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17 Exercises to Improve Deadlift Strength Immediately

Aug 17, 2018

Are you looking for exercises to improve deadlift strength?

Well, you’re in luck, in this blog post we’re going to be going over several different exercises to improve deadlift strength.

Before we do that, let’s go into a little detail about the deadlift so you can have a better understanding when it comes to improving your deadlift strength.

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Now onto the deadlift introduction…


Exercises to Improve Deadlift Strength: The Deadlift Basics

Did you know that in the gym, the deadlift is often referred to as The King of all Exercise?

The goal sounds simple enough — see that really heavy barbell over there?

Now go pick it up.

Objectively, that seems like a simple task that doesn’t require much thinking or technique.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

When broken down, the deadlift it a very technical lift, and it can be quite difficult to master.

It might appear that the movement is simply a hip hinge which is something we do subconsciously in many of our daily activities.

However, it’s not so simple when heavy, heavy loading is involved.

The deadlift is a brutal movement and may be the trickiest of all in terms of execution due to its insanely high cost to the central nervous system (CNS).trapbar deadlift

If not done properly, with excellent form, heavy deadlifting can either end up with real benefits, or have disastrous results with pain, injury, and time away from the gym.

Some lifters will work best by pulling heavy every week, while others do better by pulling heavy every other week.

Some prefer to mix in challenging sessions throughout the week, while others prefer to avoid the movement altogether until it’s time to max.

Finding the optimal frequency, intensity, and exercise selection that works for you is the key to excelling in this lift.


Other Ways to Improve Deadlifting Strength

This said, along with deadlifting, there are other exercises that will help improve your performance that should be incorporated into your workout pattern as well.

These exercises consist of both compounds as well as isolation based movements, which will strengthen the muscles that are utilized most when doing deadlifts.

Since deadlifts are still the main move you are trying to gain strength with and they are so intense, keep in mind that when structuring your workout session, you will still want to perform those first.

Then, once you’re finished with the deadlifts, you can follow up with some of the exercises noted below.

This will form a complete workout session that will have you seeing results before you know it.

Check out one of our past article for the benefits of the different types of deadlifts for an even further list of deadlift types you can do and benefit from

When the weights start to get heavy, grip strength becomes a large limiting factor for a majority of lifters.

Many lifters will need to incorporate some type of grip training into their programming to counteract this.

While many exercises will strengthen the grip — such as simply performing deadlift warm-up sets with double overhand grip, bent over rows, shrugs, chins, rows, and lugging dumbbells around — great exercises for targeting grip strengthening include: farmers walk, bench squeezes, 1-arm static hangs, and the gripper.

Source: Bret Contreras


What Else Helps?

It is also recommended that you get rid of your straps, or use chalk rather than straps.

One of the most overlooked aspects of deadlifts is the forearms. Our forearms are responsible for holding onto the weight and can be holding you back.

Take the time out to strengthen your grip.

The best grip builder is simply deadlifting without the use of straps. In addition to that switch grips, utilize a hook grip or even a double overhand.

Try to use your straps on only a handful of sets, not your entire workout.

These following assistance exercises will help you make the most of your deadlifts.

Incorporating them into your training program will not only improve your technique but eventually, you will also increase the amount of weight you can lift.

Related Article: Can Deadlifts Help Lower Back Pain?


Here are the Exercises to Improve Deadlift Strength

Farmer’s Walks

farmer's walk - exercises to improve deadlift strengthThe first main exercise to improve deadlift strength is the farmers walk.

One of the most important aspects to deadlifting is your grip strength and that’s mostly what this exercise focuses on.

Having a weak grip will negatively affect your performance.

If you can’t hold onto the bar, how do you expect to execute the movement properly?

Having a super-solid grip will enable you to lift heavy loads.

Grab a set of heavy dumbbells and start walking.

Source: Stack

While the pick height is a bit higher than the barbell on a deadlift, and the weight is to your sides rather than in front of you, each one of these essentially starts with a heavy and fast deadlift variation.

Much of the same musculature is trained on the farmers to pick and walk as the deadlift.

The pick really focuses on the hamstrings, glutes, lower back, upper back, traps, abs, and quads.

Once you begin moving forward, each leg is working unilaterally and the hips and stabilizer muscles in the legs are getting hit very hard.

Your abs and low back have to brace and support you, and your calves get involved as well.

The jarring and moving with the weights really hammers your grip.

Source: EliteFTS


One-Arm Dumbbell Rows

One-Arm Dumbbell Rows - exercises to improve deadlift strengthThe second on our list of exercises to improve deadlift strength is dumbbell rows.

If you want to pull some serious weight off the floor, you need a strong upper back.

Moreover, developing your upper-back musculature can improve your posture, which translates to optimal positioning for the deadlift.


Barbell Rows

Barbell Rows - exercises to improve deadlift strengthThe third on our list of exercises to improve deadlift strength is barbell rows.

Widely considered to be one of the more important lifts, barbell rows should be a staple in any basic weight training or powerlifting program.

These put an enormous amount of pressure on your lower back and forces you to maintain a solid neutral or arched position throughout the movement.

