Bent Iron Performance

The deadlift is often considered one of the fundamental exercises for developing the strength of an athlete. Although very taxing on the nervous system, it can build a significant amount of strength and muscle in an athlete’s back, and legs. Athlete’s are looking to get stronger but, like all people, they may hit a wall in their strength development. Here are four deadlift variations that may help breakthrough those strength plateaus.
Trap Bar Deadlifts
Trap Bar Deadlifts are a great alternative to a conventional deadlift, especially if you have an athlete who struggles keeping their center of mass properly in line with the bar. For some athletes their trap bar deadlift movement pattern may look closer to a squat than a deadlift or a hybrid dead-squat motion. This is fine as long as the body remains in a proper lifting alignment, and the low back stays in an engaged, but neutral position.
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Romanian Deadlifts (RDLs)
The RDL variation is a great way to emphasize strength development in the athlete’s hamstrings, low back, and glutes, and may help the lifter with the lockout portion of the deadlift. If this a new variation for the athlete, have the athlete perform a normal deadlift first, then from the top of the lift descend as low as they can while maintaining a flat back and minimal flex in the knees, and return to the standing position. As the athlete becomes more accustomed to the motion of the RDL, they can begin pulling directly from the floor instead of performing a deadlift first, then performing the RDL from the top down.
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Snatch Grip Deadlifts
Snatch Grip Deadlifts challenge the grip strength, mobility, and mid-back strength of an athlete. Many pulls are lost due to weak hands, so snatch grip deadlifts are a great way to build grip strength while still performing pulls from the floor. To properly perform a snatch grip deadlift, the lifter has to keep the middle and upper back engaged throughout the entire rep, another area where many athletes struggle . The pull of a snatch grip deadlift will be longer than a normal pull from the floor, so the greater range of motion is a way to increase the workload without increasing the weight, sets, or reps.
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Deficit Deadlifts
Deficit deadlifts can help athletes who struggle with the initial part of the pull, and are a great way to emphasize the role of the quads during the motion of a deadlift. To perform a deficit deadlift, you need to stand on a two to four inch box, or stable plates, then perform a normal deadlift. This exercise increases the range of motion of the pull and is another way to generate greater stress on the muscles of the body without increasing the sets, reps, or weight of the exercise.
About the Author:
Mike Whitman is the Director of Training for SMARTER Team Training effective November 2014. Whitman has previously been the performance director of a training facility, a site manager for the health and wellness program of a multi-national corporation, and a consultant for the Under Armour E39 project. Whitman has worked with current or former NCAA, NFL, NBA, MLB, MLL, NLL athletes, as well as clients ranging from ages 13 to 58. CLICK HERE for more information about Coach Whitman.