3 Deadlift Alternative: For Bad Back, Without Pain

Deepanshu Bedi

The conventional deadlift is considered the king of weightlifting, even in the old eras. Simply put, a deadlift is lifting the weight to the height of the waist and putting it back and repeating the same two or three times.

Some people tend to break records here by lifting 100 or even 200kg of weight, but that comes with a cost. Every deadlift method requires a technique; if implied wrong, it can damage your back.

Putting your entire body under strain during lifting is not easy, so people look for alternatives. Here are some effective, full-body exercises that are gentle but excellent deadlift alternatives.

What Are Deadlifts?

The deadlift is a full-body exercise – one of the main foundational movements – where a person lifts more than the usual weight but only lifts it to the waist height. If you lift the weight correctly, you’ll put extra pressure on your legs, but you’ll feel the stress overall on the body.

Some people tend to lift way more weight to break the limits, which puts extra pressure on their backs and requires a support belt to protect the body from injuries. Despite learning a proper technique, lifting a lot of weight can damage your back.

This makes people avoid barbell deadlifts and try deadlift alternatives that also affect their overall body.

Muscles Engaged In Deadlift

The main muscles engaged in deadlifts are the hips and legs. You simply move your hips and legs from a flexed position to an extended position, putting a lot of stress on your legs, back, hips, arms, and shoulders – short, posterior chain.

Even if your position is perfect and you have less weight, your shoulders and arms will be stressed. The more weight you use, the more stress your body goes through.

The same muscles will go through the stress even if you opt for deadlift alternatives, but the pressure will be less.

Since deadlift is a raw exercise, one purely relies on strength. In comparison, deadlift alternatives are more technique exercises to lift more weight without hurting yourself. They might not be as effective as deadlifts, but they’ll do the job.

Reasons For Choosing Deadlift Alternatives

While Romanian deadlifts or a traditional deadlift are great, sometimes you must choose deadlift alternatives for the following reasons.

    • You have an injury, bounding you to a less intense hip exercise.
    • You are undergoing a recovery phase that requires a break from heavy weights.
    • The deadlift becomes challenging for you, requiring you to change the methods or choose an alternative.

Taking a break from heavy lifting is excellent for the body as you can spend more time shaping it properly. If traditional deadlifts become a challenge, you can choose another method that provides more support but the same results.

The idea is to give your body a tough time preparing for heavy lifting and increase stamina; there are other ways to achieve it.

Deadlift Alternatives For Heavy Weights

Alternatives won’t qualify to replace the deadlift, but you can achieve similar results by adding extra support. Some choose this alternative to add more weight without breaking the bar, while some opt for these because they are easy.

    • Trap Bar Deadlift

This is an ideal option to remove stress from your legs and hips and add it to your arms and shoulders. Moreover, it keeps your balance while lifting, so you won’t have to put pressure on your back to perform the full action. It is the same as a traditional deadlift, except you grab the bar from the sides with the help of a collar.

Your starting position is the same where you bend and grab the bar from the handles on the sides. After that, you slowly lift your legs so the trap bar won’t hit your back, and once straight, you can perform the action again.

One problem with trap bar deadlifts is there are high chances of tripping. Since you stand inside the hexagon, moving with pace or not having enough distance from the back might hit the bar in your back or legs. This interrupts your flow, and you’ll trip if you can’t maintain your balance.

Once again, there is no pressure on your upper body unless you decide to lift extra weight. The weight will pull down on the body rather than pulling you forward since your body is right in the middle. This is an excellent option if you want to try deadlifting and keep proper positioning.

    • Elevated Deadlift

Conventional deadlifts require balancing to lift the weight so you won’t put extra pressure on your back. This is one reason most people quit because they can’t maintain a balance. The problem starts when lifting the weight as it requires lots of power to lift it off. Without a proper position, you’ll put extra pressure on your back instead of your legs and hips.

