8 Ways to Deadlift

This made me laugh way harder than it should have.

Dost Thou Even Hoist?

Ok, currently I don’t either. 😉 (You know, that whole “6 weeks of rest” thing.) But we’re in unusual circumstances right now, and usually, I LOVE lifting. Like in a weird way. One of my all-time favorite exercises: the good ol’ deadlift.

8 ways to deadlift

I have to admit that I was intimidated by the deadlift for a long time. When I first started strength training, I wasn’t 100% sure how to do them, and avoided them like the plague. As I started to get more into fitness, I began to research as many exercises as possible, and made it my mission to learn about why they work + how to set them up and execute properly. From there, my love for the deadlift began. They make me feel strong, they add those nice muscle creases to my low back, they help lift the booty (YASSS), and they help to promote functional movement. Also, there are a lot of fun variations to play around with them a bit. 

Why Deadlifts Rock

Why should you deadlift? Think about how many times you need to pick items of varying weights off the floor and carry them. We always hear that you shouldn’t lift purely with your back, but instead, you need to stabilize your core, using your glute and leg strength to help you lift the load.

What muscles are targeted by deadlifting? A LOT: including arms (biceps, chest, shoulders, the muscles in your hands to grip the bar), legs, core, glutes, low back (erector spinae), lats, and trapezius. Here’s a handy picture of a Hulk-y looking dude getting his deadlift on from the front. 


Deadlift Photo Source

Tips for Traditional Deadlifts

Keep the bar close to your shins, and start with a wide stance.

Bend your knees, and hinge forward from your hips to place your hands on the bar in line with your shoulders.

Contract your upper body (pull your shoulders back and keep your chest lifted) and your transverse abdominis (deep core muscles), as you exhale and squeeze your glutes to stand. During the entire movement, keep your spine long and straight. <— this means to watch your neck, and keep your head from lifting up or drooping down.

As you lower the bar, do so with control. (Sorry, dropping the bar with a primal grunt of satisfaction is not part of the exercise.) Release your hands, and start again for the next rep. Be sure to get set up properly before you complete your next deadlift.

Deadlift How-to Videos


(Conventional and Sumo)

For Romanian deadlifts, you’re maintaining a slight knee bend with feet hip-width apart. These are the deadlifts you’ll commonly see in the weight training room -my personal fave!- and also in Bodypump classes. 


If you’ve been doing traditional or Romanian deadlifts in your routine already, here are some fun ways to change it up a bit. It’s an excellent way to keep the body guessing, and remember that anything you can do to initiate change in your routine will bring positive changes to your fitness. 

8 Ways to Deadlift

Single Leg Deadlift: Hold a barbell, pair of dumbbells, or kettlebell, and tap one leg behind you. You can keep it here, with the weight in your front foot as you tilt forward, bringing the weights just below the knees. Exhale and rise with a flat back. For more advanced variations, you can float this top foot off the floor. Make sure to keep hips parallel to the floor. 

Kettlebell deadlift

Cable Machine: For this variation, you’ll use a straight bar on the cable machine (at the lowest position). Step away from the machine until you feel some tension, and then hinge forward. You really have to use control on the way down to make sure it doesn’t pull you too quickly. Engage your core to exhale and rise. 

Sumo Deadlift: My version of the Sumo deadlift is a little different than the one in the video above. For this one, you’ll hold a low plie squat with a pair of dumbbells or a kettlebll in front of you. Maintaining the same low plie squat (so your legs don’t move), hinge forward from your hips and exhale to rise with a flat back. 

Deadlift and Row combo: add in a wide or narrow row with the barbell or dumbbells after your hinge forward. Exhale to rise. 

Reverse Grip: Flip your grip and hold the bar with your palms facing up. I find that this really engages the biceps. 

barbell deadlift

Tempo Deadlifts: Play with tempo (similar to Bodypump) for your deadlifts. I love the 3-2-1 combo: down 3 counts, one to exhale and rise. 2-2, drop and hold, and 4-4 are all great options. 

Kettlebell Deadlift: Instead of a barbell or dumbbells, deadlift a heavy kettlebell off the floor. Just place it in between your knees, in front of your legs slightly on the ground. 

Suitcase Deadlift: place the bar parallel with your feet on one side. You’ll have to lift the bar with one hand as you rise. This is a tricky one, and fantastic way to add an extra core stabilization challenge. 

Hope you have a wonderful day! From functional fitness to fashion fun, I’ll be back later with the latest Stitch Fix (and requests for shoe halp haha).



More workout variations:

10 ways to burpee

10 ways to plank

10 ways to push-up

10 ways to crunch

25 ways to squat

Post Navigation:


  1. Sam @ Barrister's Beet on April 6, 2016 at 7:01 am

    Thanks for doing this post! Deadlifts are one of those things that I love to do, but am always afraid I’m doing something wrong. Until I studied the proper form a little more, my low back used to hurt when I did them. This post will definitely help me to keep improving! Thanks!

  2. Kelly on April 6, 2016 at 7:04 am

    First. You’re so funny:) And I love this post! I”m going to have to read the 10 ways to do the other exercises also! Deadlifts can be tricky. I’ve hurt my back before from improper form, and it does make me scared of them. But, I’m gonna keep on keepin on! Thanks!

  3. Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious on April 6, 2016 at 7:56 am

    I love deadlifting but my options are limited when it comes to doing it due to a bad hip. My stability is horrible. I’m in denial but I need surgery to correct it. For now, I do what I can with my trainer. It makes me sad though that I can’t do what everyone else can. Hard reality to accept!

