12 Deadlift Accessories To Increase Strength & Technique

As a powerlifting coach, I’ve tried and tested several deadlift accessories for my athletes in order to break through plateaus in strength. I’ve identified the top 12 best deadlift accessories that will Increase both strength and technique if implemented correctly.

The best accessories for deadlift are:

  1. Deficit Deadlift
  2. Pause Deadlift Combos
  3. Interval Deadlift
  4. Slow-To-The-Knee Deadlift
  5. Trap Bar Deadlift
  6. Isometric Deadlift
  7. Snatch Grip Deadlift
  8. Rack Deadlift
  9. Romanian Deadlift
  10. Banded Deadlift
  11. Hip Thrust
  12. Pendlay Row

You certainly don’t want to do each of these exercises all within the same program. You’ll want to assess areas within your range of motion that are weak, either because you have a sticking point or lack proper technique, and then select the most appropriate exercise for you.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these deadlift accessories so that you know why you should do one over another, whether you’re a good candidate to try them, and if you are, how to implement them into your training.

1. Deficit Deadlift

The deficit deadlift is where you stand on plates in the start position to create additional range of motion.
Standing on plates to create a deficit in the start position.

What is it?

The deficit deadlift is performed standing on an elevated surface, which puts the bar lower than the normal starting point. If using the conventional stance, the deficit can range from 2-4 inches. If using a sumo stance, the deficit ranges from 1-2 inches.

By performing a deficit deadlift, the muscles responsible for bottom-end strength are contracted harder to overcome the external load. This should translate into stronger abilities when attempting maximal weights from the floor.

You can learn more in our article on the Deficit Deadlift (5 Benefits + 5 Other Things You Should Know).

What would this be good for?

The deficit deadlift is a bottom end variation that can enhance speed off the floor, improve flexibility in the start position, and increase hip, low back, and leg strength. It is programmed when lifters find it difficult to break the floor under heavyweight.

Because of the emphasis on the low-back, the deficit deadlift is typically trained using a powerlifting belt. This is to help stabilize the torso in the additional range of motion.

My favorite belt is the 10mm Level Belt from Hawk Sports (click to check reviews and price on Amazon). This is probably not a brand you’ve heard of, but it’s just as good as any big powerlifting brand name. You’re getting the same quality without the big price tag.

How do you set up and execute it?

  • Set up the deficit deadlift platform by standing on plates or blocks
  • Drop your hips into the start position, which is going to be slightly lower than a standard deadlift
  • Use the deadlift cue “push the floor away” to initiate the movement using your knee extensors
  • Avoid letting your hips shooting up too quickly, which they’ll want to do because of the deficit
  • Maintain tension on your quads as you cycle through the reps

How would you program it?

The deficit deadlift can be a taxing exercise because of the additional range of motion required.

Use a weight that is 10% less than what you would typically use for deadlifts and do the same sets and reps. For example: if you would normally do 5 sets of 5 reps @ 75%. Do the deficit deadlifts at 65% and build it up over several weeks of training.

I wouldn’t program a heavy squat on the same day as deficit deadlifts. If you plan on doing heavy deficit deadlifts, then only do a light squat and other lower body accessory movements for the rest of the workout.

Also, if you deadlift more than once per week, plan to do deficit deadlifts on one of your deadlift workouts, but not all of them, as multiple sessions of deficit deadlifts could be a lot to handle.

2. Pause Deadlift Combos

The pause deadlift is where you stop the bar somewhere within the range of motion for 1-2 seconds.
Pausing the deadlift at the knee for 2-seconds before transitioning into the lock-out.

What is it?

Pause deadlift combos are when you do pause reps combined with full reps within a single set. For example, doing 3 paused reps and then moving right into 3 full reps.

You can implement the pause either just off the floor, below the knee, or above the knee, depending on which range of motion you want to target.

You can learn more in my article on the Pause Deadlift (Technique, Benefits, Muscles Worked).

