Any serious weightlifter knows that no training session is complete without a couple of sets of deadlifts.
However, these compound exercises can be especially challenging if you’re new to weight training and this is why it’s highly recommended to include some deadlift accessories into your workout.
Also known as auxiliary, accessory exercises are generally smaller than compound movements. They’re also more focused on certain muscles so, even if you’re not new to weightlifting, accessories are a great way of spot training.
Accessory exercises are great for helping you improve your form, too.
Put simply, accessory exercises will help you get the results you’re looking for from deadlifting.
However, there are a vast number of accessory exercises to choose from, which can lead to confusion over which of them are the best.
So, to help make things a little clearer, we’ve put together a list of 12 deadlift accessories to increase strength and performance.
We’ll also explain why you should choose one over the other, as well as how to implement them into your training program. Are you ready? Let’s go!
1. Deficit Deadlift
To perform a deficit deadlift, you’ll need to stand on an elevated surface so that the bar is lower than the normal starting point.
If you’re using the conventional stance, the deficit created can range from 2-4-inches, while using the sumo-stance can create a deficit of 1-2-inches.
When you perform a deficit deadlift, the muscles that take on bottom-end strength contract harder than they would in a standard deadlift as they compensate for the heavier load.
Over time, this will give you more strength when you’re lifting heavier weights from the floor.
What is a Deficit Deadlift Good For?
There are three main areas that incorporating a deficit deadlift into your training session will help you improve. This accessory exercise will enhance your speed when lifting from the floor, improve your flexibility in the start position, and increase the strength in your hips, lower back, and legs.
A deficit deadlift is a great choice of accessory exercise for anybody that finds it difficult to lift from the floor with a heavy weight.
You will need a little extra support when you’re performing a deficit deadlift, though. This is because the elevated position will put more strain on your lower back than lifting from the floor does.
The easiest way to keep yourself secure when performing a deficit deadlift is to use a powerlifting belt. This will help to keep your lower back and core strong and supported while you learn how to lift from an unusual position.
There are loads of powerlifting belts to choose from, but our favorite is the Hawk Sports Genuine Leather 10mm Powerlifting Belt. This powerlifting belt is strong, durable, and will keep everything tight and secure while you learn how to perform a deficit deadlift.
It’s also much less expensive than some other well-known brands, so it’s ideal for new weightlifters or for anybody on a budget.
How do you Set Up and Execute a Deficit Deadlift?
If you’d like to incorporate a deficit deadlift into your weightlifting session, then you’ll need to know how to do it properly! Here’s a step by step guide on how to set up and execute a deficit deadlift:
- Set up your platform using blocks or plates.
- Stand on the platform and drop your hips into the start position. This will be slightly lower than a standard deadlift.
- Initiate the movement using your knee extensors
- As you pull the weight upwards, manage your posture so that you’re preventing your hips from shooting upwards too quickly. They’ll want to do this when you’re performing a deficit deadlift, so you’ll really need to focus.
- Maintain the tension in your quads as you move through each rep.
How do you Program a Deficit Deadlift?
Due to the additional range of movement, a deficit deadlift can be much more taxing than a standard deadlift.
With this in mind, it’s a good idea to use a weight that’s at least 10% lower than what you would normally deadlift with, while still aiming for the same amount of sets and reps.
Also, if your training schedule features deadlifts more than once a week, you should aim to perform deficit deadlifts on one of these sessions.
This will help you build your strength up over several weeks. However, since deficit deadlifts are so physically demanding, we wouldn’t recommend doing them on the same day as heavy squats.
2. Pause Deadlift Combos
This accessory exercise involves combining paused reps with regular reps, within a single set. So, for example, you would perform three paused reps and then move straight into three regular reps without stopping.
When you’re doing paused reps, the position that you pause in is left completely up to you. You can either pause just off the floor, below the knee, or above the knee. It ultimately depends on the range of motion you’d like to target.
What is a Paused Deadlift Combo Good For?
The added time under tension will allow you to build strength in a weaker area and also allows you to focus on a particular part of the movement where you feel like you may need to improve your technique.