An elevated deadlift removes this problem by letting you pick the bar without bending down. You can use boxes or safety rods to raise the weight, so you only have to bend the legs a little and lift the weight. Instead of putting pressure on your hips, this method puts more stress on your legs and some stress on your back.

While there is no prescribed height for the safe position, you can put the safety bars four to six inches high and perform the deadlift like you usually do.

    • Landmine Deadlift

Here is another alternative to the conventional deadlift that primarily focuses on hips and legs but requires a landmine attachment and a barbell. If there is no landmine attachment, you can stick a bar at the corner of the room, attach weight to its one side and start lifting from the front.

Keep your feet apart, and make sure to put pressure on your thighs and hips instead of your knees or back.

Also, the barbell must sit on your palm and keep a firm grip so it won’t fall. It would be better to use gloves for extra grip. Landmine deadlift is an easy-to-set-up best exercise bike as you won’t need more than a barbell, weight, and room corner.

Other Exercises For Deadlift Alternatives

These alternatives are different exercises that affect your entire body without extra stress. They won’t offer the same results as a deadlift, but they are excellent for back, legs, and hip workouts.

    • Kettlebell Swings

You’ll need a kettlebell for this exercise, and it gives your hips the same intensity as a deadlift. Not only is the kettlebell swing a good deadlift alternative, but it is also an excellent option for cardio.

The best part, since it doesn’t require a barbell and weight, you can do this exercise at home.

Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and stand in front of the kettlebell. Bend down with your hips and grab the kettlebell with both hands. Here is the main part, lift the kettlebell and swing it between your legs with minimal speed.

If you swing fast, the kettlebell might slip and hit a wall or someone else.

Move your hips forward so the momentum must carry the kettlebell to your chest height. Keep moving your hips to stop and provide momentum to the kettlebell without using extra support from your hands.

    • Bent-Over Row

If you don’t want to bend and pick heavy weights, this bent-over row offers the same workout as a deadlift. This exercise can help strengthen your back, which is the primary reason for using deadlifts.

Hold two dumbbells in your hands, do not try this exercise with a single dumbbell. Bend your waist to 45 degrees; get help from someone to keep your back at the right level.

Ensure that your spine is neutral, your knees are soft, and your arms are extended. Move your elbows upward like you are doing a chicken dance. Once they are up, squeeze your shoulder blade and hold it there for two to three seconds.

Bring your elbow down at the starting position and do as many reps as you like.

    • Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift

If you have an injury on your leg and can’t put extra pressure on it, this exercise is the best alternative to the deadlift exercise. Instead of using both legs, this requires only one leg, and you don’t have to move up and down. You’ll need good balance so you won’t trip while moving your leg.

Stand straight, hold dumbbells in your hands, and have a firm grip so you won’t drop them.

Place the weight on the leg which is not injured and hinge forward. Remember to keep your knee relaxed to know if that exercise is right for your body and legs.

Make a T shape with your body, let the dumbbells hang from your arm, hips squared, and muscle groups like chest engaged.

Once you make the T, hold for a couple of seconds and return to the original position. Repeat as many reps as you like before switching to the other leg if both your legs are in perfect condition. In case of extra pain in the keens, you can reduce the weight or quit doing this exercise.

Also learn about the difference between aerobic vs. anaerobic exercise.

    • Barbell Hip Thrust

Barbell hip thrust is an excellent entry-level exercise that strengthens your hips and smoothes your movements. This is another exercise to keep your posterior chain muscles active; if you recently had an injury.

You can add more weight to create more resistance for intense training. Since you are close to the ground, if you can’t hold the weight, simply drop the hips, and the weights will hit the ground instead of injuring you.

Keep your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and arms by your side while you lie face up. Put the barbell on your hips; you’ll need help from another person. Once the weight is on your hips, inhale and slowly move the hips up toward the ceiling.

Once hips are lifted, hold for a couple of seconds and return to the original position. You can do 10-12 reps before you feel the intensity of a deadlift.