In addition, the rowing motion really works your middle back and lats.

This is basically an all-around mass builder that will add strength and stability throughout your back.

Do this with a double overhand grip to avoid bicep stress and focus on your grip strength.

These are an accessory lift, but if you keep your form solid you can really go heavy with these barbell rows and see some good results carry over into your deadlifts.


Exercises to Improve Deadlift Strength: Front Squat

Front Squat - exercises to improve deadlift strengthThe fourth on our list of exercises to improve deadlift strength is the front squat.

Your legs need to be very strong, as the deadlift requires leg drive.

If you want to build strong legs, you must do some form of squatting.

The front squat is a great exercise because it requires a thoracic extension (chest high), and, in contrast to the back squat, it reduces torque on the knees and puts minimal compression on the spine.

The front squat exerts maximal muscle gain with minimal risk.

Some people have found that they can recover from front squats faster than back squats and as your front squat goes up, so does your deadlifts.

A heavy bar across the back, twice a week, can be pretty taxing to the CNS and to the body overall.

These also help strengthen the upper and lower back and will help keep them in extension when pulling heavyweights.

If you’re not a strongman, you may want to use these as an accessory movement after your main squat.

Source: EliteFTS

Related Article: How Do Squats Make Your Upper Body Bigger – Here’s How…


Block Pulls

block pulls - exercises to improve deadlift strengthThe fifth exercise to improve deadlift strength is block pulls (or rack pulls)

With block pulls you place the weight on elevated blocks from 2-6″ in height and execute a deadlift from this elevated position.

There are multiple benefits to this exercise, including overloading.

Since the blocks take the bottom 1/3 to 1/2 of the movement away, you can typically handle more weight and overload the top end of the movement.

The emphasis is on the middle and top portion of the lift.

You will not be able to initiate the lift with your legs.

This will add strength and muscle to your low and mid back and help you increase your regular pull.

These can be cycled in on your deadlift day as a secondary movement as well.


Deficit Deadlifts

Deficit Deadlifts - exercises to improve deadlift strengthThe sixth exercise to improve deadlift strength is the deficit deadlift.

This is simply pulling a normal deadlift while standing on a 2.5-inch block or a 100 lb plate.

Deficit deadlifts are a very challenging exercise.

They have been a popular movement in many strong pullers’ programs for quite a while now.

The increased range of motion forces your body to fight to keep good pulling position and also puts your muscles under increased tension, which can lead to increased gains in strength and mass.

Deficit deadlifts really help you initiate the movement with leg drive.

A good place to add these in is the second movement after your normal pulls, on your deadlift day.


Snatch Grip Deadlifts

snatch grip deadlift - - exercises to improve deadlift strengthThe seventh exercise to improve deadlift strength is the snatch grip deadlift.

By widening your grip out to the collars, or as close as possible, you are automatically increasing the distance you need to pull.

This will force you to really lower your hips and use your leg muscles to initiate the lift.

The nature of the snatch grip puts a lot of stress on your upper back and traps as well as your mid back and erectors.

A snatch grip deadlift basically just takes a tough lift and makes it tougher.

Source: House of Muscle


Speed Deadlifts

The 8th main exercise to improve deadlift strength is the speed deadlifts.

They can be very beneficial and help with improving deadlifts.

Even when incorporating plenty of explosive work (power cleans, box jumps, etc.), adding speed deadlifts regularly can still have an impact.

Remember to always “Pull with authority!” The weight is going to feel pretty light, but pull it like you’re going for a new PR—every single rep.


Exercises to Improve Deadlift Strength: Romanian Deadlift (RDL)

romanian deadlift - exercises to improve deadlift strengthThe 9th exercise to improve deadlift strength is the Romanian deadlift.

The Romanian deadlift places a huge emphasis on the development of your posterior chain—muscles that are critical if you want to get stronger, run faster and jump higher.


Pause Deadlifts

The 10th exercise to improve deadlift strength is the pause deadlift.

If you having a hard time passing any particular point of the deadlift try to decrease the weights and perform deadlifts with a pause in the position you’re having trouble with.

Focusing on this part will help you increase your strength for that particular section of the lift.

Source: Deadlift Fitness


Glute Ham Raises

glute ham raises - exercises to improve deadlift strengthThe 11th exercise to improve deadlift strength is the glute ham raises.

Glute ham raises can help make a difference with your strength off the floor.

These can be done in a variety of different ways depending on the training block.

One version is to do 3-4 sets of 5-8 reps holding a weight plate behind your head.

Another great way of doing them is to do 4 sets of 10-12 reps with very short rest periods (about 20 to 30 seconds).


Good Mornings

good mornings - - exercises to improve deadlift strengthThe 12th exercise to improve deadlift strength is good mornings

Good mornings are great for strengthening the muscles running up and down the spinal column, which will be heavily involved whenever you’re performing deadlifts.

It is also good for building balance and agility, so are very helpful when performing deadlifts.

When doing these, remember lighter weight is typically better.

These can place you at a risk for injury if you aren’t careful to use absolutely perfect form, so go lighter and perform a few more reps.

