In our December article 3 Essential Exercises for Men one of the exercises we looked at was the deadlift, so hopefully by now you’ve incorporated it as a mainstay of your routine.

If you’ve been struggling to make progress or you’re just looking for a little variety then keep reading because today we’re going to look at four different ways of tweaking this classic killer exercise to help you bust through your strength plateaus.

Rack Pulls

A rack pull or rack deadlift typically involves starting from a higher position with the assistance of a power rack, squat rack, or simply a couple of aerobics step to support the ends of the bars where the plates are loaded.

Starting from around mid-shin level to just below the knee, this variation will place a greater emphasis on hip drive and recruitment of your mid-lower back.

If you find that when performing conventional deadlifts the bar lifts a few inches from the ground but doesn’t go any further then rack pulls are an effective way of strengthening the weak link in the chain.

Banded Deadlift

Performed from ground level, this variation uses resistance bands or tubes depending on what your gym is equipped with.

This deadlift variation is commonly used by powerlifters on exercises to improve their lockout strength at the top, and this is achieved because as you lift the bar the bands become tighter, essentially making the weight heavier at the top than at the bottom.

Banded deadlifts are another way of improving your hip drive, and you’ should also notice a hard contraction of your glutes and spinal erectors at the top; expect to have a sore butt tomorrow!

Deficit Deadlift

Pull the bar from ground level but begin by standing on some 45lbs plates or an aerobics step, thus requiring that you lift the bar from a deficit.

You should start very light with this variation as it will place greater emphasis on your lower back, but if you’ve been struggling with generating the initial force needed to get the bar off the ground on your heavier sets then deficit deads could be just what the doctor ordered.

Negative Deadlift

This final variation is more relevant to stimulating growth in your back, glutes, and hamstrings, but there can also be some decent carryover into your raw strength.

Use a squat rack or power rack so that you can position the bar at or below waist level or however high the bar is relative to your body at the top position of your standard deadlift.

From here, simply grip the bar and slowly lower it to the ground as if performing a deadlift in reverse.

The best way to perform these is to imagine you are lowering the bar onto a carton of eggs or a glass floor!


Remember that all of these variations play a role in a well balanced training setup but you should focus on the fundamentals of the deadlift to ensure you understand the technical aspects before complicating things further.