11 Best Deadlift Alternatives That Can Help Build Strength And Muscles

The deadlift is one of the best exercises for the posterior chain but there are alternative exercises that can target the same muscles without stressing your muscles

woman exercising with a barbell

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The deadlift is one of the best exercises for building strength and promoting muscle growth in the posterior chain, but it requires the correct technique and skill to get it right. However, you can achieve similar results with other deadlift alternative exercises without the headaches associated with the conventional deadlift.

The deadlift can target your entire posterior chain, notably the hamstrings, glutes, core, rhomboids, and traps.

Building your posterior muscles is essential for the proper functioning of your body.

barbell alternative exercises

The deadlift requires you to have the correct technique and skill for execution. The exercise starts with lifting a barbell from the floor, which requires some strength to execute.

And because the deadlift can put so much pressure on your muscles, some tend to shy away from it.

If you are not a fan of lifting barbells, have no access to a barbell, or don’t have a gym membership, you can opt for deadlift alternative exercises to help you target the same or most of the muscles.

Best barbell alternative exercises for building your posterior chain

Below are some of the best deadlift alternative exercises that can help you target your posterior muscles and give you the strength you need for your daily activities.

Trap Bar Deadlift

The trap bar deadlift is one of the best deadlift alternative exercises to consider if you want to avoid the conventional deadlift. It uses a trap bar, aka hex bar, instead of a barbell for the exercise.

A hex bar distributes the weight around your body and not at the front like the barbell, putting less pressure on your back but allowing you to target the same muscles.

You will lift the trap bar from the middle, allowing you to start from a more upright position with more leg involvement. But the conventional deadlift requires back, glute, and hamstring strength to lift the barbell, which many lifters may not have.

Thus the trap bar deadlift alternative is much easier to execute and does not require much skill and technique, making it accessible to athletes of all fitness levels.

You will need a trap bar for the exercise. Check here for some of the best trap bars for home gyms if you consider getting one.

Muscles Targeted: Hamstrings, Abs, Calves, Adductors, Forearms, Lats, Traps, Glutes, Quads, Lower Back, Upper Back
Required Equipment: Trap bar

Steps to follow

  • Load the hex bar with the appropriate weight plates, place it on the floor, and step inside.
  • Keep your feet about a width apart.
  • Bend your knees while lowering your hips and grab the handles of the trap bar.
  • Look straight ahead, keep your back straight, and your chest out.
  • Inhale, push your heels into the floor and lift the bar as you extend your knees and hips.
  • Keep lifting till you get into an upright position
  • Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement, then exhale and slowly lower the bar to your starting position in a controlled manner.
  • Repeat 10–12 reps and three sets to complete a session.

Dumbbell Deadlift

The dumbbell deadlift is another good deadlift alternative to consider if you can’t lift barbells or are looking for variety. The exercise uses dumbbells instead of a barbell.

The dumbbell deadlift can build strength in many lower body muscles, including the shoulder, back, and core. It is an effective way to achieve a full body workout in one exercise.

You can achieve a better range of motion by using dumbbells, allowing you to challenge and strengthen your joints.

Muscles Targeted: Lower Back, Hamstrings, Calves, Glutes, Forearms, Middle Back, Traps
Required Equipment: Dumbbells

Steps to follow

  • Place a pair of dumbbells on the floor.
  • Stand with feet at shoulder width and with the dumbbells on either side of your feet.
  • Drop your hips and reach out to grab the dumbbells, palms facing downwards. Keep your hips neutral, back straight, and your eyes looking straight ahead.
  • Push your heel down and, moving with your head, explode upwards to stand while holding the dumbbells.
  • Just as the dumbbells get to your knees, push your hips forward and your shoulder blades back to contract your back.
  • Pause, bend your knees, and slowly lower the weights in a controlled manner to reverse the movement.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps

Kettlebell Sumo Deadlift

The kettlebell sumo deadlift is a barbell deadlift alternative exercise that can teach your body how best to pick heavy loads up from the floor, a task we perform many times in life.

The barbell deadlift alternative exercise with a kettlebell places the load in front of our body, making it easier to pick up for the movement.

It is one of the best ways to train and prepare your body for the more challenging deadlift with a barbell.