    • Fitnessista on April 6, 2016 at 9:53 pm

      it is so tough when you want to do things that your body won’t allow. i’m thinking of you, and hope you can find some good options with your trainer that make you feel happy <3

  4. Ashley on April 6, 2016 at 8:36 am

    Yesss!! I love information like this that shows what muslce groups are affected with what workouts. Can you post more of these?! Is there a good site you recommend where I can get this type of info?

    • Fitnessista on April 6, 2016 at 9:52 pm

      of course! the bodybuilding.com site does a great job about breaking everything down too 🙂

  5. Taylor on April 6, 2016 at 8:44 am

    Love deadlifts… especially single leg deadlifts!! so hard but so good!

    • Fitnessista on April 6, 2016 at 9:52 pm

      yes, love them too!

  6. Gabrielle on April 6, 2016 at 9:02 am

    Hi Gina – awesome post 🙂 Nothing like the rawwwwr feeling of doing a deadlift.

    I have a stress fracture at the moment, which means 4-6 weeks in a cast and crutches. I noticed you said you are on 6 weeks rest as well – any tips on how NOT to go crazy and kill your happily-exercising-endorphined husband? (mine is training for a marathon). I just want to sink into bed with cupcakes and wine and say byeeee till mid-May. How do I keep my eats clean? My mind engaged? And the jealous monster at bay?

    Quite a lot of questions – sorry! Thanks in advance 🙂 <3

    • Fitnessista on April 6, 2016 at 9:52 pm

      you are in my brain right now. it is SO HARD. i can definitely put a post together- i would love to hear advice from readers and friends too. thinking of you. i hope these 6 weeks FLY BY for us!

      • Gabrielle on April 6, 2016 at 9:55 pm

        Aaaaaaah – you’re the best – please put a post together! Lots of hugs and happy vibes, and glorious cups of coffee in bed for you! <3 <3 <3

  7. Jessica on April 6, 2016 at 9:16 am

    Whats your thoughts on Body Pump classes?
    I’m a cardio addict who is trying to add weight training to my routine so I started taking the Les Mills Body Pump classes at my local gym. Some of my friends have been giving me mixed advice on how helpful these classes are. While some swear by them a close friend feels they are bad as they don’t take the time to teach proper form and make you lift at someone else’s pace (to the beat of the music).

    As a long time reader I would love to know your advice and thoughts are!

    • Fitnessista on April 6, 2016 at 9:51 pm

      i LOVE body pump. it is an awesome workout for muscular endurance and a great way to encourage strength training if it isn’t a regular part of your routine. i definitely think you should have a background in strength training or meet with a trainer or the instructor to set up good form before your first class ever. there are some complicated movements (some instructors are better about demonstrating these before the track than others), and it’s important to get in proper form since there are so many reps. i think moving at someone else’s pace is ok as long as it feels ok. if they’re going to fast or something is happening where you don’t feel comfortable, you can always slow it down
      thank you for reading for so long!

  8. Cassie on April 6, 2016 at 9:20 am

    I had no idea there were so many variations! Glad you are resting up. I enjoyed boots + plank day yesterday… am feeling it. Thinking of a yoga day today instead of hiit but I’ll see what I’m up for come pm nap time. I love the 20 to 25 minute workouts. Perfect!

    • Fitnessista on April 6, 2016 at 9:49 pm

      amazing! great job, lovely <3

  9. Jane on April 6, 2016 at 9:28 am

    I used to lift and LOVED it! I was falling New Rules of Lifting for Women and got to the point where I could comfortably deadline 80 pounds. And then….I got cocky one day and went up 20 pounds to a hundred. I can still hear that pop in my back as the pain shot through my spine. Ugh. So go slow guys and don’t be the idiot I was.

    GINA!!! I’ve made your healthy egg bake twice this week. Only change I made was white potatoes (don’t like sweet) and added a handful of spinach. THANK YOU. it tastes like a restaurant meal. 🙂

    • Jane on April 6, 2016 at 9:30 am

      Deadlift. …following…darn autocorrect

    • Fitnessista on April 6, 2016 at 9:49 pm

      GAHHHH. just reading that made me shudder. yes, good reminder to take it easy, just like with any strength training
      yayyyy. i’m so happy you love it! we’ll be having it again this week too 🙂

  10. queenoffitness on April 6, 2016 at 10:34 am

    Not about deadlifting, but I just want to give you major props on another stand out recipe…the egg, goat cheese, and sweet potato casserole. I made it yesterday. It came together in a snap and it is DELICIOUS!

    • Fitnessista on April 6, 2016 at 9:48 pm

      wow, no way! i’m so happy you liked it 🙂

  11. jodie on April 6, 2016 at 11:34 am

    Great post thanks. Do you take reader requests?

    • Fitnessista on April 6, 2016 at 9:48 pm

      always! fire away, friend

  12. Amanda @ Cheers to the Weekends on April 6, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    I have never lifted a bar before… EVER! Kettlebells yes. I think I would need some trainer guidance before I try on my own. I’d be so nervous since I am a natural born klutz. 😉

    • Fitnessista on April 6, 2016 at 9:48 pm

      yes, it’s definitely helpful to meet with a trainer the first time. xoxo

  13. masala girl on April 7, 2016 at 8:07 pm

    deadlifts are definitely my FAVORITE! they just work everything wonderfully and i feel so strong! i like a few of the new variations- the side one sounds scary! :O

  14. Erika S. on April 8, 2016 at 5:29 pm

    Loved this post! I definitely should do them more as I love the areas it targets! Nice alternative moves to help change it up!!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.