The deadlift is a fantastic exercise that allows almost your entire body to be trained. However, the standard deadlift may not be the most effective to everyone. In this article, I will be discussing which deadlift is best for you.


Factors That Determine What is Best For You

Everyone is different. This also means that everyone has his or her own stance during a deadlift. This depends on one or more of the following factors.

  • Your build: do you have longer arms or longer legs?
  • Weaknesses in your physique, mobility or technique
  • Whether you are a powerlifter that is aiming for a higher 1RM
  • Pains or injuries that you might have
  • Personal preference: what feels best for you?
  • Your target muscles: do you want to focus on the quads, hamstrings or back?


Are You a Beginning Deadlifter?

An important part in the execution of the deadlift, is called the ‘hip hinge’. It is a flexion/extension movement that starts in the hip. First of all, the hip moves backwards, while simultaneously tipping the upper body forward. The entire back must stay straight and you head has to be in the neutral position. Next, you will turn the movement around, making you stand upright again.

As a beginner, it is common to not have the knowledge and/or capability to perform the standard- or sumo deadlift, both which heavily involve the hip hinge movement. You will first want to focus on this before taking the step to perform full deadlifts.

These variations on the deadlift are excellent to learn the hip hinge movement:

  • Kettlebell deadlift
  • Romanian deadlift (either with dumbbells or a barbell)
  • Block pull (until the execution is correct with respect to the lower back)

These exercises are great for working towards the standard deadlift:

  • Kettlebell deadlift
  • Block kettlebell deadlift
  • Romanian deadlift (either with dumbbells or a barbell)
  • Block deadlift
  • Trap bar deadlift


Are You a Powerlifter?

Powerlifters require prioritizing competition lifts, like the standard deadlift or the sumo deadlift. The variation that fits you depends on your build, mobility and personal preference.

The side exercises* that you will be performing with your competitive lift, depend on where you are weakest. I’m assuming that you possess proper technique and form.

If you are having difficulties locking out**, you can choose to perform the block/rack pull (heightening the ground you’re working on, resulting in you not having to lower yourself all the way) or a Romanian deadlift.

When you are experiencing problems during lift off***, you can choose to perform paused deadlifts or deficit deadlifts.

* Side exercises are movements that make your competitive deadlift stronger, because these specific exercises target your weaknesses.

** ‘Lock out’ is the last phase of the movement that is making you stand upright again.

*** ‘Lift off’ is the phase of the movement during which you are removing the weight from the ground.

Regular Deadlift

Sumo Deadlift

Is Your Mobility Limited?

If you are experiencing limited mobility, for example because of your ankles, the trap bar deadlift might best for you. Nonetheless, trying to improve mobility is recommended. B

The trap bar deadlift allows you to lift more weight than you would with a normal deadlift. This might have a different training effect, causing better muscle and strength development.


Targeting Specific Muscles With Deadlifts

The following deadlift variations target some muscles better than others, allowing you to train them more effectively.

  • Romanian deadlift – hamstrings and glutes
  • Deficit deadlift – lower back and quadriceps
  • Stiff legged deadlift – back
  • Snatch grip deadlift – back and trapezius
  • Trap bar deadlift – quadriceps
  • Block pull – back and trapezius


Having Lower Back Issues?

If your lower back is giving you a hard time on a regular base, you will want to consult a sports’ physiotherapist before seriously considering deadlifts.


The Deadlift is not For Everyone

Sometimes, the deadlift is just not suitable for someone. For example, keeping the back straight seems impossible. This is of the highest importance when it comes to deadlifts.

As with all exercises: proper form is key!

Don’t think you can cheat your body by being stubborn, as it may lead to injury or lasting complaints! Pick whatever exercise works for you.


In Conclusion

By now, you will know that there are a lot of different deadlift variations. Like everything in the fitness world though, it all depends on whether it works for you.

Have a look at your personal situation, your goals and limitations. It is also important to note that it can take a lot of time before you are really good at performing the deadlift movement.

Lastly, it is important to do whatever makes you feel good. If you thoroughly hate this exercise or if you are experiencing a lot of difficulty to perform the deadlift, don’t force it.

Pick whatever variant or exercise fits your personal needs.

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