Muscles Targeted: Hamstrings, Calves, Abs, Adductors, Forearms, Lats, Quads, Glutes, Forearms, Traps, Lower Back, Upper Back,
Required Equipment: Kettlebell

Steps to follow

  • Take a wide stance with your toes pointing outwards and place the kettlebell between your feet.
  • Pushing your hips back, bend forward until your torso and the floor are nearly parallel.
  • With a close, double overhand grip, grab the kettlebell handles, ensuring you keep your arms fully stretched.
  • Push your hips further down to drop them below your shoulders.
  • Pushing down with your whole foot, extend your knees to rise with the kettlebell.
  • Keep rising until you lock your hips. Reverse the movement by pushing your hips back, and return the kettlebell to your starting position.
  • Repeat

Single-Leg Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift

The single-leg Romanian deadlift is another deadlift alternative exercise that allows you to work your posterior chain without the use of any backbreaking weight.

It is a Romanian deadlift alternative worth considering. Using one leg allows you to concentrate on one side of your body at a time, making it possible to correct any imbalances and weaknesses.

You will need a pair of dumbbells for the exercises.

Muscles Targeted: Hamstrings, Upper Back, Calves Abs, Glutes, Forearms, Lats, Traps
Required Equipment: Dumbbells

Steps to follow

  • Stand with dumbbells of appropriate weight in each hand
  • Transfer your body weight to one leg
  • Hinge at your hips, raise your loose leg, and stretch it behind you.
  • Keep bending at the hips while raising your fully stretched legs, and stop just before the dumbbells touch the floor. Your stretched leg and torso should be in line. Ensure you keep your back straight throughout the movement.
  • Return slowly to your starting position in a controlled manner.
  • Repeat up to 10 reps.
  • Reverse and go through the movement with the other leg.

Kettlebell Swing

Kettlebell swings are some of the best exercises for working your whole body. They can help target the same muscles as the deadlift but with explosive power combined with a hip-hinge movement like the deadlift.

Kettlebell swings are the exercises to go for if you want a deadlift alternative that can get you burning calories while building muscles and strength.

Muscles Targeted: Hamstrings, Calves, Abs, Adductors, Forearms, Lats, Quads, Glutes, Forearms, Traps, Lower Back, Upper Back,
Required Equipment: Kettlebell

Steps to follow

  • Stand with the kettlebell in front of you. Keep your feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart.
  • Bend your knees slightly, hinge at your hips, and grab the kettlebell handles with both hands.
  • Inhale, lift the kettlebell, and swing it back as far as possible between your legs.
  • Exhale, push your hips forward, and using that momentum, allow the kettlebell to swing upwards towards your chest. Lift yourself into an upright position while swinging the kettlebell upwards. Ensure you maintain a straight back throughout.
  • Swing the kettlebell in the opposite direction and between your legs while bending your knees to start another rep. Ensure you keep your torso straight and use the power from your glutes and hips to drive the up and down movements of the kettlebell.
  • Continue swinging for your desired reps. Gradually reduce the momentum and slowly come to a stop to end the session. Do not stop abruptly.

Good Morning With Dumbbells

good morning with dumbbells back extension alternative exercise

The good morning is a glutes exercise. It can also target your posterior chain muscles, including the hamstrings, lower and upper back, and abs.

You will usually place a barbell on your shoulders for the exercise. Using dumbbells instead of a barbell will help reduce the pressure on your back and shoulders, making it a good deadlift alternative to include in your leg or whole body workouts.

Steps to follow

  • Stand holding a dumbbell in each hand. Keep feet at hip width and slightly bend your knees.
  • Bring the dumbbells to rest on your shoulder blades.
  • Hinge at your hips to make your upper body and the floor parallel. Engage your core and ensure you keep your spine straight.
  • Pause and slowly return to your starting position by pushing your hips forward
  • Repeat

Cable Pull-Through

Do you get back pain when doing deadlifts? The cable pull-through can help you master the deadlift technique of moving from and with your hips and glutes while keeping your spine straight.

Many lifters struggle with deadlifts because they tend to concentrate the movement on their knee joints instead of hip joints. The cable pull-through deadlift alternative exercise can help you to master that movement.

You will need a cable machine for the exercise.

Steps to follow

  • Attach a rope with handles or cable with stirrups to the low pulley of a cable machine
  • Stand with your back towards the cable machine. Ensure you keep your feet more than shoulder-width apart.
  • Reach for the cable and pull it between your legs as far as possible while keeping your knees bent.
  • Keep your arms straight as you pull the rope till you straighten your knees and torso to stand upright.
  • Return the cable slowly to your starting position by bending your knees and hinging at your hips
  • Repeat

Glute Bridge

glute bridge vs. hip thrust - glute bridge exercise

The glute bridge is a bodyweight exercise requiring no equipment. It is a user-friendly exercise that will not put pressure on your back. Thus it is accessible to all, including beginners.

