On paper, the deadlift is as easy as they get. See that bar over there? Go pick it up. I have to imagine the deadlift has been around since prehistoric times – that it was the ultimate test of strength before there even were tests of strengths. “I bet I can pick that boulder up and you can’t.” That must be one of the reasons it’s taken on the moniker of “The King of Lifts.” That, and probably the fact that Eddie Hall has deadlifted 500kg. But ask any good lifter, Eddie included, the way you get stronger at the deadlift isn’t just by solely doing deadlifts. Here are five exercises to supplement your deadlift training.
5 Exercises to Add to Your Deadlift Training
1. Romanian Deadlifts
Romanian deadlifts are far and away my favorite supplemental exercise for deadlift training. It’s just one of those movements when you do it right, and you feel that burn deep in your hamstrings, you know you’re getting stronger.
The goal here is not compromising your back position to keep the focus on the hamstrings. This may mean your range of motion is drastically shorter than the yogi performing them next to you, but it doesn’t mean you’re doing them wrong or that you should compensate to match them.
As long as you’re feeling that slight tension through your hamstrings, then you’re doing them correctly. The RDL is a surefire way to add a few extra kilos to your deadlift in the not-to-distant future.
2. Single-Leg Deadlifts
Whoever said the only way to add weight to your deadlift was to lift heavy was a LIAR! Sometimes, taking a step back and reorganizing is the only way to move forward.
Enter the single-leg deadlift.
When performed with either a kettlebell or dumbbell, the single-leg deadlift is one of the best corrective exercises out there – plus, it’s always fun to watch people nearly topple over the first time they try it. It does a great job of firing up all those small, stabilizing muscles – as well as your trans abdominal muscles.
But more importantly, it allows the athlete to develop a strong sense of body awareness and proper hinging, both of which are essential when trying to deadlift safely.
3. Hip Thrusts
How come whenever I scroll through Instagram, bombarded by influencers trying to convince me they have the secret to a bigger booty, none of them are ever on the floor hip thrusting a Mack truck? You want a bigger booty – hip thrust. You want to add crazy weight to your deadlift – hip thrust.
I’m not sure there’s a better movement that specifically targets those cheeks like the hip thrust does. You’d be shocked how much weight you can move for high reps in the hip thrust, but that’s not its only benefit. Performed at bodyweight, or single-legged, the hip thrust (or glute bridge) is a great activation tool whether you’re deadlifting or squatting.
If you work a desk job, something that has you sitting the majority of the day, sometimes your glutes need a little more attention to wake up. The hip thrust can accomplish that and more!
4. Deficit/Elevated Pulls
This one is more athlete-centric. Where do you typically fail deadlifts? Is it just getting the bar off the floor or locking it out up top? For me personally, if the bar lifts even an inch off the ground, I’m finishing the rep. The lockout has never been a problem.
But for many other athletes, the opposite is true. That’s where the deficit, or elevated pull, comes in. Struggle with the initial pull from the ground? Try pulling from a deficit (i.e. by standing on plates). Struggle with the lockout? Try pulling from a platform (i.e. from a stack of plates or safeties in the rig).
Either variation allows you to hone in on the weakest part our your pull, oftentimes allowing you to overload the specific segment. Adding deficit or elevated pulls to your deadlift training will have you blasting through those sticking points in no time.
5. Glute-Ham Raises/Nordic Curls
Finally, the GHD. All around probably one of the best tools anyone can use, not only to boost their deadlift training, but also to keep their back strong and healthy.
Movements like the hip and back extension should be incorporated in everyone’s programming regardless of their goals. That being said, my favorite GHD-specific movement to complement your deadlift training has to be the glute-ham raise.
This surprisingly difficult movement is similar to the Romanian deadlift in that it utterly destroys your hamstrings. Strong hamstrings = a strong deadlift. This movement is undoubtedly one of the hardest exercises you can perform in the GHD. The best way to self-spot it is to hold a PVC pipe out in front of you and drive it into the ground to initially help yourself back up.
Don’t have a GHD? No problem. The Nordic curl is a great alternative and even easier to self-spot. You can use your arms to help yourself up like an explosive push and really challenge yourself to go slow during the lower, eccentric phase of the movement.
If you want to improve your deadlift training further, sign up for our free deadlift program, in partnership with 98 Gym.