What would this be good for?

The additional time under tension builds strength in an area where the lifter is weak and allows the lifter to draw their attention to a particular segment of the movement to practice their technique.

  • Pausing in the bottom-end: this will place greater emphasis on the quads and ensures lifters’ hips aren’t rising too quickly.
  • Pausing in the mid-range: this will place greater emphasis on the low and mid-back and ensures lifters’ torso angle is optimal when transitioning into the lock-out.
  • Pausing in the top-end: this will place greater emphasis on the glutes and ensures lifters’ are correctly implementing the timing of their lockout.

How do you set up and execute it?

  • Set up the movement as you normally would when doing a regular deadlift
  • Decide where you want to pause within the range of motion
  • Be consistent with where you pause each rep (don’t have some reps higher or lower than others)
  • Perform the paused reps then move into the regular reps
  • The regular reps should be done explosively with the same technique that was just practiced

How would you program it?

Since I use this movement to reinforce proper technique and positioning with my athletes, I generally like to keep the load sub-maximal where the lifter feels like they aren’t pushing their fatigue limit at the end of the set. The load should feel meaningful, but not heavy.

A typical progression looks like: 3-5 sets of 4-6 reps between 65-75% of 1 rep max. the rep ranges would be split equally into paused reps and full reps.

3. Interval Deadlift

The interval deadlift is where you only do 1 rep at a time and focus on your start position.
Performing 1 rep every 60-seconds to practice the deadlift start position

What is it?

The interval deadlift is performed exactly like a regular deadlift, but the variables being manipulated are the reps and rest times.

The reps are only performed using singles (1 rep per set), and the rest times are 60-seconds. You can think of it like doing 1 rep every minute for however many sets are prescribed.

What would this be good for?

This is a good method to implement if you struggle with either bottom end strength or technique. I also like to program it for lifters who are just learning how to deadlift.

If you have a habit of doing touch and go reps, then doing interval deadlifts will force you to bring the barbell to a dead stop each time. Pulling from a dead stop is more challenging, but it’s more effective at building strength than relying on the rebound of the weight off the ground.

Furthermore, if you struggle with where your hips or torso angle should be in the start position of the deadlift, then interval deadlifts will give you more opportunities to practice setting up your body on the barbell.

How do you set up and execute it?

  • Set up the interval deadlift as you normally would for a regular deadlift
  • Set a timer in close proximity and every time you finish a rep, note the time
  • Only take 60-seconds between each rep
  • Each rep let go of the barbell, walk away, and then re-approach the barbell for the next set
  • Focus on being consistent with your start position

How would you program it?

When programming the interval deadlift you want to take the same sets, reps, and load that you normally would do for your workout, but split it up into singles.

For example, if your workout was 4 sets of 4 reps at 80%. Since the total number of reps completed in that workout is 16, your workout would become 16 sets of 1 rep @ 80% on 60-seconds rest.

So rather than only having 4 opportunities to practice your start position, you get 16 opportunities.

4. Slow-To-The-Knee Deadlift

Slow to the knee deadlift
Lifting the bar slowly to the knee before transitioning explosively into the lock-out

What is it?

The slow-to-the-knee deadlift is when you initiate the pull off the floor with a slower tempo (typically 3-seconds), and then once at the knee, pulling explosively into the lock-out.

Because of the required tempo used for this deadlift variation, a lot of lifters like to use a portable metronome (click to see my favorite on Amazon) in order to hold themselves accountable and to be consistent from rep-to-rep. This device will count the tempo as you’re lifting.

It’s extremely easy to get lazy with the tempo when the weight starts to feel hard. At that point, you won’t get any benefit from this exercise.

What would this be good for?

The slow-to-the-knee deadlift will help train “patience” off the floor. If you yank on the bar too quickly, then you may forget to pull the slack out of the barbell, or alternatively, risk having your hips shoot up out of the bottom position.