So, with this in mind, the benefit really depends on where you’re pausing during the paused reps section of a paused deadlift combo.
- Pausing in the bottom-end will focus more on the quads and will simultaneously ensure that your hips aren’t coming up too quickly.
- Pausing in the mid-range allows you to focus more on the lower and middle of the back, keeping your toro’s angle in the optimal position as you transition in the lock-out.
- Pausing in the top-end will put more emphasis on the glutes and will generally ensure you’re lifting correctly as you lock-out.
How do you Set Up and Execute a Paused Deadlift Combo?
Setting up and executing a paused deadlift combo is pretty straightforward. Here’s what you need to do:
- Set up your movement in the same way as you would when performing a regular deadlift.
- Decide which point you’ll be pausing at during the paused rep sections.
- Perform the paused reps, the move into the regular reps.
It’s that easy! You’ll want to make sure that you remain consistent with your pausing position, though. Also, don’t mix it up throughout the sets, and try not to have some reps that are higher than others.
How do you Program a Paused Rep Combo?
As this accessory exercise is best used for improving technique and positioning, it’s best to keep the load below your usual weight choice so that you aren’t fighting fatigue towards the end of the set. The weight you’re lifting should feel manageable, but not heavy.
A typical progression would look like this: 3-5 sets of 4-6 reps, with the reps being split evenly between paused and regular deadlifts.
3. Interval Deadlifts
This accessory exercise is performed in the exact same way as a regular deadlift. The only difference is that you change the reps and rest times, with 1 rep every 60 seconds being the standard practice.
Put simply, it’s a case of doing 1 rep every minute over the course of the set on your training program.
What is an Interval Deadlift Good For?
If you struggle with bottom-end strength or technique, then an interval deadlift is the accessory exercise for you! It’s also a good learning tool for anybody new to deadlifting as it will allow you to focus on your technique before you start smashing out multiple reps.
Also, if you’ve gotten into the habit of doing ‘touch and go’ reps, performing interval deadlifts will force you to stop at the top and bottom of the lift each time. This will help you gain more strength over time since pulling a weight from a standstill position rather than when it’s in motion requires more muscle strength.
Interval deadlifts are also super useful for allowing you to set up your stance properly before you perform each lift. So, if you’ve been finding yourself having issues with your hip and torso angles, you’re given more time to focus on your positioning before you pull the bar up.
How do you Set Up and Execute an Interval Deadlift?
Like most accessory exercises, interval deadlifts are super easy to set up and execute. Here’s how to do it:
- Set up your deadlift in the same way as you would a regular deadlift.
- Set a timer on your phone or watch for 60 seconds. Once you’ve completed each rep, hit the timer and wait for 60 seconds before resetting it and performing another interval deadlift.
- Upon finishing each rep, let go of the barbell and walk away from it. This allows you to approach and set up correctly for the next lift.
- Make sure you’re consistent with your stance each time you lift.
How do you Program an Interval Deadlift?
There isn’t very much difference between programming an interval deadlift and a standard deadlift.
You’ll want to aim for the same weight that you normally deadlift with but, instead of performing the same number of repetitions and sets over a shorter amount of time, you simply split them into minute-long intervals.
For example, if your usual training program is 4 sets of 4 reps ( a total of 16), you just do 16 reps at minute-long intervals. Granted, it does take a lot more time to do interval deadlifts, but it’s a guaranteed way to improve your positioning and technique.
4. Slow-To-The-Knee Deadlift
A slow-to-the-knee deadlift accessory exercise involves pulling the barbell from the floor with a slower tempo to the knee, then exploding upwards for the rest of the lift.
What is a Slow-To-The-Kneed Deadlift Good For?
This accessory exercise will help you develop patience and proper technique when you’re lifting from the floor. Pulling the barbell too quickly and impatiently may pull the slack out of the bar, and it also increases the risk of your hips shooting up out of the bottom position.
When these things happen, you’re likely to lose the correct positioning in your upper body and torso. This makes it much harder to lock-out, and it’s less than ideal when you’re trying to lift a super heavy weight.