Despite its simplicity, it is an effective posterior chain exercise and one of the best deadlift alternative at home exercises.

To do the glute bridge deadlift alternative exercise,

Steps to follow

  • Lie on your back, bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor. Keep your arms by your sides.
  • Inhale, push through your whole feet, engage your core, hamstrings, and glutes, and lift your hips upward toward the ceiling to create a line from your shoulders to your knees.
  • Pause at the top of the movement while you squeeze your core and pull your tummy toward your spine.
  • Slowly return to your starting position
  • Repeat

Hip Thrust

barbell hip thrust - deadlift alternative exercise

The hip thrust is a variation of the glute bridge where you add resistance to the movement to help you target the muscles much better.

The glute bridge allows you to target your hamstrings and glutes with additional resistance without seriously involving your lower back.

You can use a barbell, dumbbell, weight plate, or something similar, and a weight bench for the exercise.

Muscles Targeted: Glutes, Hamstrings, Quad, Adductors
Required Equipment: Barbell, dumbbell, weight plates, or kettlebell

Steps to follow

  • Sit with your upper back resting on the edge of the weight bench. Bend your knees and keep your feet apart by more than a hip-width
  • Place the barbell or weight across your hips and hold it to keep it sturdy
  • Squeeze your glutes, and use your hips to press the weight straight up.
  • Keep pressing the weight upward until your shoulders are resting on the bench and your hips, shoulders, and knees are in line. Ensure you keep your core tight.
  • Lower the bar slowly and stop when your hips are a few inches from the floor.
  • Repeat by squeezing your glutes and pushing the weight upward with your hips.

Back Extension

back extension exercise - deadlift alternative exercise

The back extension is another deadlift alternative exercise for building lower back strength and muscles. It can also target the glutes and hamstrings.

You will need a hyperextension machine for the exercise. But you can only do it on the floor if you don’t have access to one.

Steps to follow

  • Position yourself on the hyperextension machine, facing downwards,
  • Place your arms behind your hand or on your chest
  • Hinge at your waist and lower your upper body until it is perpendicular to the floor.
  • Then, using your quads and lower body, raise your upper body to your starting position (till your body is in a straight line).
  • Pause, and repeat by lowering your upper body again.
  • Repeat 10-12 reps for a set and 3 sets to complete a session

B Stance Deadlift

The B stance, also known as a kickstand, is a Romanian deadlift alternative exercise that allows you to target your posterior chain muscles, including the glutes, hamstrings, and back.

The B stand position allows you to emphasize individual legs without struggling to balance your body.

You will need a dumbbell for the exercise.

Steps to follow

  • Stand, holding a kettlebell in one hand.
  • Take a step back with the leg on the same side as the hand holding the kettlebell. Lean forward, bend your knees slightly, and lift the heel of the rear leg to rest it on the inside of your toes. Ensure your front foot is firmly on the floor.
  • Brace your core, lock your shoulders, pull your hips back, push your glutes backward, and keep your eyes down.
  • Lower the weight as close to the floor as possible.
  • Stop before the weight touches the floor and raise yourself to your starting position.
  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions
  • Switch legs and go through the motions for the other side of the body.

Final words from LiveLIfe

Conventional deadlifts are some of the best exercises for building muscles and strength. But they are not for everyone.

Conventional deadlifts are also not the only way to target your posterior chain muscles. Many other alternatives can help target and build the same muscles.

Incorporate these deadlift alternative exercises into your training, even if you can work with barbells. They could help you to overcome some of your stumbling blocks.

  1. Lake JP, Lauder MA. Kettlebell swing training improves maximal and explosive strengthJ Strength Cond Res. 2012;26(8):2228-2233. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e31825c2c9b.
  2. Bird S, et al. (2010). Exploring the deadlift. Strength and Conditioning Journal. doi: 10.1519/SSC.0b013e3181d59582
  3. Contreras B, Cronin J, Schoenfeld B. Barbell hip thrust. Strength Cond J. 2011;33(5):58-61. doi:10.1519/SSC.0b013e31822fa09d

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