15 Deadlift Variations for Back, Leg, and Butt (Glutes) Muscle Growth

15 Deadlift Variations for Back, Leg, and Butt (Glutes) Muscle Growth

A deadlift variation is a subtle change to the movements or stance of the conventional deadlift to target different muscles and keep your workout mentally stimulating. 

Some deadlift variations, like the kettlebell deadlift variation, use a kettlebell or weights instead of a bar to enable those at home to deadlift. Other deadlift alternatives like the trap bar deadlift variation use special equipment to aid your workout. Deadlift weight variation can be experimented on with the offset load deadlift. 

All deadlift variations target the same muscles as a conventional deadlift, such as the: gluteus muscles, hamstrings, quadriceps, core muscles, and erector spinae. Main deadlift classifications include the classic, strongman, misfits, controversial, and beginner. 

Here are the top 15 deadlift variations for back, leg, and glute muscle growth. 

  1. Romanian Deadlift
  2. Sumo Deadlift
  3. Stiff-Leg Deadlift
  4. Deficit Deadlift
  5. Kettlebell Deadlift
  6. Cable Deadlift
  7. Hack Lift
  8. Conventional Deadlift
  9. Snatch Grip Deadlift
  10. Single-leg Deadlift
  11. Kickstand Deadlift
  12. Offset Load Deadlift
  13. Sliding Deadlift
  14. Resistance Band Deadlift
  15. Straight-Leg Deadlift

1. Romanian Deadlift

The Romanian Deadlift or RDL is a variation of the conventional deadlift that focuses on the hamstring and gluteus muscles (more than the back) for athletes, bodybuilders, and weightlifters. The RDL trains hip, glute, and hamstring extension, building strength and mobility in those areas. 

Different genders from varying ages or fitness levels should aim to lift the following when doing a Romanian deadlift.

  1. Beginner male: 120 lbs 
  2. Intermediate male: 275 lbs 
  3. Beginner female: 65 lbs 
  4. Intermediate female: 150 lbs

The Romanian deadlift is a classic deadlift variation. It is similar to the stiff-legged deadlift and the conventional deadlift. The RDL varies between the two because you end the motion just below the knees rather than touching the weights to the floor each rep.  

How to do a Romanian Deadlift

The RDL has three different variations. The Dumbbell RDL, Single-Leg RDL, and Trap-Bar RDL.

These Romanian deadlift variations focus on perfecting form with lower weights and special equipment. 

Common mistakes when doing the Romanian deadlift are overextending your range of motion or overloading the plates.

Squeeze your glutes at the top of the lift to make the RDL more effective in your glute muscles. Another way to improve efficiency is using mirrors or videos to monitor your posture, focusing on your back and knee movements. 

The Romanian deadlift is easy to perform with proper form. The RDL is the most beneficial deadlift alternative for lower back pain. 

2. Sumo Deadlift

The sumo deadlift is a variation of the conventional deadlift that focuses on the quadriceps and gluteus muscles for weightlifters and athletes. 

The sumo deadlift builds strength and mobility in the hips, glutes, and hamstrings by widening your foot stance larger than in the conventional deadlift. Shorter lifters with long torsos have a slight mechanical advantage when doing a sumo deadlift over the conventional deadlift. 

Different genders from varying ages or fitness levels should aim to lift the following when doing a sumo deadlift.

  • Beginner male: 190 lbs 
  • Intermediate male: 360 lbs 
  • Beginner female: 100 lbs 
  • Intermediate female: 200 lbs

The sumo deadlift is a classic deadlift variation. It is similar to the conventional deadlift and the snatch-grip deadlift. The sumo deadlift varies between the two because of your foot stance, which is wider than hip-width apart. A widened foot stance creates a hinging motion from the knees more than the hips in a sumo deadlift, targeting the legs and glutes.

A sumo deadlift variation is the deficit sumo deadlift which targets the gluteus and hamstring muscles, further challenging your range of motion. 

The most common mistake with the sumo deadlift is having too narrow of a grip which causes internal rotation of the shoulders.

With the sumo deadlift, keep your toes at a 30-45 degree angle. Be sure to also keep your knees pushed outwards and stacked over the ankles for best form and efficiency. 

This deadlift variation is considered to be easier than a conventional deadlift because it has a shorter range of motion. However, those with limited hip mobility or weak quadriceps may find this more difficult than the conventional deadlift. 

