The deadlift is one of the most difficult and taxing exercises in the weight room, and performing it correctly requires strength, discipline, and diligence, which is probably why so many people just decide to skip it altogether. You shouldn’t be one of those people! This exercise builds explosive power in your legs, much like a squat, and helps to strengthen your back, too.
But if you don’t have a giant weight rack at your disposal, or you’re nursing a bad back, or you’re just reluctant to do anything that can cause you to leak blood on the middle of your set—seriously, don’t click on this link unless you’re prepared to have nightmares—these fitness professionals have some sweet ideas about exercises that you can try instead.
Idalis Velazquez: Sumo deadlift. This is a deadlift performed while standing on a weight plate or short platform, usually between one and four inches high. Your feet are on the outside of the platform, with your toes pointing more outward—you know, like a sumo wrestler—than they do during a regular deadlift. The increased range of motion recruits more of the posterior chain and quads, and the wider stance helps you activate the glute muscles, too.
Ben Booker: Block pulls. I love the deadlift, but doing it wrong can lead to serious back injuries, and ain’t nobody got time for that. Instead, get a trainer to teach you block pulls, also known as rack pulls. Use a loaded bar that is already at or above the knee, and keep the barbell no further than one-half inch away from the body at all times. Do not round your back, and as you pull, keep the hips driving forward and chest up. This keeps you out of the “danger zone” from the shin to knee, but still allows you to target that posterior chain like only the deadlift can.
Jay Cardiello: Reverse hypers. I used this exercise to build strength in my hips and back after a severe spinal injury that required 13 surgeries, two of which were spinal fusions, to fix. So, yeah, it’ll probably work for you, too. Lay facedown on a bench with your torso and waist flat against it. Grasping the bench, keep your legs straight and extend your hips to raise your legs parallel to the floor. Slowly lower back to floor.
Gideon Akande: Single-leg deadlift. Bilateral movements are great for building strength, but building stability and balance are necessary, too. Try performing the deadlift with a single leg to separately train each side for optimal strength. Keep your back flat with your body weight towards your heel, and slightly bend your planted knee—that is, the leg you’re working.
Alexia Clark: Mini band hamstring curl. Lay flat on your stomach with your chest off the ground and attach mini band around your calves. Slowly curl your legs as close to your butt as possible, keeping tension on the mini band throughout the movement, like this. This exercise may look simple, but it will light up your high hamstring and glutes to improve your deadlift.