The traditional deadlift is one of the classic and most effective exercises to develop muscle and burn fat. It works on the posterior chain muscles, including the hamstrings, traps, glutes, rhomboids and core, which are important for everyday functions.
However, not everyone can perform the deadlift. Problems can arise if the form or posture isn’t correct, or if the lower back is taking the burn off it.
For some people with physical limitations such as spinal thickness or hip issues, handling a deadlift can be a challenging task. So, what can be done in such a case?
Fortunately, there are alternative exercises that offer the same benefits, that too without putting pressure on the lower back.
Whether you're unable to perform the standard variation because of an injury, aren’t comfortable with the move or just want to change things up, the following alternatives will target the same muscles as the deadlift but without the accompanying strain.
Deadlift Alternative Exercises
Try out these six alternatives if you can’t handle a deadlift:
1) Kettlebell Swing
Kettlebell swings offer the same kind of full body workout as a deadlift and are great for fat burning and cardio as well.
To do it:
- Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend at your hips, and hold the kettlebell with both hands.
- Lift the weight, and swing it back slowly between your legs.
- Move your hips forward, and allow momentum to carry the kettlebell till it gets to your chest level.
- Let the kettlebell fall, and allow your hips to hinge as the weight moves back between your legs.
- Continue for a few reps.
2) Bent-over Row
To achieve the same heavy core, arms, rhomboids, trap workouts, grab dumbbells, and practice bent-over rows. This exercise is great for strengthening the back, something that many people expect from a deadlift.
To do it:
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand; hinge at your waist to about 45 degrees, and keep your arms extended, spine neutral, and knees soft.
- Move your elbows up just behind you, and squeeze your shoulder blades. Pause for a few seconds, and lower your elbows to the start.
- Repeat for the desired number of reps as needed.
3) Barbell Hip Thrust
A barbell hip thrust targets the hamstrings and glutes but without involving the lower back muscles much.
To do it:
- Sit in front of a bench with your upper back against it. Put a barbell across your hips, and keep your knees bent with your feet on the floor.
- Drive through your heels, and push your hips towards the ceiling. Keep your core muscles engaged and glutes squeezed.
- Once you're at the top position, pause, and lower back to the start.
4) Single Leg Romanian Deadlift
This exercise challenges your balance and posterior chain muscles just like the standard deadlift variation.
To do it:
- Grab a dumbbell in each hand. Keep your back straight, and shift your weight into your left leg.
- Start to hinge at your waist, keeping your left knee soft, and hinge forward while taking your right leg up and back till your body gets into a straight line from head to toe.
- Make sure your hips are square to the floor and chest is up throughout the movement.
- Return to the starting position, and continue the exercise a few more times.
5) Trap Bar Deadlift
This exercise allows your weight to be in line with the center of gravity of your body instead of the front while you lift. This position puts less stress on the lower back and targets many of the same muscles.
To do it:
- Load the trap bar with weight, and step your feet inside. Position your feet at shoulder distance.
- Hinge at your hips, and bend your knees to grab the handles either side of the trap bar.
- Keep your back flat and chest up as you sit back at your hips while keeping your gaze in the front.
- Stand back up, and initiate the movement in your hips while squeezing your glutes at the top of the position.
- Release the bar to the starting position, and repeat.
6) Farmer’s Walk/carry
The farmer’s walk targets the upper body, core, and shoulders and puts way less stress on the spine and lower back.
To do it:
- Stand tall with your feet at shoulder distance, and grip a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand on your sides.
- Maintaining the position and holding the weight tightly at your sides, start to walk forward as many steps as you can. Turn back, and walk towards the starting position.
- Repeat as many times as you are comfortable, and make sure to keep your shoulders and core muscles engaged throughout.
While the deadlift is an amazing exercise for several reasons, you may not like it or want to do it.
The aforementioned alternatives can be just as beneficial to your training; they target many of the same muscles and offer the same results as a deadlift.