Female deadlifting

5 Deadlift Variations for Improving your Deadlift

5 – Romanian Deadlift

How to do it


The Romanian deadlift is one of the kings of lower posterior chain development. This is a go-to exercise for teaching the hip-hinge (top 3 most important movement patterns) and developing glute and hamstring strength or hypertrophy, depending on how you program it.


Of course, if performing Romanian deadlifts purely for strength, we program greater loads and less volume. The reverse is true for hypertrophy, where moderate loads and more volume would be appropriate. Either way, I recommend performing Romanian deadlifts by placing priority on the eccentric phase to emphasize lengthening of the hamstrings.


The Romanian deadlift shines as an accessory movement to your deadlift and squat movements and as such should be placed further down the exercise order at comparatively lighter loads.

4 – Stiff Leg Deadlift

How to do it


The stiff leg deadlift is the concentric focused older brother of the Romanian deadlift. These movement patterns look very similar at a glance, but the difference lies in the details. While in a Romanian deadlift we use a “top-down” approach, meaning we initiate the movement standing up and working eccentrically first, never letting the barbell touch the ground. However, in a stiff leg deadlift we work from a “ground-up” perspective, meaning we initiate the movement on the ground in a pseudo-deadlift starting position and focus heavily on the concentric phase of the movement, similar to a conventional deadlift.

The catalytic difference between a stiff leg deadlift and a conventional deadlift is our hip height during the set-up position. We forego one of the golden rules of the deadlift and we let the barbell come away from our shins during the set-up and pull. This position diminishes much of the leg drive we are granted during a conventional deadlift and places far more emphasis on the posterior chain (hamstrings and glutes) in a concentric manner.


3 – Tempo Deadlift

How to do it


Typically, I tell people to lift the concentric phase as quickly and powerfully as possible. That is, because the goal is to get better at generating force, and force = mass x acceleration, in this case, the mass being the barbell and the acceleration being how rapidly we can lift it.

However, incorporating tempo lifting can be a very beneficial way to change the training stimulus to focus more on time-under-tension. This method of training has been thought to improve muscle growth due to spending more time performing the difficult component of the lift, namely the eccentric phase.

2 – Deadlift from Blocks

How to do it



A deadlift variation where the primary mechanical difference is the reduced range of motion from a regular deadlift. Therefore, we typically load this movement with supramaximal loads compared to a regular deadlift. The key benefit of this deadlift variation and the most common reason for prescribing it is if you tend to fail your deadlifts in the top half, or the lockout. The reason being that the weakest part of the deadlift movement biomechanically is in the starting position on the floor, so by removing that end-range of the movement and shifting the barbell up the leg, we create a stronger starting position where our joint angles (knee and hip) aren’t as acute.

Along with adding much needed variation into deadlift programming and altering a nontypical training variable (range of motion), the block deadlift targets an area of weakness for many people and could be a key lift for breaking plateaus.

1 – Deficit Deadlift

How to do it



In stark contrast to the deadlift from blocks, the primary mechanical difference of a deficit deadlift is the increased range of motion. This movement must therefore be loaded at appropriately submaximal loads. This variation addresses another sticking point and often the most common point of weakness in a deadlift, the bottom. Breaking the ground, or initiating the lift is frequently the most difficult part of any deadlift for most people. By increasing the range of motion and putting ourselves in an even worse biomechanical position, we focus directly on strengthening that aspect of the lift.

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