8 Deadlift Alternatives That Build Muscle and Strength

Take a look at some of the best alternatives to deadlifts so you can still build the muscle and strength that you’re looking for!

8 Deadlift Alternatives That Build Muscle and Strength
María Rubio María Rubio
6 min read

When it comes to lifting weights, deadlifts are among the most popular exercises that people include in their workouts – and for a good reason! They’re incredibly effective at building strength, particularly across your posterior chain, allowing you to perform more effectively during your strength training routine.

That said, as good as deadlifts can be, they’re also pretty intense. You need to recruit a bunch of muscles from your upper back to your hamstrings, including your core and glutes, and the hinging movement at the hips adds to the difficulty. If you’re a beginner or you’ve recently injured yourself, deadlifting probably isn’t the best idea.

Luckily, there are many alternatives that you can try! We’ve compiled a list of some of the best alternative exercises to deadlifts that you can add to your routine to build a bigger and stronger body. So, if you’re unable to deadlift at the moment or you’re simply taking a break from it but still want to safely build your strength, keep reading!

Good morning with a medicine ball

Starting strong with an exercise that mimics the hinging movement of a deadlift. Good mornings are often overlooked in strength training routines, but they can be incredibly effective at improving hip flexion and strengthening your posterior chain!

How to do it:

  1. Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart and a medicine ball in your hands. Grab the ball in front of you and close to your body, around chin level.
  2. Bend slightly at the knees to better recruit your posterior chain muscles for the hinging movement.
  3. Engage your core and begin the movement by hinging forward at the hips keeping your back straight until your torso is near horizontal, without moving your arms or the medicine ball.
  4. Hold for a second while you squeeze your muscles, then go back to the starting position and repeat.

Kettlebell swing

Another hip-hinging movement, but this time more explosive. The kettlebell swing not only works your posterior chain but also the muscles in your arms, shoulders, and chest, and you can even add it to your cardio routine at home!

How to do it:

  1. Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and a kettlebell down in your hands. Make sure to firmly grasp the handle of the kettlebell with both hands so that it doesn’t slip.
  2. Keeping a straight back, begin the movement by hinging forward at the hips and slightly swinging the kettlebell between your legs until your torso is bent at around 45 degrees.
  3. From that position, lift your torso while explosively swinging the kettlebell all the way up to shoulder height without bending your elbows.
  4. Without skipping a beat, swing the kettlebell back down and between your legs and repeat for the desired count.

45-degree back extension

Similar to the last exercise, this movement will have you bending your hips at 45 degrees, except this time your muscles will be fighting your body weight against gravity instead of using a free weight.

How to do it:

  1. Find a back extension machine and set it up at 45 degrees, then get on it. Make sure the pads are supporting your thighs with enough room to bend at the hips.
  2. Secure your feet against the ankle pads so that you don’t fall and cross your arms in front of your chest for stability.
  3. Engage your core and begin the movement by bending forward at the hips, lowering your torso until your upper body is parallel to the floor.
  4. Pause the movement while your squeeze your muscles, then go back to the starting position and repeat.

Barbell hip thrust

When it comes to having stronger legs and core, the barbell hip thrust should definitely be a go-to in your routine. If you’re recovering from an injury or just starting, you can perform this movement with just your body weight or with a light medicine ball!

How to do it:

  1. Find a bench and sit on the floor with your back resting on the long side of the bench, then roll a bar over your hips.
  2. Place your upper back and shoulder blades against the edge of the bench and place your feet shoulder-width apart on the floor in front of you with your knees bent.
  3. Grab the bar with both hands, engage your core and begin the movement by thrusting your hips upward against the weight of the barbell until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  4. Hold this position for a second while you squeeze your muscles, then drive your hips back down and repeat.

Farmer's carry

While this exercise works your entire body, it’s also really effective at improving grip strength, which is something you definitely need if you’re planning on doing deadlifts in the future or any other heavy lifting exercise!

How to do it:

  1. Grab a pair of kettlebells, one in each hand, and stand straight with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Keeping your back straight and the weights down and to your sides, begin the movement by walking forward in a straight line, making sure you’re not swinging the weights or rounding your shoulders.
  3. Walk in 30-second intervals until you’re done with your reps.

Standing cable pull-through

This is another machine alternative that you can do at the gym. It involves pulling a cable from between your legs, adding resistance to the hip-hinging movement, and helping you develop more strength around your torso without putting too much stress on your lower back.

How to do it:

  1. First, attach a rope handle to the low pulley of a cable machine and turn your back to it. Grab the handle with both hands through your legs and step a few feet away from the machine.
  2. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your back straight while firmly holding the rope, then bend your knees slightly and your torso 45 degrees.
  3. Begin the movement by bringing your torso back up to the standing position as you pull the cable forward with your hands without bending your elbows.
  4. Pause for a moment while your squeeze your muscles in this position, then bend your hips again and repeat.

Bent-over barbell row

Another classic muscle-building exercise that involves hinging at the hips and lifting a heavy weight. The bent-over barbell row mainly targets your back muscles, helping you strengthen your upper body and make lifting easier. You can also try it at home with dumbbells!

How to do it:

  1. Place a loaded barbell on the floor and stand straight with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart in front of it.
  2. Grab the bar with both hands in an overhand grip shoulder-width apart and hinge between 45 and 90 degrees at the hips so that the barbell sits right below your knees while your arms are extended.
  3. Engage your core and begin the movement by rowing the bar toward your body, pulling your elbows back until the bar almost touches your belly button.
  4. Hold this position for a moment while squeezing your muscles, then slowly lower the bar to the starting position and repeat.

Trap bar deadlift

This is technically a deadlift variation, but what makes it a good alternative to standard deadlifts is that it’s performed with a bar that’s designed to align the weight with your center of gravity, allowing you to avoid putting too much stress on your joints while still targeting all the muscle groups involved in traditional deadlifts.

How to do it:

  1. Place a trap bar on the floor and step in the middle, so that it surrounds you, and place your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Bend at the hips and knees to grab the bar by the handles with both hands in a neutral grip.
  3. Engage your core and begin the movement by pulling from the bar while you lift your torso back to the standing position, driving the bar along your legs all the way up to your thighs.
  4. Pause for a second while you squeeze your muscles, then slowly lower the back to the floor and repeat.

Learn how to work out safely for your goals

Deadlifting might not be for everyone for many reasons, or maybe you just want more variety! Either way, having a few safe alternatives for your gym and home workouts so you can still build strength along your whole body it’s a great idea, and it can even help you get out of an unwanted training plateau. So don’t be afraid to add some of these to your next strength-training session! And if you need help creating an effective workout routine for your muscle-building goals, check the Fit With Iulia app! It features weekly goal-focused workouts created by Iulia herself that will help you achieve your fitness goals in no time. Simply download the Fit With Iulia app and try our 7-day free trial today!