Try These Deadlift Variations If You Hate the BarbellJanuary 29, 2020
The deadlift is one of the most effective movements for total body strength and function, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to, or even should, do yours with a barbell and conventional set up. That’s what Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., and Don Saladino, NASM explain in a recent video.
“There’s no one exercise that’s universal and is for everyone,” Saladino says. “The conventional deadlift position sometimes can put the people into a compromising spot. And if you don’t have a specific range of motion or are lacking mobility in certain areas of the body, in my opinion, it suddenly becomes a poor choice of exercise.”
With conventional deadlifts, the top mobility areas of concern are the hamstrings and ankles. If they are lacking in range of motion—or even if you just have really long legs—you’re probably going to have to use some funky form with a barbell. There could be all kinds of problems—your torso might tip so far forward that your shoulders will drop below your hips, your back might arch, you might throw the weight into your low back, or you could even end up squatting each rep. And, no, a squat is not a deadlift.
“We want to teach people to hinge at the hip, but we don’t need to do that with a barbell,” Samuel says. “There are so many other options.”
Here, Samuel and Saladino demo two favorite barbell alternatives: the kettlebell deadlift and trap bar deadlift.
For good form, both exercises depend on pushing your butt back behind you, keeping the weight focused in your heels, and setting up with the lats engaged, a flat back, and neck in neutral. To raise up to finish a rep, focus on driving through the heels and squeezing the glutes to push the floor away. Think of your arms as ropes, albeit strong, stable ones, connecting your lower body to the weight.
If limited mobility is still giving you problems, the experts suggest either placing the kettlebell on a yoga block or sticking with the trap-bar deadlift. Because the trap bar’s handles extend up farther from the floor, this variation decreases how far you need to lower toward the floor with each rep. That makes the trap-bar deadlift a go-to for tall guys. If you like the trap-bar deadlifts, but have mobility to spare, try setting up with the bar upside down, as Saladino demonstrates in the video.
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