The best back friendly deadlift variations

In it’s simplest form, deadlifting is just bending over and picking up an object. This could be anything from a child sitting on the ground, up to a barbell loaded with plates.  As we all need to pick things up, I program some version of the deadlift in everyone of my client programs – the important part is selecting the right variation for each individual.  Here are three variations  that will be more back friendly than a traditional barbell deadlift off the floor.  

  1. Trap Bar deadliftThis variation essentially places the weight BESIDE you, rather than IN FRONT of you.  This is important because you can lift with more legs and less back.
  2. Rack Pull. This variation still uses a barbell and is in front of the client – but it is pulled from a higher start position.  This allows those with less mobility to start and finish the lift with a more flat and rigid back.
  3. Dumbell Deadlift. This version has you take a wider stance and  places the weight UNDER you rather than IN FRONT.  These changes will allow more work from muscles such as the adductors and will allow a more upright start position. 

If you find the traditional deadlift is overly stressing the low back, try substituting with any of the variations listed above.   As always, brace your belly and allow the back to stay neutral and the work to come from the hips.

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Ryan Lyn
Ryan Lyn

Ryan has been a strength and conditioning coach since 2006. His passion is helping clients surpass their limitations and reach their absolute best shape.