3. Stiff-leg Deadlift

The stiff-leg or straight-leg deadlift is a variation of the conventional deadlift, where you keep your legs stiff as you lift. This deadlift variation targets the legs, lower back, and medial gastrocnemius (calf) muscles for strongmen, athletes, and bodybuilders.

Different genders from varying ages or fitness levels should aim to lift the following when doing a stiff-leg deadlift.

  • Beginner male: 120 lbs 
  • Intermediate male: 275 lbs 
  • Beginner female: 65 lbs 
  • Intermediate female: 150 lbs

The stiff-leg deadlift is a classic deadlift variation. It is similar to the conventional deadlift because you complete the same hinge at the hip movement. The stiff-leg deadlift varies from the conventional in that you keep your legs straight throughout the lift. 

The most common mistake with the stiff-legged deadlift is rounding your lower back while lifting instead of using your posterior chain.

The stiff-legged deadlift targets hip flexion and extension, so work on your hips with a foam roller when doing stiff-leg deadlifts to improve efficiency. By keeping the bar close to your body, you avoid uncontrolled movements. 

This deadlift variation is harder to perform than a conventional deadlift because it puts additional stress on the lower back, calf muscles, and legs. 

A deficit deadlift is a deadlift variation that focuses on the same muscles as the conventional deadlift but adds a challenge by changing your standing surface height. By bending your hips and knees deeper, you target the legs and quadriceps. 

4. Deficit Deadlift

Like the conventional deadlift, the deficit deadlift targets the glutes, hamstrings, erector spinae, calves, and upper back for bodybuilders, strongmen, athletes, and weightlifters. 

Different genders from varying ages or fitness levels should aim to lift the following when doing a deficit deadlift.

  • Beginner male: 185 lbs 
  • Intermediate male: 365 lbs 
  • Beginner female: 75 lbs 
  • Intermediate female: 170 lbs

The deficit deadlift is a classic deadlift variation. The deficit deadlift has two note-worthy variations: the sumo deadlift and the snatch-grip deadlift. These alternatives also focus on adjusting your range of motion to target specific muscles. 

A common mistake when doing a deficit deadlift is raising the platform too high. Even a minor height adjustment makes a difference. 

To improve the efficiency of the deficit deadlift, perfect your form before loading your weights. Your hips should not rise faster than your shoulders, and be sure to keep your back flat. 

The deficit deadlift is hard to perform with proper form because it increases the time under tension for the back and hip muscles.

5. Kettlebell Deadlift

The kettlebell deadlift is a deadlift variation that targets the posterior chain. Kettlebell deadlifts work the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and upper and lower back for athletes, weight lifters, and sporters without a barbell. 

Women should aim to lift anywhere between 18 lbs to 53 lbs depending on the exercise and their fitness level. Men should aim to lift between 35 lbs to 70 lbs according to the exercise and lifting experience. 

The kettlebell deadlift is a beginner deadlift variation. It is similar to the conventional deadlift and resistance band deadlift. It varies between the two because you use kettlebells instead of a bar or resistance band. 

Some kettlebell deadlift variations are the single-leg deadlift, the kickstand deadlift, and the sliding deadlift. Kettlebell deadlifts can also be offset load deadlifts to focus the weight to one side for even muscle development.  

A common mistake with the kettlebell deadlift is placing the kettlebell in front of your feet. The correct way is between the arches of your feet.    

To improve the efficiency of the kettlebell deadlift, pause at the end of each rep to reset your form and avoid injury. Ensure proper rest of one to two days between workouts to allow proper muscle repair. 

The kettlebell deadlift is considered easy to perform with proper form and is most beneficial to beginners starting on their weightlifting journey.

6. Cable Deadlift

The cable deadlift is a deadlift variation that uses a cable machine to assist your lift. The cable deadlift targets the hamstrings and glutes of weightlifters, athletes, and bodybuilders. 

A cable deadlift is a beginner deadlift variation. It is similar to the kettlebell deadlift in that you pull the weight in towards you. It varies from the conventional deadlift because it uses a cable machine rather than a bar. 

Alternatives to the cable deadlift are the resistance band deadlift and kettlebell deadlift. Both of these deadlift variations focus on the back, legs, and butt and use alternative equipment than the conventional deadlift.

A common mistake when doing the cable deadlift is not engaging the core muscles, which leads to back strain and injury.  

To improve the efficiency of the cable deadlift, ask someone to assist you with your form when first starting. Another way to improve efficiency is to start with low weight and slowly build up as you perfect your form. 

