roughly shoulder width, or slightly closer
  4. Grab the weight in your hands as you get balanced properly
  5. Lower yourself until you hit 90 degrees, focusing on putting the weight in the heel of your front foot
  6. Drive through your foot so you hit the top, focusing on squeezing your ass.
  7. Repeat the terrible, terrible process.

This is also a great addition to our Squat Alternative article, which you should check out as well!

Pendlay Row

What You Need:

  • Barbell
  • Plates
  • Perhaps Wrist Wraps

At first glance, the Pendlay Row may seem incredibly different from the deadlift, however it requires athletes to have incredible core stability and lat strength to move in the right rowing motion.

While performing the row, your back should be parallel to the ground as you row, your glutes should be flexed HARD and your brain should be screaming in pain and fear.

This isn’t a perfect replacement however and can be used in partnership with the Bulgarian split squat to make sure you hit the entirety of the muscles you are looking to torture.

How to Move

  1. Take your bench press grip on the bar, while it is resting on the ground
  2. The barbell should be a few inches away from your legs in the starting position
  3. Engage your core with a slight bend in your knees while your back is parallel to the floor
  4. Row the bar and touch your chest. Focus on hitting around the sternum area.
  5. Avoid to much body movement as you perform the row
  6. Return the barbell to the ground, coming to a complete stop at the body.
  7. Breath, Flex, Repeat

Farmers Walk

What You Need:

  • Dumbbells
  • Kettlebells
  • Or Farmers Handles

The farmers walk is a solid full body exercise that will benefit your deadlift in a million different ways.

When done properly, this exercise works on your grip, your posture, leg strength and cardiovascular recovery abilities.

Not every gym has the space for this, however you can also march in place or hop on a treadmill (though this isn’t highly recommended).

To do a true heavy farmers walk, some people even will use a belt to make sure they stay safe and don’t trip coming out of the gate.

How to Move

  1. Load the farmer implements or grab some heavy dumbbells
  2. Squat down to pick them up, bracing your core firmly and locking in your back.
  3. Walk with your chest up and shoulders flexed
  4. Walk for your prescribed distance, set down, turn around, do the boogie and repeat.
  5. Take short, precise steps instead of long strides to avoid tripping, trust us on that one.

Reasons to Choose a Deadlift Alternative

When it comes to picking alternatives to the deadlift, the exercises we provided should give you more than enough options.

You can always mix things up in your workouts if you are feeling injured, tired or bored. Remember, training should be fun, not something you dread on a daily basis.

Have you ever gotten to implement some of these into your training sessions to keep the fun level high and the excitement cool?



If you are looking to follow and learn from some amazing people and powerlifters follow the links below or read this article for some great stories. Or if you are looking for programming, you can find one of our free programs here or you can reach out to one of our team members to see how to take your training to the next level.

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