You still definitely want to challenge yourself, but at the same time, don’t strain your back.


Hanging Leg Raises

The 13th exercise to improve deadlift strength is hanging leg raises.

Just as with squats, a strong core is critical when deadlifting.

In fact, most of those who deadlift heavy notice that their core muscles are already built up very well, simply from doing that move.

Whether you realize it or not, your core is going to be very engaged in the exercise whenever you’re doing deadlifts.

So the stronger your core, the better your performance will be.

Hanging leg raises are perfect for building up a strong core.

They take great strength to keep the body still.

Avoid using momentum as you lift the legs upward toward the hands.

If you can’t quite do these with good form, then perform lying leg raises until you can.

Avoid using the captain’s chair however since, with that back pad right against you, it’ll take away much of the core strength that’s needed to lift the legs upward.


Hip Thrusts

hip thrusts - - exercises to improve deadlift strengthThe 14th exercise to improve deadlift strength is hip thrusts.

Hips thrusts are a good exercise to include in your routine if you want to build up your deadlifts.

This move primarily focuses on the glutes, which plays a part when doing deadlifts as well.

When performing your hips thrusts, you want to really focus on squeezing straight up through the glute muscles only.

It’s very easy to “cheat” with this move, and end up mainly using your quads and hamstrings.

While it’s likely that the hamstrings will be used to some degree, they shouldn’t be the primary muscle driving the movement.

You can do this move with a barbell across your hips, using a pad if necessary.


Exercises to Improve Deadlift Strength: Shrugs

Shrugs - exercises to improve deadlift strengthThe 15th spot on our list of exercises to improve deadlift strength is shrugs.

Shrugs are the next move that you may want to get into your program plan to help assist your deadlifts.

And also help you build the physique you want.

It will hit your trap muscles, which are going to come into play and help you hold that heavy weighted barbell as you rise up through the movement.

Heavy barbell shrugs are a great exercise to add to the tail end of your workout session.

Whether done on a deadlifting day itself or done on a back or shoulder day instead.

You’ll want to do a few more reps whenever you’re performing shrugs.

As this muscle tends to be more of an endurance one.

You can aim for sets of 15-20 reps for best results.


Hamstring Curls

Hamstring Curls - exercises to improve deadlift strengthThe 16th exercise to improve deadlift strength is hamstring curls.

Your hamstrings will be working hard as you move through the exercises to improve deadlift strength.

You want to be sure they aren’t the weakest link.

While the best exercises for strengthening the hamstrings will always be the compound movements — squats, deadlifts themselves, lunges, and so on — you shouldn’t completely forget about hamstring curls.

This isolation move is great when performed at the very end of your workout session to fully help exhaust the hamstring muscle, bringing it to that complete state of fatigue where you see remarkable strength progress.

Consider doing single leg hamstring curls as you add them into your workout to ensure that no muscular imbalances exist.

Hamstring curls can be performed towards the end of the session as well.

Once all the rest of your lower body work is done.


Exercises to Improve Deadlift Strength: Step Ups

Step Ups - exercises to improve deadlift strengthThe 17th exercise to improve deadlift strength is step ups.

Finally, step-ups are an exercise that you’ll want to consider adding into the equation for maximizing your deadlifts.

Step-ups are great because they’ll work the hamstrings, glutes, and quads.

All in one single movement, while also working the core.

Basically, they’ll hit many of the same exercises that the basic deadlift does, only in a totally different movement pattern.

Step ups are also an excellent movement for working on your balance capability, so you will see the benefits of this move transfer over to not just the deadlift, but all the other exercises you do throughout your workout program.

You can do this exercise with a barbell or by holding a set of dumbbells.

Whichever method is most comfortable for you.

Just make sure you don’t lean forward with step ups as this can quickly become very stressful on your lower back, and possibly result in an injury.


Timed Deadlift Holds

At the end of your deadlift day, your grip has already been through a lot.

Consider adding in a set of double overhand deadlift holds.

Grab a weight that’s about 50% of your max and deadlift it double overhand.

Make it really challenging for yourself and use the worst bar your gym has, or even go without chalk.

Deadlift the weight and just hold it for 60 seconds.

If that’s too easy, you can add time or weight.

By the end of the set, you will feel it in your forearms, and your grip will gradually improve.

Do 1-2 sets as the last movement on deadlift day.

Related Article: How Often Should I Deadlift?


Exercises to Improve Deadlift Strength – Conclusion

These assistance exercises, when combined along with deadlifts, will give you the best overall progress towards building the strong and powerful body you want.

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Check The Dark Iron Fitness Leather Weight Belt For Squats and Deadlifts 

Your muscles respond best to continual variety and constant challenges, so by adding these different moves into your routine, you’ll keep your muscles guessing as to what’s coming next.

Remember that you shouldn’t ever add all of these exercises to improve deadlift strength or moves into your workout program at once, but rather cycle through them, adding them gradually as you go along to keep your muscles responding efficiently.

To learn more about accessory movements that will improve your deadlift, check out this great article from our friends over at Strong Fit Living.

Watch Below: How to Increase Your Deadlift Strength with 3 Easy Tips: