The deadlift exercise is one of the most talked about on the planet. There is something truly awesome and primal about just ripping a heavy bar off the ground and then slamming it down. It makes you feel like Genghis Khan for a moment. Getting a huge deadlift takes time and considering the benefits it may be well worth the investment. A huge deadlift will make you run faster, jump higher and give you a bone crushing grip. The problem though is putting in the work to get there. Im not going to lie, its a grind. This is why I have devised a list of my favorite assistance exercises to improve your deadlift.
Deadlift Exercise #1: The Squat
If you are a frequent visiter of my website then you know how much I love squats. I believe squats are the single best exercise out there. Not only will it help out with overall athletics, but it will also help your deadlift. Squats train very similar muscle groups to the deadlift, and depending on which variation you choose, maybe the exact same muscle groups.The high bar back squat will require the lifter to keep an upright torso, similar to the front squat. This forces the quads and glutes to handle most, if not, all of the weight. The low bar back squat on the other hand allows the lifter to lean forward more. This allows the hamstrings and lower back to play a bigger role in the movement.
Now before you jump the gun and say you are going to go balls out on low bar back squats, hear me out first. Low bar back squats may work all of the same muscles as the deadlift, but this doesn’t mean you are going to necessarily build a huge deadlift from solely this technique alone. If your lower back and hamstrings are constantly fatigued from heavy squatting, then your not going to have an easy time going for that PR on your deadlift. The high bar squat may train less muscles than the low bar but this doesn’t mean it wont help. The quads are the prime movers for the deadlift in the bottom position. This is the position most people have trouble in. So the high bar can help you out here.
The verdict? Do both! Use one type of squat in your first training block and then use another for the second block and then just switch them up. Either way you should be doing some type of squatting motion in your workouts.
Deadlift Exercise #2: Good Mornings
Good mornings can assist both the squats and deadlifts. Good mornings have the bar on the back just like the squat. Unlike the squat though you just push your hips back and keep your knees slightly bent. This targets the hamstrings and glutes. It also teaches you to keep a neutral back when lifting, otherwise you are going to get hurt real quickly with good mornings.
In the second phase of the deadlift, when the bar clears the knees, the hamstrings will start to kick in and help extend the hips. If the hamstrings are weak, you will not be able to maintain a neutral back when pulling the bar. Thus trunk stability is also trained in this exercise.
Good mornings also help to train the posterior chain while putting very little torque on your knees. The patellar tendon needs to get a break from constant stress in order to avoid injury. This is especially true if you do high bar back squats.
Deadlift Exercise #3: Glute-Ham Developer (GHD)
Allow me to politely say this once, if your gym doesn’t have a GHD, then you have two options. Either cancel your gym membership and find a gym that has one; or you can modify your leg placement in a back extension machine to mimic some of the effects. Either way GHD is definitely not one to skip.
The GHD, unlike back extensions, trains solely the gluteal hamstring complex. The correct way to perform the exercise is to maintain a neutral back when going down and up. The glutes and hamstrings should be doing the majority of the work and the lower back should be there just to stabilize. In a mechanically sound athlete during hip extension, the glutes should always fire first followed by the hamstrings and then the lower back. For most people, the glutes are in a state of amnesia so the hamstrings take over for hip extension. When this happens, your chances of tearing your ischial tuberosity greatly increase.
GHDs greatly help to expose and strengthen this weakness. The posterior chain is the powerhouse of the human body. Without strengthening it and fine tuning it, your chances of achieving athletic excellence are are diminished.
Deadlift Exercise #4: Reverse Hyperextensions
The reverse hyperextension is a machine that trains the posterior chain of the lower body while at the same time rehabilitating the lower back. Louie Simmons, the inventor and owner of Westside Barbell, created this device when he sustained a spinal injury from years of competing as an elite lifter.
The device allows for proper training and activation of the glutes, hamstrings, abdominals and spinal erectors in a synchronous fashion. At the same time the device is opening up and relieving spinal compression in the lower back to relieve pain and increase circulation to the discs. The secret to the exercise is that while training all of the weaker muscles of the hip, it is able to do this without activation of the psoas. The psoas, when tight and overactive, can be a real problem for back pain.
This is why I chose this exercise, most new lifters have tremendous muscle imbalances that prevent them from achieving maximum strength in their workouts. To attempt to lift heavy ass weights with all of these imbalance is to beg for an injury. Reverse hypers will not only strengthen all the muscles necessary to give you a big deadlift, but it will also rehab you at the same time.
The exercises I selected are perfect for most individuals looking to get a bigger deadlift. Most other articles out there that offer deadlift exercise variations are for advanced lifters. These exercises will assist and cover 95% of the lifting population out there which are not elites. Elites are pulling close to 900+ lbs. Obviously their training needs are different from a lifter who can only deadlift 405 lbs.