What are the best deadlift assistance exercises to fix the most common deadlift problems?
Conventional deadlifting is one of the best ways to train your posterior chain, if not your entire body. It builds strength and muscle mass and can also boost athletic performance.
Most athletes do deadlifts as part of their general strength and conditioning workouts. The deadlift is also one of the three exercises contested in the sport of powerlifting, the other two being the squat and bench press.
And there is no greater exercise than the deadlift for fat loss and to dramatically change your body – fast.
As popular as regular deadlifts are, it’s widespread to see them poorly performed. Some lifters, and especially beginners, are frustrated by their inability to lift heavier weights.
Fix Your Weak Points
Common deadlift faults and problems include:
- Rounding your lower back
- Allowing your hips to rise faster than your shoulders
- Hitting a sticking point at around knee-height
- Losing grip of the bar
- Letting the bar move away from your legs
- Difficulty breaking the bar away from the floor
- Trouble locking out at the top
- Not having enough full-body tension at the start of the lift
The good news is that, with the right deadlift assistance exercises, you will soon start to see your deadlift technique and performance improve.
Deadlift form improvement won’t happen overnight, but with persistence and effort, you can fix your deadlift problems and master this excellent exercise.
Here are 12 of the best deadlift assistance exercises to fix the most common deadlift faults.
The Best Deadlift Assistance Exercises
1. Paused deadlifts
The paused deadlift involves lifting the bar off the floor and then stopping for a couple of seconds at knee-height. You then complete the lift as usual.
This pause increases your strength off the floor, helps eliminate sticking points, and teaches you to stay tight throughout the whole lift.
If you are serious about becoming a better deadlifter, this exercise will undoubtedly help.
2. Deficit deadlifts
With deficit deadlifts, you stand on a 2 to a 4-inch high platform when performing conventional or sumo (wide stance) deadlifts.
This slight elevation puts you in a lower bottom position than usual, which increases the distance the weight has to travel and makes this exercise harder than standard deadlifts.
After a few training cycles of deficit deadlifts, regular deadlifts off the floor will feel a whole lot easier. Your hips and lower back will be stronger, and you’ll be able to lift more weight.
3. Farmer’s walk
It doesn’t matter how strong your legs and back are; if you have weak grip strength, your deadlift performance is going to suffer. After all, you need to keep hold of the bar, and a feeble grip could mean failed reps.
Farmer’s walks involve lifting a pair of kettlebells or dumbbells and then walking as far as you can.
This simple exercise is one of the best ways to develop your grip strength.
4. Rack Pulls
The rack pull emphasizes the top part of the lift. With this deadlift accessory exercise, you start your deadlift with the bar at just below, at, or slightly above knee-height.
Focusing on the top part of a deadlift allows you to lift more weight, which will increase strength and muscle mass.
In time, that will improve your regular deadlift performance.
5. Leg Curls
Leg curls might seem like one of the least practical deadlift assistance exercises, but it is very beneficial.
Why? The reason is that leg curls isolate and strengthen your hamstrings, and the hamstrings play a crucial role in deadlifting.
Responsible for hip extension, weak hamstrings mean your lower back has to do more work than it should, and that could limit your performance.
Leg curls will help eliminate this problem.
6. Snatch Grip Deadlifts
The snatch grip deadlift, like deficit deadlifts, increases your range of motion and forces you to start each rep from a much lower position. To do this exercise, simply grip the bar with your hands roughly 1 ½ shoulder-widths apart.
Warning – take care not to round your back during this exercise, as doing so could lead to serious injury.
7. Romanian deadlifts
This deadlift assistance exercise is one of the best ways to strengthen the top end of your range of motion.
With Romanian deadlifts, you start with the bar off the floor and, with minimal knee bend, hinge forward from your hips to work your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back.
To many, it is unclear why this exercise is called the Romanian deadlift. Most are sure that it doesn’t come from Romania and is not especially popular amongst Romanian weightlifters.
However, there is a story to the name, and you will find it in this post on the 7 Greatest Benefits of Romanian Deadlifts.
The bottom line is, as far as posterior chain exercises go, it’s incredibly beneficial and useful.
8. Front squats
A lot of people think that deadlifts only involve the posterior chain. That isn’t true.
Your quadriceps also play an essential role, especially in breaking the bar away from the floor.
It’s no coincidence that most top deadlifters are also excellent squatters.
Front squats are one of the best quadriceps exercises around.
With front squats, you keep your torso very uptight, which emphasizes the quadriceps and reduces hamstring and glute activation.
Use a close grip to keep your chest up and make pushing your elbows forward much more comfortable.
9. Kettlebell Swings
Most deadlift assistance exercises feature a slow, controlled tempo. While that’s an excellent way to build strength, it won’t do much for muscle power.
Muscle power is your ability to generate a lot of force very quickly.
Deadlifting heavier weights is more manageable if you lift explosively.
Any momentum generated will help you power through your sticking points. Kettlebell swings are an easy-to-learn posterior chain power exercise that will have a noticeable effect on your speed off the floor.
To do kettlebell swings, stand with your feet around shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. Hold your kettlebell (or a single dumbbell) with both hands.
Lean forward from your hips and lower the weight between your knees.
Drive your hips forward and use this momentum to swing the weight up to shoulder-height. Swing the weight back down and repeat. Do not allow your lower back to round.
10. Hip thrust
This glute and hamstring-centric move is a beneficial deadlift assistance exercise. Its main advantage is that, unlike Romanian deadlifts, snatch grip deadlifts, deficit deadlifts, and paused deadlifts, it’s easy on your lower back.
Because of this, you should include the hip thrust into your workouts, even on days when you do regular deadlifts.
To get the most from this exercise, make sure you use heavy weights and also fully extend your hips between reps. Half-reps and light weights won’t do much for your deadlift performance.
Lie on your back with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor. Rest a barbell across your hips.
Drive your feet into the floor and push your hips up to the ceiling, so your weight ends up supported on your shoulders and feet only.
Lower your butt back down to the floor and repeat.
Bonus – Standing broad jumps
This less-common deadlift accessory exercise increases hip drive and power. It will make you more explosive off the floor, helping you lift heavy weights more quickly.
Its main advantage is that, unlike kettlebell swings, you don’t need any exercise equipment to do it.
Simply bend your knees, swing your arms behind you, and then jump as far as you can.
Land on bent slightly knees, reset your feet, and repeat.
Bonus – Superman holds
This bodyweight-only deadlift accessory exercise will strengthen your lower back and also teach you to identify the sensation of a slightly arched lower back form in the deadlift.
Rounding your lower back during deadlifts is a cardinal sin. Not only could it lead to injury, but it also means you’ve got to lift the weight further than necessary.
While this second problem is only measurable in inches, it could be enough to reduce the amount of weight you can deadlift.
To do this simple exercise, lie on your front with your legs straight and your arms extended out in front of you.
Using your upper back, lower back, and glutes, lift your arms, chest, head, and legs a few inches off the floor. Note the tension in your lower back. That’s how your spine should feel during deadlifts.
Deadlift Accessory Exercises – Final Thoughts
The deadlift is such a useful, productive exercise that it’s worth making sure you perform it as well as possible.
While deadlifting regularly will help you with this, using accessory exercises to shore up any weaknesses or technique problems will also help.
Analyze your deadlift to identify your faults, and then use the appropriate assistance exercises to fix them.
With time, effort, and dedication, you’ll soon be deadlifting like a boss!
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