7 effective alternatives to barbell deadlifts

Are you tired of doing barbell deadlifts in your workout routine? You’re not alone! Barbell deadlifts can be a great exercise for building strength, but they also can be intimidating and risky if not done correctly.

Fortunately, there are a number of alternatives to barbell deadlift exercises you can do that can provide similar benefits without the same risks.

woman standing at the top of single leg deadlift
woman working gluteus medius with single leg deadift

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced gym-goer, it’s important to consider alternative exercises when strength training.

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What is a barbell deadlift?

A deadlift is a compound exercise where you lift a weight off the ground using your legs, back and core muscles. The most common way to do a traditional deadlift is with a barbell, but you can also use dumbbells, kettlebells or other types of weights.

woman in motion doing barbell deadlift

When you do a deadlift, you start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and the weight on the ground in front of you. Then, you bend down and grab the weight with both hands, keeping your back straight and your core engaged. Next, you use your leg and back muscles to lift the weight until you’re standing fully upright. Finally, lower the weight back down to the ground in a controlled manner.

Deadlifts work various muscles, including your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, lower back and core. 

Benefits of alternative exercises

There are many benefits to incorporating alternative exercises to barbell deadlifts into your workout routine. Here are some of the key benefits:

  1. Reduced risk of injury: Deadlifts can be challenging, especially if you’re not using the proper form. Alternatives like dumbbell deadlifts or kettlebell swings can reduce your risk of injury and provide less stress on your lower back while still providing a similar workout.
  2. Target different muscle groups: Deadlifts primarily work your legs, back, and core, but alternative exercises can target other muscle groups like your arms, shoulders and hips. This can help you achieve a more well-rounded workout.
  3. Variety in your workout routine: Doing the same exercise over and over can get boring. Incorporating alternative exercises can keep your workout routine fresh and challenging, which can help you stay motivated and continue to see results.
  4. Convenience: Barbell deadlifts require access to a barbell and a lot of weight, which may not be available in all gyms or at home. Alternatives like dumbbell deadlifts or cable pull-throughs can be done with lighter weights or with equipment that’s more readily available.

Exercise alternatives to barbell deadlifts

If you want to switch up your workout routine or reduce your risk of injury, alternative exercises to barbell deadlifts can be a great option. Here are seven exercises to consider:

Dumbbell deadlifts

  • Stand up tall with your feet shoulder-width apart with one dumbbell in each hand, palms facing you.
  • Engage your abs and hinge your hips back as you slowly lower the dumbbells toward the middle of your shins.
  • Use your glutes and hamstrings to lift the weights back up to standing position. 

Variations: Trap bar deadlift, single-leg Romanian deadlift, Sumo deadlift, Smith machine deadlift

Glute bridge

woman doing floor bridges to improve running
  • Lie on your back with your knees bent at 90 degrees and hip-width apart. 
  • Place a dumbbell across your hips and secure it with your hands. 
  • Push your hips into the air, squeezing your glutes hard throughout the movement. 
  • Pause at the top for 1-2 seconds and slowly lower your body back to the floor. 
  • Repeat. 

Kettlebell swings

woman doing kettlebell swing
  • Stand with your legs slightly wider than hip-width. Grip a kettlebell in both hands, letting it hang in front of you. Lower your body into a half-squat, hinging forward at the hips to bring the kettlebell back toward your butt.
  • Swing the kettlebell forward using only your hip hinge and arm muscles—tighten your core and keep your spine straight to avoid using your lower back.
  • Keep the kettlebell swinging up until it is either at chest height.
  • As the weight comes down, hinge at the hips and let the kettlebell swing toward your butt again.
  • Repeat.

Cable pull-throughs

woman in long sleeve shirt and leggings doing cable pull through
woman in long sleeve shirt and leggings doing cable pull through
  • Set the cable in the lowest position and attach a rope to the end of the cable machine.
  • Stand over the top of the rope facing away from the cable machine. Grab the rope and walk away from the anchor point until you feel some resistance.
  • While keeping your arms straight and core engaged, bend over at the hips and allow the pulley system to drive the rope and your hips back toward the column.
  • Pause at the bottom and squeeze your glutes together for a strong lockout. Hinge, then drive yourself back to the top position.

Variations: Resistance band pull throughs

Good mornings

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with a neutral spine and head straight.
  • Place a loaded barbell behind your neck. Bend your knees slightly but keep your lower back straight as you hinge forward at the hips, with your weight primarily on your heels.
  • Lower your upper body until you’re close to a 90-degree angle.
  • Using only the muscles in your hips and pelvis, push your upper body back into the starting position.

Hip thrust

posterior chain hip thrust
  • Sit on the floor with your legs bent and feet flat and your upper back resting against a flat bench. Rest and hold a dumbbell (or dumbbells) across your hips.
  • Drive your feet into the floor and lift your hips, forming a straight line with your knees and shoulders. Pause with your glutes fully contracted for 1-2 seconds.
  • Lower your butt back down to the floor and repeat.

Tip: Keep your chin tucked throughout the entire movement.

Kettlebell deadlift

woman doing kettlebell deadlift
  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and a kettlebell placed between your feet.
  • Push your hips backward while hinging and maintaining a straight back.
  • Bend the knees slightly, keeping your back straight with your chest lifted.
  • Grab the handles of the kettlebell with both hands.
  • Push into the ground to stand up with straight arms and lift the kettlebell just above the knees.
  • Keep your glutes tight and do not lean backward.

FAQs about deadlift alternatives

While barbell deadlifts are great, they can be challenging for some people and carry a higher risk of injury. By incorporating alternative exercises, you can reduce your risk of injury and target different muscle groups for a more well-rounded workout.

Alternative exercises can be as effective as barbell deadlifts, especially when targeting specific muscle groups. By switching up your routine and challenging your muscles in new ways, you can continue to see progress and improvements.

Incorporate alternative exercises into your training program once or twice a week. It can be a great way to switch things up and challenge your muscles with different exercises.

Looking for additional lower body exercises?

Strength training is an excellent way to improve your overall health and grain strength and muscle mass. Add these exercises and workouts into your routine.

Best deadlift assistance exercises to improve your deadlift

woman preparing for rack pull exercise in squat rack

Looking to improve your deadlift? Add these exercises into your strength training and watch your strength improve.

Cable machine exercises for your legs

woman doing cable squat using cable leg machine exercises

Busy gym? You can get in a great lower body workout with one cable machine.

Exercises with resistance bands for glutes

woman using resistance bands for glute exercises

You don’t need any weights at all. Just grab a resistance band and you can do this workout at home.

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