If either of these things happens, you’re more likely to lose your upper back or torso position halfway through the pull, which would make the lift harder to lock-out. Not a good scenario if your goal is to lift the maximum weight possible.

How do you set up and execute it?

  • Set up like a regular deadlift
  • Once your hips are set, intentionally take the slack of out the barbell
  • To lift the weight, cue yourself to ‘push the floor away’ slowly
  • The bar should travel to your knee with a count of 3-seconds
  • Maintain your torso angle from floor to knee and keep the barbell on your shins
  • At the knee, think about explosively pulling your shoulders back and getting your hips forward

How would you program it?

This accessory movement is for technique purposes only.

Therefore, you want to select a load light enough where the intended technique is not compromised. However, you need a load that’s heavy enough that forces you to think about the proper positioning. So, use a weight that’s meaningful, but not maximum.

I like to program this accessory movement on a second deadlift day if my athlete is training the deadlift two or three times per week. A typical progression would look like 4-6 sets of 3-5 reps with 60-70% of 1 rep max.

5. Trap Bar Deadlift

Using a trap bar deadlift with the hands outside the shins
Trap bar deadlifting can feel easier than a standard deadlift

What is it?

The trap bar deadlift uses a specialty bar called the “trap bar”, “hex bar”, or diamond bar — all referring to the same piece of equipment. This accessory allows you to stand within a closed box frame with the plates directly lateral to the body, forcing you to assume a more upright position.

Not all gyms have a trap bar, but if you have a home gym the trap bar would be a great addition. They’re actually cheaper to purchase than you think. Check out the Pexmor Trap Bar on Amazon (click for pricing).

What would this be good for?

The trap bar is a pulling exercise that can be used with lifters who struggle with getting into the proper positioning in the deadlift. This is because the trap bar provides the lifter with more freedom to manipulate their body based on their individual mechanics and levels of mobility.

Furthermore, the trap bar deadlift places a greater loading demand on the quadriceps, so it’s used as an accessory movement to highlight these muscle groups if they are lacking strength in the regular deadlift.

Because of the more upright posture, there is also less lumbar stress (lower back), which can be a benefit to lifters who are recovering from injury or are prone to low back pain.

How do you set up and execute it?

  • Set your feet in a comfortable stance, which will mimic the same stance as your regular deadlift
  • Grab the handles evenly, some lifters prefer grabbing them more toward the back of the bar
  • Press your feet into the floor and pull the weight upward, maintaining your torso position
  • Some upper back rounding may occur in the regular deadlift, but not during this variation

How would you program it?

The trap bar deadlift will actually feel like an easier pull compared with the regular deadlift. As such, many lifters can do more weight than they normally would for the same set and rep range.

Use a weight that is 10% more than what you would typically use. For example: if you would normally do 5 sets of 5 reps @ 75%. Start the trap bar deadlift at 85% and continue to build it up over several weeks of training.

The trap bar deadlift is a versatile movement, which can be programmed either before or after a squat or on a standalone deadlift day.

6. Isometric Deadlift

isometric deadlift
The isometric deadlift is where you pull the barbell into the safety pins as hard as you can

What is it?

The isometric deadlift is where you set up the barbell underneath the safety pins in a power rack with the goal of pulling the barbell as hard as you can against the pins. The goal is to apply a maximum isometric contraction in the area within the range of motion where you’re the weakest.

An isometric contraction is where the muscle length doesn’t change under load. For example, doing a wall sit where your hips are at 90-degrees for a count of 30-seconds.

What would this be good for?

The isometric deadlift is an advanced training method, which is used to break through deadlift plateaus. It should only be used if you’ve been stuck at the same training numbers for several months and you have shown to have superior deadlifting technique.

According to a study in the Journal of Applied Physiology, when using isometric contractions, where the goal is to maintain your muscle length under load, there is slightly higher muscle activation (about 5%) compared to concentric and eccentric movements.

You would choose to set up the pins for this exercise to target the area of most development. For example, if you struggle at mid-shin, you’ll want to perform the isometric deadlift at this point within the range of motion.

How do you set up and execute it?

  • Set up the safety pins at the appropriate height
  • Place the barbell underneath of the pins and do some practice reps with the barbell only
  • The barbell should be hitting the safety pins within the range of motion that you want to target
  • Perform single repetitions where you’re pulling as hard as you can against the pins
  • Use the guidelines below to program the time under tension and load

How would you program it?

As I said, this is an advanced training method. Any isometric work that you do will likely require additional recovery throughout the week, especially when first starting prior to any sort of adaptation.

If you want to build hypertrophy, perform 10-30 second contractions at 60-75% of your 1 rep max. The total contraction duration throughout the workout should be 1-3 minutes, which will determine how many sets you do based on how long you hold a contraction for each set.

If you want to build strength, perform 3-10 second contractions with 75-90% of your 1 rep max. The total contraction duration throughout the workout should be 30-90 seconds.

7. Snatch Grip Deadlift

snatch grip deadlift
Snatch grip deadlift: take a wide grip on the barbell

What is it?

The snatch grip deadlift is where you set up your hands outside the hashmarks on the barbell. It’s essentially a ‘wide grip deadlift’, which forces your torso to be slightly more horizontal to the floor and places greater emphasis on your glutes, low-back, mid-back, and grip.

Interested in learning more about where to place your hands? Check out my article on Deadlift Grip Width.

What would this be good for?

The snatch grip deadlift is used to help develop stronger posterior chain muscles, especially the glutes and spinal erectors. This is because the hips are set slightly lower in the snatch grip deadlift compared with the regular deadlift, and the torso angle is more horizontal to the floor.

If you find that your torso is susceptible to flexion under heavy loads, i.e. your back starts to round when you begin to fail, then the snatch grip deadlift is a good method to implement to build a rock-solid spinal position.

How do you set up and execute it?

  • Establish your stance, which is sometimes just slightly wider than your regular deadlift
  • Set your grip — for most people this will be your index finger on or outside the hashmark
  • Pull the bar close to your body and engage your lat muscles
  • The hips should drop low with the shoulders slightly in front of the barbell
  • Drive to standing ensuring you don’t round in the back

How would you program it?

You can use the same sets and reps as you normally would for your regular deadlift, but expect to be doing about 15% less load. For example, if you normally do 5 sets of 5 reps @ 75%, then you would start your snatch grip deadlift progressions at 60%.

To get the right way on the barbell, make sure you aren’t sacrificing technique for load. Always keep a neutral spine in this variation and be sure to use a load that you’re capable of holding onto. Sometimes grip can be a limiting factor.

8. Rack Deadlift

The rack deadlift starts on the rack to focus on the lock-out
Rack deadlift: starting from the rack just below knees to overload the lock-out position

What is it?

The rack deadlift (or rack pull) focuses on the top-end range of motion by setting up the barbell on the safety pins inside the power rack. The pins will prevent you from bringing the barbell to the floor, which means the rack pull is a ‘partial range of motion’.

Typically, the pins are set up so that the lifter is performing the partial range of motion somewhere between just below the bottom of the knee to just above the top of the knee cap. The range will depend on the lifter’s area of weakness.

Check out my complete guide comparing the Rack Pull vs Deadlift.

What would this be good for?

If you struggle with the top-end range of motion for your deadlift, then using the rack pull will focus on your weak point within the movement.

The goal is to prioritize load over range of motion. Therefore, you’ll be able to perform more weight than you normally would be able to handle.

The rack pull places greater emphasis on the hip and back extensor muscle groups, primarily the glutes and spinal erectors. Your grip will also be challenged as a result of doing more weight, so feel free to use straps. My favorite is the Harbinger Straps (click to check out reviews and price on Amazon).

How do you set up and execute it?

  • Set the safety pins inside the power cage to that the barbell rests at knee height
  • Position the shoulders directly in line with the barbell
  • Prior to pulling, squeeze your hands and lats hard
  • Initiate the pull be forcefully driving your hips toward the barbell
  • As you lock-out, drive your shoulder back and squeeze your glutes
  • Return the barbell to the pins and come to a dead stop before repeating

How would you program it?

The rack pull can be used to supplement the deadlift either on the same day or on a separate day altogether.

You’ll be able to do more weight than a regular deadlift for the same sets and reps. The range will vary depending on where the pins are set, but on average you can expect to lift 5-15% more. If the top-end of the deadlift is not a weak point, then you might be able to go well above this range.

Given that you’ll be lifting heavier loads than normal with this exercise, you’ll want to cycle it in and out of the program accordingly. You can do it for 4-6 weeks, but then take it out for 4-6 weeks and choose another accessory movement that doesn’t prioritize load over range of motion.

9. Romanian Deadlift

Romanian deadlift is where you start from the top position and lower to the knee before squeezing the glutes and returning to standing.
Lowering to the knee by pushing the hips back as far as possible and placing the weight on your heels

What is it?

The Romanian deadlift starts from a standing position and engages more of the glutes and hamstrings compared with the regular deadlift.

In the Romanian deadlift, you are instructed to push your hips back as you lower the weight, which will place your shoulders much further in front of the barbell than normal. The barbell will only travel slightly below the kneecap before you return to a standing position.

You can learn more in my article on the Deadlift vs Romanian Deadlift.

What would this be good for?

The Romanian deadlift will allow you to have greater glute and hamstring hypertrophy, especially if you perform the movement in the higher rep range.

It’s also a great movement to teach the ‘hip-hinge’ movement pattern for novice lifters. In other words, learning how your hips should move correctly under load. It has also been used to prevent hamstring-related injuries by developing both strength and control.

How do you set up and execute it?

  • Walk the weight out from a standing position on the rack
  • Slightly bend your knees and then hinge at the hips to bring the barbell to the knee
  • Think about keeping the weight on your heels and driving your hips back as far as possible
  • The barbell should remain on your thighs while your shoulders travel in front of the barbell
  • Once the barbell is just below the knee, squeeze your glutes and drive your hips forward
  • Don’t extend your knees at the top, you should always have a slight bend

How would you program it?

Unlike the rack deadlift, the Romanian deadlift is not typically used as an overload method even though it’s a partial range of motion. Instead, a lighter weight is used, and a greater focus is on engaging the glutes and hamstrings as you lower the weight.

As such, you should use loads between 50-60% of your 1 rep max and perform reps between 6-12. I don’t typically program the Romanian deadlift as a primary exercise (i.e. first in the exercise order). I like to program it after a heavy squat or deadlift.

10. Banded Deadlift

Banded deadlift
Banded deadlifts will create more resistance at the top of the movement

What is it?

The banded deadlift is an exercise where you attach resistance bands to the barbell. As you pull the barbell off the floor, the bands will add resistance to the movement making it harder at the top compared with the bottom.

You can learn more in my article on the Banded Deadlift (4 Reasons Why You Should Do Them).

What would this be good for?

The banded deadlift will teach you how to accelerate the barbell through the entire range of motion. Lifters can’t be ‘lazy’ with how much force they produce as they will need to apply maximum force all the way to the top.

In addition, the banded deadlift will allow you to build strength in the lock-out. So if you struggle with locking the weight out or always fail in the top-end range of motion, then this exercise will be beneficial.

How do you set up and execute it?

You don’t need any fancy set up for the banded deadlift. Check out this video for a quick demo:

The only piece of equipment you’ll need is single resistance band to set up this exercise.

My recommendation is starting with a 1/2 inch band, which will provide about 10-35lbs of extra tension at the top end range of motion. Then, as you get stronger, work your way up to the heavier resistance bands.

My favorite bands are made by WODFitters (click to check price and reviews on Amazon). Pick yourself up the entire set in order to have different options for heavier and lighter deadlift sessions.

How would you program it?

Perform 4-6 sets of the banded deadlift using rep ranges between 1-5. Depending on the band size you use, the bar load is typically kept between 60-80% of your 1 rep max.

It doesn’t necessarily matter how much you load the barbell, so long as the resistance at the top is challenging. I would aim to finish the set and feel like you have 1 or 2 reps left in the tank. It should feel hard, but not impossible.

11. Hip Thrust

The hip thrust is where you drive your hips up with the load on the crease of your hips.
Hip Thrust: Back on the bench with the load resting on the crease of the hip

What is it?

The hip thrust is a popular glute strengthening exercise where you place the barbell in the crease of your hips with your back on a bench, and drive your hips upward.

What would this be good for?

The hip thrust is used to drive both hypertrophy and strength for the glute muscles. As such, if you find yourself struggling in the lock-out of the deadlift where your glutes are responsible to extend the hip, the hip thrust can be an excellent choice to overcome this weakness.

Some people find having the barbell loaded in the crease of the hip joint to be painful. If that’s the case for you, then you’ll want to consider picking up a cheap barbell pad (click for the price on Amazon).

How do you set up and execute it?

  • Place a loaded barbell in the hip crease
  • Stabilize the upper back on the bench
  • Place your feet at around a 90-degree angle
  • Press through the heels and lift the hips

How would you program it?

This hip thrust should not replace the deadlift and should always be used in conjunction with any primary exercise. As such, I would program the deadlift followed by a hip thrust to get extra glute-focused work.

Perform 3-5 sets with 6-12 reps and keep the load fairly heavy for the rep range prescribed. You want to get to the end of the rep range and feel like you only have 1-2 reps left in the tank.

You could also play around with the tempo of the movement to make it more challenging, performing slow 3-second eccentrics, or pausing at the top for 1-sec before lowering the weight.

12. Pendlay Row

Pendlay Row
Pedlay rows will work the lats and upper back

What is it?

The Pendlay row is an exercise to work your upper back musculature, including your lats, rhomboids, and traps.

It is performed much like a bent-over barbell row; however, you’re in a wide grip and resetting the barbell on the ground in between each rep. Also, the goal is to keep your torso rigid and pull the barbell to your sternum (not stomach).

What would this be good for?

One of the key aspects of the deadlift is to keep the barbell on your shins and thighs throughout the entire movement. If the barbell comes off of you, then it will be extremely hard to keep your balance, and you’ll be doing more work than necessary to complete the lift.

If you find it hard to keep the barbell on you throughout the entire movement, it could be due to the fact that you have weak lats Therefore, the Pendlay row could be an accessory movement to help overcome this weakness.

How do you set up and execute it?

  • Place the barbell on the floor in front of you
  • Grab the barbell in a wide grip (some lifters choose their bench press grip)
  • Keeping your torso parallel to the floor, pull the barbell to your sternum
  • Return the barbell to the floor and come to a dead stop before repeating

How would you program it?

I would program the Pendlay row at the end of a deadlift workout. You can do 4-6 sets of 5-10 reps using a weight where you can maintain proper technique and leave 1-2 reps left in the tank.

Final Thoughts

The best deadlift accessory is going to be one that targets your area of weakness and reinforces proper technique within certain ranges of motion.

To focus more on the quads and bottom-end strength, perform the deficit deadlift, interval deadlift, or trap bar deadlift. To focus more on glutes and top-end strength, perform pause deadlift combos, rack deadlift, and banded deadlift.

There isn’t any magic exercise that will get you stronger overnight, but if you program deadlift accessories that take into account your individual differences, and build up volume and intensity over the course of several weeks of training, you’ll find your strength trending upward.

References

Babault, N., Pousson, M., Ballay, Y., Van Hoecke, J. (2001). Activation of human quadriceps femoris during isometric, concentric, and eccentric contractions. Journal of Applied Physiology, 91(6): 2628-2634.