How do you Set Up and Execute a Slow-To-The-Knee Deadlift?
- Set up just as you would for a regular deadlift.
- Once you’re in the correct position and your hips are set, take the slack out of the barbell.
- Cue yourself and ‘push the floor away’ slowly.
- Slowly bring the bar towards your knees over a 3-second count.
- Once you reach the knees, pull your shoulders back explosively and bring your hips forward.
How do you Program a Slow-To-The-Knee Deadlift?
Since this accessory movement is for technique purposes only, you’ll need to select a load that’s light enough to lift without your technique becoming compromised. Again, try and aim for manageability rather than using an overly heavy weight.
A typical progression would look like this: 4-6 sets of 3-5 reps.
5. Trap Bar Deadlift
To perform this accessory exercise, you’ll need to use a specialty bar known as the “trap bar”, “hex bar”, or “diamond bar”. These are all names for the same piece of equipment.
A trap bar deadlift allows you to stand within a closed box frame while the plates run directly lateral to your body. This forces you into an upright position.
What is a Trap Bar Deadlift Good For?
Since the trap bar deadlift is a pulling exercise, it’s good for lifters who struggle to get into the proper position before performing a deadlift.
The reason for this is because the trap bar offers more flexibility and freedom to manipulate the body based on your own needs and levels of mobility.
It’s also a great accessory exercise if you’re looking for a way to spot-train your quads, as it puts a lot more weight on them.
And, because of the upright posture, you’re forced into while lifting, a trap bar deadlift reduces the amount of stress but on the lower back. This makes it a fantastic accessory exercise for anybody recovering from injury or regaining strength in their back.
How do you Set Up and Execute a Trap Bar Deadlift?
Once you’ve located the trap bar in your gym, setting up and executing a trap bar deadlift is pretty straightforward:
- Position your feet in a comfortable stance, mimicking the same stance as your regular deadlift.
- Grab the handles, making sure your hands are in the same position on each of them.
- Lock your feet against the floor and pull the weight upwards, maintaining your torso position.
How do you Program a Trap Bar Deadlift?
Compared to a regular deadlift, a trap bar deadlift will feel much easier to pull. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to up your regular weight by 10%. So, if you would normally do 5 sets of 5 reps at 70%, start your trap bar deadlift at 80%. You can then increase the weight over time.
This is also a highly versatile accessory exercise, and it can be put into your training routine before or after squats, or on a designated deadlifting day.
6. Isometric Deadlift
This is one of the more intense accessory exercises. When you perform an isometric deadlift, the barbell is set up underneath the power rack’s safety pins, and the goal is to pull the barbell as hard you can against the pins.
This applies a maximum isometric contraction (where the muscle length doesn’t change under the weight load) in the area within the range of motion where you’re weakest.
What is an Isometric Deadlift Good For?
Since this is a pretty advanced training method, an isometric deadlift should only be performed by lifters who already have a good amount of strength and weight training experience.
It is mainly used to help break through those dreaded deadlift plateaus, so it should really only be used when you’ve been stuck hitting the same numbers for a few months.
Isometric deadlifts are a good choice if you’re looking to develop certain areas, as you can set up the pins however you need them. So, if you’re struggling at the mid-shin, you can perform an isometric deadlift at this point within the range of motion.
How do you Set Up and Execute an Isometric Deadlift?
As this is such an advanced deadlift accessory, you’ll need to make sure you’re setting up and executing it correctly. Here’s how to do both:
- Set the safety pins at the height you need them.
- Place the barbell underneath the pins and perform a couple of practice reps using only the barbell.
- You’ll know you’ve set it up correctly when the barbell is only hitting the pins within the range of motion you want to concentrate on.
- Now you can perform single repetitions, pulling as hard as you can against the pins.
- Stick the time under tension technique, which we’ll go into more detail on below.
How do you Program an Isolated Deadlift?
The first thing you need to know is that any isometric exercises, including isolated deadlifts, will require additional recovery throughout the week.
If you’re looking to build hypertrophy with isolated deadlifts, then perform 10-30 second contractions at 60-75% of your 1 rep max. How many sets you do will depend on how long you hold each contraction for, but the general goal will be to have a total contraction duration of 1-3 minutes per set.
However, if you’re using isolated deadlifts to build strength, aim for 3-10 second contractions with 75-90% of your 1 rep max. The total contraction duration for each set should also be lowered to 30-90 seconds.
7. Snatch Grip Deadlift
This is essentially a wide-grip deadlift, and it’s performed by setting your hands outside the barbell’s hash marks. This forces your torso into a slightly more horizontal position in line with the floor.
By doing this, more emphasis is placed on the glutes, lower back, mid-back, and your grip.
What is a Snatch Grip Deadlift Good For?
This is a great accessory exercise for anybody looking to develop stronger posterior chain muscles, especially the glutes and spinal erectors. This is achieved through the hips being set slightly lower compared to a regular deadlift, and by keeping the torso angle more horizontal to the floor.
So, if you find that your back starts to round when you begin to fail, the snatch grip deadlift is a good way of building a super-solid spinal position.
How do you Set Up and Execute a Snatch Grip Deadlift?
The first thing you need to do when setting up a snatch grip deadlift is to establish the correct stance. This is usually slightly wider than the stance you’d adopt when performing a regular deadlift.
Once you’re in position, follow these steps:
- Set your grip by placing your index finger on our just outside the barbell’s hash marks.
- Pull the bar close to your body while simultaneously engaging your lateral muscles.
- Drop your hips low so that they are almost in line with your shoulders.
- Drive upwards into a standing position, ensuring that you don’t round your back as you do so.
How do you Program a Snatch Grip Deadlift?
There’s no need to change the number of sets and reps when you’re performing a snatch grip deadlift, and you can continue to use the same amount that you would for a regular deadlift.
However, you will want to lower your usual weight load to about 15% less. So, if you would normally do 5 sets of 5 reps at a 75% weight load when performing a regular deadlift, lower this to 60% when performing a snatch grip deadlift.
As with all accessory exercises, you don’t want to sacrifice technique for weight. So, start off with a lower weight and increase it over the weeks as you gain technique and strength.
8. Rack Deadlift
A rack deadlift (otherwise known as a rack pull) allows you to focus on the top-end range of motion. This is achieved by setting the barbell on the safety pins inside the power rack, and this prevents you from bringing the barbell all the way to the floor.
The pins will usually be set up so that you’re performing a partial range of motion between the bottom of the knee to just above the top of the knee. However, this range will ultimately depend on your specific area of weakness.
What is a Rack Deadlift Good For?
As you can probably tell from what we’ve said above, a rack deadlift is a good accessory exercise for anybody that struggles with the top-end range of motion. This is because it will allow you to focus on your weak point within the movement.
Put simply, the goal is to prioritize load over range of motion, so you'll be able to lift much heavier weights than you would normally be able to handle.
However, this does place a great amount of pressure on certain muscle groups including the glutes and spinal erectors, as well as the hip and back extensors, so it’s not a good choice for anybody recovering from injury.
You also increase the chances of losing your grip as you’ll be handling more weight than usual, so you may need to use lifting straps.
How do you Set Up and Execute a Rack Deadlift?
As with an isometric deadlift, a rack deadlift is a more intense accessory exercise, so it should be approached with caution. However, if you’re certain that you’re capable of performing a rack deadlift, follow these steps to set up and execute it correctly:
- Begin by setting the safety pins inside the power cage so that the barbell is at knee height.
- Adopt the position, keeping your shoulders in line with the barbell.
- Before you begin pulling, squeeze your hands and lats tightly.
- Pull and forcefully drive your hips towards the barbell.
- As you lock-out, drive your shoulder back and squeeze your glutes.
- Return the barbell to its original position and make sure you come to a total stop before repeating the move.
How do you Program a Rack Deadlift?
