6 Exercise Alternatives To Deadlifts: Everything You Need To Know
Are you someone who, for any reason, can’t perform deadlifts? Then you came to the right place as I've listed six alternatives to deadlifts that will allow you to still make a balanced lower body workout routine.
Nothing beats a deadlift when it comes to growing muscles, building strength, and increasing fat burning abilities. However, many people can't deadlift; just like me. If you have reduced mobility or have a long history of injuries, then it may be ideal to check on some great exercise alternatives, like the ones listed below.
1. Hamstring Curls
If you like to get the muscles of your lower body get worked up like in deadlifts, hamstring curls are a great isolation exercise to substitute. Hamstring curls target the muscles behind your thigh and the glutes. There are many ways in doing this exercise, but my favorite is on the floor and with a machine.
For simplicity, perform hamstring curls on the floor. Here are the steps:
- With an exercise mat on the floor, lie on your stomach and rest your hands in front of you.
- Now, start lifting both feet by bending the knees toward your buttocks. While lifting, make sure that your back is straight. If you want more resistance, add some weight by strapping ankle weights on your lower legs, or grasping a light dumbbell between your feet.
- Slowly lower your feet down. Repeat and perform 8 to 12 reps.
Another way of doing the hamstring curls is to use a leg curl machine, like this one. To begin, lie down on the machine with the padded cylinder behind your lower legs and grab the handles in front of you. Now, start lifting the cylinder with your legs by bending your knees, keeping your back straight, and your hips fixed on the flat bench.
Watch how a hamstring curl is performed on a leg curl machine in this video.
To target your quads and thighs, perform lunges. This exercise can help shape your legs and backside to be ready for the next bikini season. While doing the lunges, it’s important that you know the basics so you’re not risking yourself to injuries.
When lunging, keep your shoulders back, upper body straight, and chin up. You can prevent yourself from looking down by selecting a point to stare in front. As you step one leg forward, lower your hips until your bent knees formed a 90-degree angle.
Watch how to properly perform lunges in this.
There are many variations of lunges. You can do the front lunge, reverse lunge, and side lunge. To do the front lunge, just step one foot forward and lower your body until your knees are bent to 90 degrees. Now, drive the heel of the front foot to push back up. Repeat all necessary reps on one leg and switch to the other leg to complete one set.
Instead of stepping one foot forward, the reverse lunge requires you to step one leg backward. For the side lunge, do a big step to the right, bend your right knee, and use the right foot to get back to center. You can alternate side to side or do 20 reps on each leg.
3. Jefferson Squats
The Jefferson squats are a great strength exercise to work your quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Throughout the exercise, you’ll also be working your main stabilizer muscles, like lower back, calves, and adductors. According to lifter David Dellanave, the Jefferson squat is a great exercise to those who don’t want to strain their back on a full deadlift.
Here’s an informative demo of the Jefferson squats.
For this exercise, the equipment you'll need is a barbell. To perform, here are the steps:
- With the barbell on the floor, step over it and position your feet at a 45-degree angle to the bar.
- Squat down and rotate your upper body to bring your hands to the bar. Put one hand in front of you and the other hand at the back.
- Lift the bar up by pushing through the heels of your feet. As you do this, make sure that your feet are shoulder-width apart and slightly point your toes outwards.
- As you reach the top movement, lower the bar back to the floor by bending your knees and keeping your back straight. Make sure that your knees don’t cave in and they stay in line with your toes.
- Perform two sets for 8-10 reps and alternate direction in between sets.
4. Bent Over Rows
The bent over rows is a strength exercise that targets your middle back, as well as your biceps, lats, and shoulders. This exercise puts more focus on the upper back as compared to Yates rows. While the Pendlay rows require you to drop the weight to the ground, the bent over rows don’t.
This strength exercise looks hard, but it’s easy to perform even for beginners because all you need is a barbell and a great pulling force. To do the bent over rows, here are the instructions:
- To begin, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and slowly bend your knees to squat down and grip the bar set down in front of you.
- Now start pulling the bar towards your upper waist. As you do this, keep your back straight and once you reach the top movement, compress your shoulder blades together.
- After bringing the bar to just below your chest, slowly lower the bar without touching the ground and lift it back again.
- Perform about 5-8 reps or as desired
To perform the bent over rows accurately, Muscle & Strength suggests bringing the bar to the right position - not above your chest or not below your stomach. When you reach the top of the movement, pause for a count of one and slowly drop it.
5. Barbell Hip Thrust
Many lifters believe that the barbell hip thrust is the best exercise for your glutes. Not only that, but this powerlifting exercise also works your hamstrings, quads, and adductors very well. As compared to other glute development exercises, back strength is not a restricting factor for barbell hip thrusts.
For this exercise, you’ll need a bench and a barbell. The height of the bench might depend on how short or tall you are, but the majority of lifters found satisfaction a range of 13 inches to 19 inches. Here are the complete instructions:
- Position yourself so that the top of your shoulder blades touch the very edge of the bench. Next, roll the barbell over you and keep it just below your belly button.
- Now, bring the bar up with an overhead grip and drive through your feet. When you reach the top movement, squeeze your glutes.
- Lower the barbell steadily and keep the tension on your glutes.
- Repeat for a necessary number of repetitions.
Watch how to perform a barbell hip thrust in this video.
6. Single-Leg Deadlift
The single-leg deadlift is a strength exercise that targets your hamstrings, as well as your glutes. This exercise is more versatile than the deadlift because it allows you to train every side of your body without favoring the other. It also helps improve your balance as you learn how to stabilize on one leg.
This strength exercise is ideal for those with intermediate level skills. All the equipment you need is a kettlebell, just like this one. To get an idea of how this exercise is done, watch this video.
In your right hand, hold a kettlebell and stand on your right leg. While extending your left leg behind you, lower the kettlebell until your body is parallel to the ground. Your spine should be aligned properly. Return to the starting position and repeat as many reps as necessary.
When doing this exercise, make sure not to fix your eyes on the kettlebell. If possible, keep your eyes straight ahead. For proper lat engagement, pull your shoulders back.
Did you have fun trying the list of six alternatives to deadlifts? Thanks to this list, I can already work the muscles on my back and lower body like I’m doing a serious deadlift. As much as I like to lift the bar, my injury is just restricting me, so if you have a history of injuries and hip mobility problems, try any of the exercises I presented above.
If you know some other exercises that can replace deadlifts or have some questions, let us know in the comments section. Don’t forget to share this article if you liked it!