The cable deadlift is easy to perform with proper form since you have the assistance of the machine and is one of the best deadlift variations for bad backs. However, those used to doing deadlifts with a bar might need some adjustment time. 

7. Hack Lift

The hack lift is also called the behind-the-back deadlift. This deadlift variation focuses on the glutes, hips, and legs for weightlifters, athletes, and sporters. 

The hack lift is a way to change your lifting routine by holding the bar behind you. The hack lift helps stimulate muscles you might be overlooking with a conventional deadlift.

Different genders from varying ages or fitness levels should aim to lift the following when doing a hack lift deadlift.

  • Beginner male: 125 lbs 
  • Intermediate male: 300 lbs 
  • Beginner female: 65 lbs 
  • Intermediate female: 150 lbs

A hack lift deadlift is a beginner deadlift variation. It is similar to the conventional deadlift in that it works the posterior chain. It varies from the conventional deadlift because you hold the bar behind your legs while maintaining the same front-facing grip and lifting motion as the conventional deadlift. 

The hack lift has one other variation, the trap bar deadlift, where you have the option to change your hand placement on the trap bar to be behind you. By changing the position of the bar placement, the hack lift deadlift puts less strain on your elbows, shoulders, and lower back.

A common mistake with the hack lift deadlift is contracting the shoulders. Shoulder contraction while lifting leads to shoulder strain.

To improve the efficiency of the hack lift deadlift, have someone spot you to monitor your form. Another way to improve efficiency for the behind-the-back deadlift is to wear proper lifting shoes with a thin sole and ankle support. 

The hack lift deadlift is considered easy to medium to perform with proper form. It can feel strange holding the bar behind you, so you may need to adjust to this deadlift variation. 

8. Conventional Deadlift

The conventional deadlift focuses on the muscle group called the posterior chain. The posterior chain includes the hamstrings, glutes, erector spinae, and calves. 

Different genders from varying ages or fitness levels should aim to lift the following when doing a conventional deadlift.

  • Beginner male: 170 lbs 
  • Intermediate male: 335 lbs 
  • Beginner female: 85 lbs 
  • Intermediate female: 200 lbs

There are many alternatives to the conventional deadlift to further target muscles along the posterior chain listed above and below. Deadlift alternatives can be better suited for different body types. For example, taller lifters with long torsos are better suited for conventional deadlifting over the sumo deadlift. 

The most common mistake while performing the conventional deadlift is not warming up before lifting. Keep the bar close to your body as you lift, and be sure to hinge at the hips rather than perform a squatting motion. 

The conventional deadlift is of medium difficulty to perform with proper form. Kettlebell deadlifts are an easier alternative, while deficit deadlifts are more challenging. 

9. Snatch Grip Deadlift

A snatch grip deadlift is a deadlift variation that focuses on the hamstrings, glutes, upper back, core, lats, and hip muscles for athletes and weightlifters. 

With the snatch grip deadlift, you use your hamstrings and gluteus muscles to bend farther and extend the hips. This deadlift variation focuses more on the hamstrings and glutes than the conventional deadlift making it ideal for targeting these muscles.  

Different genders from varying ages or fitness levels should aim to lift the following when doing a snatch grip deadlift.

  • Beginner male: 175 lbs 
  • Intermediate male: 340 lbs 
  • Beginner female: 65 lbs 
  • Intermediate female: 140 lbs

The snatch grip deadlift is a misfit deadlift variation. It is similar to the Reeves deadlift because you adjust your hand positioning farther than hip-width apart to target different muscles in the posterior chain. Other snatch-grip variations include the deficit snatch-grip deadlift and the snatch-grip Romanian deadlift. 

The most common mistake when doing the snatch-grip deadlift is an incorrect grip width on the bar. A tip to ensure this does not happen is to keep all fingers on the bar. Should any fingers start coming off the barbell, adjust your hand placement. 

The snatch-grip deadlift is harder to perform with proper form than the conventional deadlift. Your hand width puts you at a disadvantage, making your body work harder to complete the lift. 

10. Single-leg Deadlift

The single-leg deadlift is a deadlift variation that focuses on the hamstrings, glutes, calves, ankle stabilizers, and oblique muscles for athletes and weightlifters. By lifting one leg while lowering the weight to the floor, you target muscles on one side of the body for improved strength and mental stimulation in your workout. 