A rack deadlift can either be used as a supplemental move to a regular deadlift or used on a separate training day. And, although you’re increasing the weight load, you should still aim for the same amount of reps and sets as you would with a regular deadlift.
Of course, the weight range will depend on where you’ve set the pins inside the power rack, but it will normally be 5-15% more.
As you're lifting heavier loads, you’ll also want to cycle it in and out of your usual training routine. Aim for 4-6 weeks before replacing it for another accessory exercise for the following 4-6 weeks, before cycling rack deadlifts in again.
9. Romanian Deadlift
If you’re looking for a way to engage your glutes and hamstrings more when you’re deadlifting, then the Romanian deadlift is the accessory move for you!
It starts from a standing position and, as you perform the movement, your hips will be pushed back when you lower the weight.
This will also push your shoulders much further in front of the barbell than a regular deadlift would, and you’ll only bring the barbell just below the kneecap before your return to your standing position.
What is a Romanian Deadlift Good For?
A Romanian deadlift will allow you to develop greater hypertrophy in the glutes and hamstrings, especially if you’re performing it in the higher rep range.
This is also a great accessory movement for new weight lifters, as it will properly teach the hip-hinge movement pattern, making it easier to learn how to move your hips correctly under a heavy weight load.
The Romanian deadlift is also used to prevent hamstring injuries while training, as it develops both strength and technique.
How do you Set Up and Execute a Romanian Deadlift?
Since the Romanian deadlift starts from a standing position, its set up and execution is a little different from most other deadlift accessories. Here’s what you need to do:
- Carefully walk the weight out of the rack at a standing position.
- Bend your knees slightly and then hinge the hips so that you’re bringing the barbell to knee height.
- Try and keep as much weight as possible on your heels while driving your hips back as far as possible.
- Keep the barbell on your thighs as your shoulders move in front of the barbell.
- When the barbell is positioned just below the knee, drive your hips forward while squeezing your glutes.
- Keep your knees slightly bent as you reach the top.
- Repeat the movement for as many reps as you’ve allowed yourself in your set.
How do you Program a Romanian Deadlift?
A Romanian deadlift is an accessory movement that’s designed to improve technique rather than focusing solely on strength. This means that you should use a lighter weight than you would usually use for a regular deadlift.
We would recommend going for a weight that is 50-60% of your 1 rep max and performing 6-12 reps per set. It’s a good accessory move for cooling down after a heavy squat or deadlift and will help to engage the glutes and hamstrings better.
10. Banded Deadlift
As the name suggests, a banded deadlift is performed by attaching resistance bands to the barbell.
This adds more resistance to the movement as you pull the barbell off the floor, making it harder to reach the top of your lift and, over time, increasing your strength.
What is a Banded Deadlift Good For?
If you’re looking to build more strength in the lock-out, the banded deadlift is the ideal accessory move. However, it also has the ability to improve your technique.
This is because it will teach you how to accelerate through the entire range of motion, keeping a consistent amount of strength from the floor to the top of the lift. This prevents ‘lazy lifting’ from occurring, as you’ll need to apply maximum force at all times.
How do you Set Up and Execute a Banded Deadlift?
Aside from investing in a good pair of resistance bands, there isn’t any special set up or technique needed when you’re performing a banded deadlift.
Simply attach the resistance bands to the barbell, place your feet on top of the loose ends on the floor, and perform a regular deadlift.
How do you Program a Banded Deadlift?
It doesn’t really matter how much weight you add to the barbell when you’re performing a banded deadlift, as you’ll basically be performing a regular deadlift, albeit with a little more resistance.
Basically, this accessory move should feel hard but not impossible. Keep your reps and sets the same but, if you are struggling at first, it would be a good idea to bring the weight load down to 60-80% of your 1 rep max.
11. Hip Thrust
The hip thrust is an accessory move that is ideal for strengthening and toning the glutes. It’s also a really simple technique that requires you to lay on a bench with the barbell placed in the crease of your hips.
Then all you need to do is drive your hips upward, lifting the barbell with you as you do.
What is a Hip Thrust Good For?
