The deadlift is considered a staple to most powerlifting routines and yet, it has the potential to be one of the most dangerous exercises for beginners. Even if you’re wearing a weightlifting belt and barely loading the bar, slipping on your form can throw your back out indefinitely.
So, we’re going to go over seven of the safest alternatives for deadlifts that you can add to your routine right now.
Table of Contents
1. Romanian Deadlift
Deadlifts on their own aren’t dangerous, but attempting to deadlift a heavily loaded bar can throw your back out in a second. That’s much less of an issue with the Romanian deadlift, as you won’t be able to lift nearly as heavy of a weight.
What’s unique about this exercise is that, rather than focusing on lifting the weight from the ground, you’re working on lowering the weight back down (the opposite motion). Plus, all you’ll need is a loaded barbell or a pair of dumbbells.
- Begin with your feet shoulder-width apart and an overhand grip with both hands on the barbell.
- Keeping your legs somewhat straight and your back completely straight, lower the barbell to about the level of your ankles.
- Extend your lower back and return to your starting position.
2. Barbell Rack Pull
A lot of gym newbies have trouble with the deadlift, especially when it comes to finding the right amount of momentum in the first part. When getting the lift started is what’s troubling you, the barbell rack pull is the greatest solution.
Rather than starting the barbell on the ground, it’ll be about a foot higher up when it’s resting on the rack. So, you’re cutting out the first part of the deadlift, but still targeting the same muscles.
- Begin with the barbell resting on the rack and your feet about shoulder-width apart.
- Use both hands to grasp the barbell with an overhand grip and extend the lower back until you’re standing completely upright.
- Gently return the barbell back to the rack.
3. Trap Bar Deadlift
When you lose form during a regular deadlift, you can hyperextend your back or even herniate a disc. So, the trap bar deadlift helps you to keep proper form through the entire exercise and put less pressure on your lower back.
That makes this the perfect deadlift exercise for anyone that already has some sort of lower back injury. You just need to make sure that your gym actually has a trap bar or you can get one for yourself like this one by HulkFit.
- Begin by standing in the interior of a loaded trap bar with your knees bent and your hands gripping the inside of the bar.
- Push up off the floor at your feet until you’re in a completely upright position.
- Lower yourself back into this beginning “squatting” position.
4. Kettlebell Swing
When you want to add a little more movement to your deadlift days, the kettlebell swing is a great alternative. All you need is a kettlebell and enough energy leftover to power through these highly taxing movements.
Though this exercise definitely targets the hamstrings and lower back like a deadlift, there are limitations. You obviously can’t use as heavy of a weight since you’re forced to use a single kettlebell rather than a loaded barbell.
AmazonBasics makes a decent kettlebell that can be used for this exercise as well as others. It’s made of high-quality cast iron and its smooth enamel finish will keep from scratching you when it rubs against your wrists or legs.
- Use both hands to grip a kettlebell in front of you with your legs about shoulder-width apart (or a little further).
- Bring the kettlebell back between your legs.
- Use the momentum from your lower back and hamstrings to propel the kettlebell forward to about shoulder-level.
5. Barbell Hip Thrust
Deadlifts are great, but they’re not all that useful when you’re just looking to boost endurance in your lower back and hamstrings. That’s why the barbell hip thrust is a great finishing exercise for any lower body days.
This exercise requires a barbell and a bench to prop your upper body on. After pumping out tons of reps at the end of your workout, you’ll soon begin to notice just how hard this exercise hits your glutes and lower back.
- Rest your upper back against a bench, plant your feet on the floor, and balance a weighted barbell in your lap
- Generating momentum from your glutes and lower back, extend your back until it’s completely straight (i.e. Table-top position).
- Slowly lower the barbell and your body back to the starting position.
6. Barbell Good Morning
There’s no doubt that deadlifts hit your lower back, but you might want to add some exercises to your routine that better target your lower back on its own. That’s where the barbell good morning comes into play.
For this simple exercise, all you need is a barbell loaded with plates. The best part is – You don’t have to do this exercise all the time, but you can swap it in every once in awhile in the place of regular deadlifts.
- Start with a barbell resting on your back like you were about to do a regular back squat.
- Keeping your legs and back completely straight, lean forward until you’re looking directly at the ground.
- Use the strength in your lower back to return to an upright position.
7. Single-leg Romanian Deadlift
So, we already went over the regular Romanian deadlift, but some gym-goers really like hitting each leg on its own. And, the single-leg Romanian deadlift actually does a lot more than most exercises on this list.
With a dumbbell or kettlebell grasped in one hand, you’ll need to recruit strength from your core, lower back, and hamstrings. Yet, this exercise also requires a ton of balance in the lower body, so you might find this exercise to be too difficult right now.
These Bowflex SelectTech Adjustable Weights work well for this exercise since you can switch between weights quickly and easily.
- Hold a kettlebell or dumbbell in one hand while keeping the opposite foot planted and that leg completely straight along with your back.
- Lean forward with the weight until your body is at about a 90-degree angle (your second leg should be airborne at this point).
- Find the strength in your lower back to return to your starting position.
Just because deadlifts tend to be a little hard on the lower back, that doesn’t mean that you have to avoid lower back exercises altogether. In fact, there are dozens of exercises that also target the lower back, glutes, and hamstrings (just like the deadlift) without causing you to blow out your lower back.