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7 Exercises That Will Improve Your Deadlifts

Written by Alex Stevenson

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If there’s one move that you need to have in your workout program, deadlifts are it.  Deadlifts are one of the ‘king’ moves that are great for building strength, burning fat, boosting performance, and simply ensuring that you feel challenged while in the gym.

If you’re missing out, you’re making a critical error. Every lifter, regardless of their goal should have deadlifts in his or her approach.

This said, along with deadlifting, there are other exercises that will help improve your performance that should be included as well.  These exercises consist of both compound as well as isolation based exercises, which will strengthen the muscles that are utilized most when doing deadlifts.  Typically when structuring your workout program session, since deadlifts are still the primary move you are trying to gain strength with and are so intense themselves, you’ll still want to place them first.  Then, once you’re finished with those, you can follow up with some of the exercises noted below.  This will form a complete workout session that will have you seeing results before you know it.

Let’s go over what these are so that you can ensure you aren’t missing out on them as well.

Deficit Deadlifts

The first great exercise to include in your protocol is the deficit deadlift.  This move is very similar to the regular style deadlift only rather than standing on flat ground, you’re standing up on a step or block of some sort.  Make sure that your full body weight is supported by this and then move through the deadlift.

This will help assist with your regular deadlifting because you’ll achieve a greater range of motion while doing this exercise, working your muscles to their full capacity.  It also helps you learn how to move through the full range of motion better, ensuring that you do see optimal results with each and every rep you do when you’re back doing your normal style deadlifts.

Just be sure when performing this exercise that you do lighten the weight while doing it.  You’ll find you’re not nearly as strong in that fully lowered position, therefore you need to ensure that you can maintain proper form. Adjusting the weight will allow for this.

Good Mornings

The next exercise to get into your workout routine is the good morning.  Good mornings are great for strengthening the muscles running up and down the spinal column, which will be heavily involved whenever you’re performing deadlifts as well.

Good mornings are also good for building balance and agility also, so can come in very helpful when doing deadlifts.

When doing these, remember lighter weight is typically better. These can place you at a risk for injury if you aren’t careful to use absolutely perfect form, so go lighter and perform a few more reps.

You still definitely want to be fully challenging yourself, but at the same time, not straining your back.

Hanging Leg Raises

The third move to get into your protocol plan is the hanging leg raise. Just as with squats, a strong core will be critical when deadlifting. In fact, most of those who deadlift heavy notice that their core muscles are already built up very well, simply from doing that move.

Whether you realize it or not, your core is going to be very engaged in the exercise whenever you’re doing deadlifts.  As such, the stronger it is, the better your performance will be.

Hanging leg raises are perfect for building up a strong core. They take utmost strength to keep the body still and avoid using momentum as you lift the legs upward toward the hands.

If you can’t quite do these using good form, you can perform lying leg raises until you can.   Avoid using the captains chair however as with that back pad right against you, it’ll take away much of the core strength that’s needed to lift the legs upward.

Hip Thrusts

Hips thrusts are the next exercise to have in the protocol if you want to build up your deadlifts.  This move is primarily a glute and hamstring focused movement, both of which are utilized when doing deadlifts as well.

When performing your hips thrusts, you want to really focus on squeezing straight up through the glute muscles only. It’s very easy to ‘cheat’ this move, using your quads and hamstrings to a large degree.

While it’s likely that the hamstrings will come into play to some extent, they shouldn’t be the primary muscle driving the movement.

Do this move with a barbell across your hips, using a pad if necessary.


Shrugs are the next move that you may want to get into your program plan to help assist your deadlifts, along with helping you build the most aesthetic physique possible as well.

Shrugs will hit your trap muscles, which are going to come into play and help you hold that heavy weighted barbell as you rise up through the movement.

Heavy barbell shrugs are a great exercise to add to the tail end of your workout session, whether done on a deadlifting day itself or done on a back or shoulder day instead.

You’ll want to do a few more reps whenever you’re performing shrugs as this muscle tends to be more of an endurance one.  Aim for sets of 15-20 reps for best results.

Hamstring Curls

Because your hamstrings will be working hard as you move through the deadlift exercise, you want to be sure they aren’t the weakest link.

While the best exercises for strengthening the hamstrings will always be the compound movements – squats, deadlifts themselves, lunges, and so forth, you shouldn’t completely neglect hamstring curls.

This isolation move is great when performed at the very end of your workout session to help fully exhaust the hamstring muscle, bringing it to that full state of fatigue where you see remarkable strength progress.

Consider doing single leg hamstring curls as you add them into your protocol in effort to ensure no muscular imbalances exist.

Hamstring curls can be performed towards the end of the session as well, once all the rest of your lower body work is done.

Step Ups

Finally, step-ups are the last exercise that you’ll want to consider adding into the equation.  Step-ups are great because they’ll work the hamstrings, glutes, and quads, all in one single movement, while also bringing the core into play.

Basically, they’ll hit many of the same exercises that the basic deadlift does, only in a totally different movement pattern.

Your muscles are going to respond best to continual variety and constant challenges, so by adding these different moves into your protocol, you’ll keep your muscles guessing what’s coming next.

Furthermore, this is also a great movement for working on your balance capability, so will have excellent transfer over benefits to not just the deadlift, but all the other exercises you do throughout your workout program.

You can do this exercise with a barbell or by holding a set of dumbbells, whichever manner is most comfortable for you. Just do be sure that as you perform them, you aren’t ever adopting a forward lean as this can quickly become very stressful on your lower back, setting you up for an injury.

So there you have a closer look at the top seven exercises that you should be doing while aiming to strengthen your deadlift exercise.  Together, along with deadlifts, you can be sure that you see the best overall progress towards building the strong and powerful lower body you desire.

Remember that you shouldn’t ever add all of these moves into your workout program at once, but rather cycle through them, adding them over time as you go along to keep your muscles responding.

Bonus Tip – Pause Deadlifts

If you having a hard time passing any particular part of the deadlift try decrease the weights and perform deadlifts with a pause in the position you’re having trouble with. This will help you increase your strength at that particular section of the lift.

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