    • Cable Pull-Through

Cable pull-through is a reverse of a landmine deadlift, but instead, you use a cable, and your back faces the machine. This exercise puts extreme stress on your hips, so be ready to feel the deadlift stress after 10-12 reps.

One thing to remember while pulling the cable is that you shouldn’t move your hands; instead, rely on hip movement.

Your glutes, hamstrings, and deep spine are the most affected areas, making this exercise best for bulking.

Grab a rope and attach it to a low pulley machine; turn your back towards the machine and bring the rope between your legs. Bent your legs slightly and widen them so you can easily move the rope. Lean forward enough, so your back is not round; stop, hold, and thrust your hips forward, pulling the rope with you.

Give your hamstring and glute a squeeze to control the movement and keep it slow during reps.

    • Tire Flips

Tire flips are a strongman exercise that affects all body parts without any need for equipment. You can grab a truck tire and flip it with your arms, shoulders, legs, and back. The difference between a tire flip and a deadlift is that on a deadlift, the force is applied horizontally, while on a tire flip, the force is applied vertically and horizontally.

You can grab a tire from a junkyard, clean it and get ready for a workout. Place the tire on the ground and lift it using your entire body. Widen your legs, place your hands beneath the tire and try to lift it. Remember to use equal force from every part to avoid putting extra pressure on your back.

Once you lift the tire, try to hold it and slowly move it forward with both hands, keeping your legs bent but not putting all pressure on one leg. Maintain the balance, so you won’t fall; once the tire is on the ground, repeat the process and watch the stress on your overall body.

    • 45-Degree Back Extension

Another alternative is excellent for low back and glutes that require a barbell and support to bend down 45 degrees. The recommendation is to do this exercise after your workout using higher reps to build a robust mind-muscle connection. Make sure to use a heavy barbell, like 20 kg or more, for this exercise, and try not to hold more than two heavy barbells.

Grab a waist extension that is comfortable enough not to put extra pressure on your stomach. Grab a weight plate or a dumbbell and hold it close to your chest. Position your feet on the platform, having enough grip so you won’t trip, and start lowering yourself toward the floor. Keep your spine neutral and your legs straight, putting all the pressure on your back and hips.

Keep leaning down until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings and slowly pull your body to return to the original position. This might seem easy, but coming back up requires a lot of force, and you must do it without straining your back.

    • Pendlay Row

The Pendley row is an exercise to strengthen your back as your back is parallel to the floor while you row the barbell from the ground to your chest. Unlike a deadlift that focuses more on the entire body, Pendley row entirely works on your upper body. You might need to combine this exercise with one that helps improve the lower body.

Set up a barbell and put it on the floor, stand next to it, and hold it with a wide grip, the same as you use for the bench press. The barbell must be a few inches away from your shins; slightly bend your knees and keep your back parallel to the floor.

Row the bar to your sternum; if you can’t, the load is too heavy, and you must shed some before continuing. Keep your torso fixed as you row the barbell, putting all the stress on your back. Return to the starting position and make a stop before repeating the process.

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Benefits Of Non-Deadlift Exercises

Deadlift exercise is excellent for multiple purposes, like activating your hip extensors and cores and improving jump performance and bone mineral density. The problem is that deadlift requires more weight, and with more weight, the chances of an injury are high.

Opting for these alternatives gives you the same results as a deadlift but without extra stress and fewer chances of an injury. You can build your base, refine your technical skills, strengthen your weak points, and even get better results without proper equipment. Once you get a good grip on lifting weights, you can switch to deadlifts.

Conclusion: Why Deadlift Alternatives Are Best For You?

When you start working out, a deadlift seems like an ultimate goal, and you might want to reach there quickly. However, a deadlift is better when you want to strengthen your back for heavy weights.

In the meantime, you can check for a deadlift alternative and get the same results without putting extra pressure on your back. Once you realize that you can lift more than 80 kg easily, start doing the deadlift.

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