How to make the deadlift more varied?

The deadlift is one of the basic exercises people do in the gym to strengthen the muscles in the entire body, especially the back muscles and hamstrings. Learn the variations of this classic exercise.

Agata Brama

Classic deadlift

The deadlift is one of the strength exercises where you lift a weight off the ground (a dead stop) up to your hips. It can be added both in training plans focused on building strength or muscular hypertrophy. In its traditional form, deadlift uses a classic barbell which should be up to your mid-shinbone. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and your hands should be shoulder-width apart.

However, this is not the only possible version of the deadlift. You can adapt that exercise in multiple ways by changing your grip, the position of your legs, the position of the weights, the type of the weights or adding some extras (such as resistance bands). Regardless of the deadlift version you choose, you need to keep in mind certain universal rules that must be followed:

  • Always keep your back stable in a neutral position.
  • Draw your shoulder blades and your shoulders back.
  • The abs should be tightened to stabilise your lower back.
  • Align your head with your back (do not tilt it upward).
  • While lifting the weights, keep them as closely to your body as possible (if you are using a barbell, it should touch your legs at all times).
  • Exhale as you are lifting the weight and inhale as you are putting it down (if you are lifting very heavy weights, you inhale when the weight is at the dead stop).


Single-leg deadlift

If you don’t find the deadlift on both legs exciting enough, you can always do a single-leg deadlift. It will certainly be necessary to lower the weight considerably as compared with other (more stable) versions of the deadlift.

There are two versions of the single-leg deadlift:

  • one of them is a deadlift on a (nearly) straight leg with the other leg up (the arabesque exercise),
  • the other is leaving the other leg on the ground (on tippy toes, slightly back) for stability. In case of the second variation, make sure the entire body weight should be on the working leg and that you hinge from the working hip.

You can do the two-versions of the single-leg deadlifts with a barbell or with dumbbells – in one hand or in both hands. When doing the single-leg deadlift with one dumbbell, please make sure you keep your torso stable and do not rotate it.

Just like the deadlift on stiff legs, this exercise will mainly engage the glutes as well as the ischial- and shin muscles. As you work on one side, the deep muscles will be more engaged (to keep balance).