Different genders from varying ages or fitness levels should aim to lift the following when doing a single-leg deadlift.

  • Beginner male: 35 lbs 
  • Intermediate male: 115 lbs 
  • Beginner female: 20 lbs 
  • Intermediate female: 60 lbs

The single-leg deadlift is a classic deadlift variation. An alternative to the single-leg deadlift is the single-leg Romanian deadlift, where the weight does not touch the floor until your last rep. Another option for beginners is the kettlebell single-leg deadlift, where you use a kettlebell instead of a bar.

A common mistake with single leg deadlift variations is lifting the leg too high off the floor. This can cause hip rotation and a change in your center of gravity which causes strain and injury. 

To improve the efficiency of the single-leg deadlift, try it without any weights to get a feel for the movement and form. Since you are targeting one side at a time, opt for lower weights than you would normally deadlift.

The single-leg deadlift is harder to perform with proper form than the conventional deadlift since you are working stabilizer muscles that do not activate as effectively with both feet firmly on the floor. 

11. Kickstand Deadlift

The kickstand deadlift is a deadlift variation that focuses on the hamstrings, gluteus muscles, and posterior chain. This deadlift variation is best for beginner athletes and weightlifters aiming to improve their single-leg deadlift and balance. 

The kickstand deadlift is a classic deadlift variation similar to the single-leg deadlift but is more supportive since you keep some of your weight in your back leg rather than lift it. Follow the weight guidelines for the single-leg deadlift for experience levels and genders. 

The kickstand deadlift has two variations: the kettlebell kickstand and the Romanian kickstand deadlift.

When doing the kickstand deadlift, the most common mistake is not engaging your core muscles. To improve the efficiency of the kickstand deadlift, breathe deeply before your lift. Always be sure to keep a neutral spine and never round your back and shoulders as this leads to injury. 

The kickstand deadlift is easier to perform in proper form than the single-leg deadlift but is more challenging than the conventional deadlift as it activates stabilizer muscles in a new way.

12. Offset Load Deadlift

An offset load deadlift is a deadlift weight variation that is focused more specifically on one side of the body. The offset load deadlift works out your posterior chain like a conventional deadlift. However, athletes and bodybuilders build more muscle on one side to even out muscle mass by lifting differently weighted weights.

The offset load deadlift should be adjusted based on experience level, the specific exercise, and gender. 

The offset load deadlift is a classic deadlift variation. Other variations of the offset load deadlift are the offset load kettlebell deadlift, single-leg deadlift, kickstand deadlift, and sliding deadlift, which use free weights, bars, or kettlebells that are differently weighted. 

When doing an offset load deadlift, the most common mistake is hyperextending your lower back to compensate for the weight imbalance. Instead, maintain as close to proper form as you can while targeting the muscles on one side.

To improve the efficiency of the offset load deadlift, maintain a positive mindset as this deadlift variation challenges your mind as much as your body. 

The offset load deadlift is difficult to perform in proper form. It is mentally challenging as well as exposes asymmetries in the body that make keeping proper form more difficult than the conventional deadlift. 

13. Sliding Deadlift

The sliding deadlift is a deadlift variation that focuses on the glutes, quads, hamstring, shoulders, and tricep muscles for athletes and weightlifters. 

The sliding deadlift is a classic deadlift variation that is a combination of the kickstand deadlift and the single-leg deadlift. With the sliding deadlift, you perform a single-leg deadlift while keeping the toes of the feet on the floor and slide back into a kickstand position. 

Check out numbers 10 and 11 on this list of best deadlift variations for more details, alternatives, common mistakes, and difficulty levels. 

14. Resistance Band Deadlift

The resistance band deadlift is one of the different deadlift variations that focus on the glutes and hamstrings for beginner athletes and weightlifters. 

A resistance band deadlift is a misfit deadlift variation. Resistance bands can be used to add resistance to all of the deadlift variations mentioned above and below. Resistance bands can also be used on their own to master the form of the deadlift without additional weights. 

The most common mistake with resistance band deadlifts is using a band with too much resistance when first starting. Regardless of your gender or age, graduate to higher resistance levels as you master form. Once you perfect the highest resistance band level, switch to weights. 

Resistance band deadlifts without weights are easy to perform and recommended for beginners and at-home training. Resistance band deadlifts with weights are more difficult than conventional deadlifts since you have additional resistance against the lift. 

15. Straight-Leg Deadlift

The straight-leg deadlift is another name for the stiff-leg deadlift. Read number 3 on this list of deadlift variations for more details. 