The hip thrust is ideal for driving both hypertrophy and strength in the glute muscles. It’s also a great accessory move for anybody that struggles in the lock-out of a deadlift where the glutes are responsible for extending the hip.
However, some people can find that resting the barbell in the crease of the hip joint while performing a hip thruster can be quite uncomfortable. To prevent this from happening, you may want to think about purchasing a barbell pad.
How do you Set Up and Execute a Hip Thrust?
As we’ve said above, the hip thrust is one of the easiest accessories to set up and execute. Simply follow these steps:
- Lay with your back on a bench.
- Take a loaded barbell and carefully place it in the hip crease. Or, if you’re using a barbell pad, place the pad on the hip crease first and then lower the barbell onto that.
- Stabilize your upper back as much as possible, and place your feet at a 90-degree angle.
- Lift your hips to raise the barbell, pressing through your heels to help you.
How do you Program a Hip Thrust?
The first thing to note here is that the hip thrust is in no way designed to replace a deadlift. It should, in fact, be used as a supplemental move alongside another regular or accessory deadlift.
This means it can pretty much be factored into any training routine on any day, and it should be performed regularly if you’re trying to gain hypertrophy or strength in the glutes.
Aim for 3-5 sets with 6-12 reps in each, keeping the load fairly heavy. While you want to keep it manageable, you’ll also want to feel as though you’ve only got a couple of reps left in you when you finish.
Try playing around with the tempo of each rep as well and see what works best for you. If you want to make this accessory move more challenging, perform slow, 3-second eccentrics or pause at the top for 1 second before bringing your hips back down.
12. Pendlay Row
Deadlifting isn’t only good for strengthening your glutes, legs, and hips. It can also be a great way to work your upper back muscles, and the Pendlay row is one of the best accessory moves for doing this. It will also exercise your lats, rhomboids, and traps.
It’s performed in a similar way to a bent-over barbell row, however, you keep a wide grip and reset the barbell on the ground in between each rep instead.
You also need to try and keep your torso rigid and pull the barbell up to your sternum rather than your stomach.
What is a Pendlay Row Good For?
If you find it hard to keep the barbell close to your body throughout the entire movement when you're deadlifting, the Pendlay row will help strengthen your lats and prevent this from happening.
This accessory move also helps to improve your balance, which is key when you’re deadlifting and will help you achieve more reps instead of having to focus on keeping yourself upright while you pull the barbell from the floor.
How do you Set Up and Execute a Pendlay Row?
The set up and execution of a Pendlay row isn’t that different from a regular deadlift, there are just a couple of adjustments that you need to make sure you’ve achieved properly:
- Place the loaded barbell on the floor in front of you.
- Using a wide grip (the type you’d use for bench-pressing) grab the barbell.
- Keep your torso parallel to the floor and pull the barbell up towards your sternum.
- Return the barbell to the floor, allowing yourself to come to a complete stop before repeating the move.
How do you Program a Pendlay Row?
A Pendlay row is best programmed at the end of a deadlift workout. Aim for 4-6 sets of 5-10 reps, and use a weight that allows you to maintain proper form and technique.
As with the hip thruster, you want to feel as though you’d only be able to achieve a couple more reps by the end of your final set.
There you have it! 12 fantastic deadlift accessories that will help you increase your strength and improve your technique.
Remember, however, that there isn’t a magical movement that will increase your strength of hypertrophy overnight. You also need to think about what it is you want to achieve with your chosen accessory movements.
No two people are the same, after all, so what might work for your gym partner may not necessarily be the best choice for you and your specific needs.
But which of these deadlift accessories are best for your needs? Let’s break them into two groups to make things even clearer.
If you’re wanting to focus on your quads and bottom-end strength, the deficit deadlift, trap bar deadlift, or interval deadlift would be the accessory moves to go for. And, if you’d like to focus on the glutes and top-end strength, incorporate pause deadlift combos, rack deadlifts, and banded deadlifts into your training program.
Whichever you choose, by working these accessory movements into your training program and using them alongside regular deadlifts, you’re guaranteed to see an improvement over the course of a few weeks.