What Are the Main Deadlift Variation Types?

The main deadlift variation types are classifications for similar-style deadlifts. The sport has seen modifications since the bar was first brought to the sporting world in the early 1900s. 

The classic deadlift variations are from the classic era of deadlifting, while the misfit deadlift variations take positions different from the classic variations to target muscle areas. 

The main deadlift variation types are as follows.

  1. Classic Deadlift Variations 
  2. Beginner Deadlift Variations 
  3. Strongman Deadlift Variations 
  4. Misfits Deadlift Variations 
  5. Controversial Deadlift Variations 

The barbell deadlift is the default version for all deadlifts. You can offset load a barbell deadlift and modify poses to suit your body type and experience level. Barbell deadlifts seem intimidating to new lifters, so resistance band deadlifts and kettlebell deadlifts are variations for beginners. 

What Are the Classic Deadlift Variations?

The classic deadlift variations are from the classic era of bodybuilding. They are called classic because they are the conventional poses used from weightlifting’s early beginnings until today. 

Classic deadlift variations are listed below.

  • Conventional Deadlift 
  • Deficit Deadlift 
  • Clean Deadlift 
  • Pause Deadlift 
  • Single-Leg Deadlift 
  • Romanian Deadlift 
  • Stiff-Leg Deadlift 

Classic deadlift variations all target the posterior chain and are considered full-body workouts. 

What Are the Beginner Level Deadlift Variations?

You can deadlift even if you are not ready to do a barbell deadlift by doing beginner deadlift variations. Beginner deadlift variations are listed below.

  • Dumbbell Deadlift Variations
  • Kettlebell Deadlift Variations
  • Staggered Deadlift Variations
  • Cable Deadlift Variations
  • Trap Bar Deadlift Variations

The beginner deadlift variations are for those beginning on their weightlifting path or for experts revisiting the basics. 

What Are the Strongman Deadlift Variations?

Strongman deadlift variations are called such because they focus on building strength and muscle mass. Strongman deadlift variations are listed below.

  • Car Deadlift
  • Axle Bar Deadlift 
  • Frame Deadlift 
  • Elephant Deadlift 
  • Partial Deadlift 

The strongman deadlift variations are for those wanting the biggest muscle gains. 

What Are the Misfits Deadlift Variations?

Misfit deadlift variations are called such because they use stances different from classic deadlifts. Most of the misfit deadlift variations are associated with the name of the misfit who made the pose famous. The misfit deadlift variations are listed below.

  • Resistance Banded Deadlift
  • The Dorian 
  • The Jefferson 
  • The Suitcase
  • The Reeves 
  • Reverse Banded Deadlift
  • Snatch-Grip Deadlift

The misfit deadlift variations are for those looking to stimulate their workout by experimenting with different forms. 

What Are the Controversial Deadlift Variations?

The sumo deadlift is considered to be a controversial deadlift variation as it adjusts your range of motion. This makes the sumo deadlift easier for certain body types, which makes it controversial in the competitive weightlifting world.

There are other back exercises that are just as beneficial as the deadlift when it comes to the back muscles growth and strength such as the bent-over row, T-Bar row and lat pull-down. To increase the deadlift efficiency and benefits for posture, bone intensity and muscle mass, the bent-over row, T-Bar row and lat pull-down back exercises should be combined together.

The controversial side of the deadlift can be avoided thanks to its place in the best back exercise routines and work-out programs in a combined way with other healthy back movements.

Which Deadlift Variation Is Easier to Perform?

A kettlebell deadlift variation is easier to perform than the conventional deadlift, especially for those at a beginner level. Kettlebell deadlifts are versatile. You can incorporate a deadlift into your at-home routine, whereas many do not have the equipment to do a conventional barbell deadlift without joining a gym. 

Intermediate and experienced level lifters will still find variations of a kettlebell deadlift that are mentally stimulating and target the muscles of your preference. To learn how to do a Deadlift it is important to keep watching others and perfect your form before adding too much weight.

Which Deadlift Variation Is a Better Alternative to the Default Deadlift?

The sumo deadlift variation is a better deadlift alternative to that of the conventional deadlift. The sumo deadlift puts less pressure on the spinal erectors, especially for lifters with long arms and short torsos. 

The Romanian deadlift variation is also a better alternative to the conventional deadlift if you are tall and have short arms and if you are trying to target the hamstrings. 

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