What Else Should I Do On Deadlift Day? (5 Examples)

What Else Should I Do On Deadlift Day

When you think of “deadlift day” in a workout split, that might leave you wondering what else you can do after you’ve completed your deadlifts. Should you just exclusively deadlift? Or, is there something else that would make sense to do on the same day?

Here’s my quick answer: 

What else should you do on deadlift day? Most deadlift days will include other deadlift variations to work on weak ranges of motion, or other lower body lifts, such as squats and hip thrusts. You can also include other “pulling” movements, such as upper body back exercises.  The exact workout will depend on your training frequency, workout split, and goals.

Let’s get into the details to discuss how you can build your deadlift day to meet your needs.

5 Things You Can Do on Deadlift Day

While there’s almost no limit to the things you could possibly do in a deadlift workout, I’ve narrowed my list down to five key elements you should incorporate into your own program.

The 5 things you can do on deadlift day are:. 

  • Deadlift Variations
  • Light Squats
  • Back Exercises
  • Other Compound Exercises
  • Other Lower Body Work

Deadlift Variations

Deadlift variations are just deadlifts that somehow alter the standard movement. 

Examples of deadlift variations are: 

Each of these variations alters the core deadlift movement in some way to either make it more challenging or emphasize part of the movement more than it usually is in the standard execution. 

For example, a paused deadlift will usually exaggerate your lower back strength, whereas a block deadlift will emphasize the top range of motion. A sumo deadlift will emphasize quads more than glutes, and stiff leg deadlifts will exaggerate the use of your hamstrings. 

By incorporating variations into your workout, you can strengthen or grow the muscle that this variation emphasizes so that it is stronger the next time you perform a deadlift in its standard form.

Frequency

Deadlift variations are the most useful supplement to your deadlift day. They can be used to strengthen your deadlift to target individual muscles within the deadlift and can be applied generally to add variety to your deadlift workouts. 

Any training frequency can allow deadlift variations to be added to your deadlift workout, whether you train deadlift once, twice, or three times per week.. 

How you apply it will be a function of how often you train your lower body and how quickly you need to recover.

For example, a single deadlift workout that incorporates a combination of heavy deadlift reps followed by deadlift variations will certainly be more taxing compared with doing two deadlift sessions per week where one day is focused on heavy pulls and the other day is focused on variations. . 

Be sure to check out our article about how often you should train your deadlifts.

Training Split

Look at your training split.. 

Do you follow a full-body training program, where you work a little bit of everything from head to toe each time you workout? 

Then deadlift variations are a great way to work several muscle groups at once, while changing things up for variety.

You get the caloric benefits of using many muscles for a compound lift, but you also enjoy the benefit of performing a different deadlift variation over multiple workouts each week so you don’t get bored or burnt out. 

Do you follow a powerlifting program focused on strengthening the specific squat, bench press, and deadlift movements? 

Then deadlift variations performed with heavy loads and progressed just as you would progress your standard deadlift are a key component in powerlifting training to make your deadlift everything it can be.

Are you a bodybuilder on a bro split, where each workout focuses on a single muscle or group? 

Then deadlift variations can be a great way to target specific muscles and work them for higher reps. By performing snatch grip deadlifts, you can emphasize your upper back, stiff leg deadlifts will emphasize your hamstrings, and sumo deadlifts will emphasize your glutes and quads. 

Goals

If you are focused on strength, adding variations is a great way to improve your overall deadlift strength and technique, so they should be a considerable portion of your regular deadlift work, performed with maximal or near-maximal loads for low reps, ideally 3-5 reps for 4-5 sets. 

These variations can be done after you perform your initial set, or top set, of the standard deadlift. 

As you recognize areas of weakness in your standard deadlift, either in terms of strength or technique, you can program a variation that addresses that weakness to work on and progress over a few weeks 

Here’s an example of a strength-focused workout that relies heavily on deadlift variations:

  • Deadlift 5 sets of 3 reps 
  • Paused Deadlift – 5 sets of 3 reps
  • Sumo Deadlift – 5 sets of 5 reps
  • Romanian Deadlift – 4 sets of 8 reps
  • DB Stiff Leg Deadlift – 4 sets of 8 reps 

Check out the following article for more deadlift variation ideas: 12 Deadlift Accessories To Improve Strength & Technique.

If you are focused on growth and hypertrophy, deadlift variations will more commonly be used as a top set exercise, like performing dumbbell stiff leg deadlifts for reps to build your hamstrings. 

In these workouts, you may not perform a standard deadlift, so the deadlift variation would serve as a compound lift to work many muscles at once, supported by isolated movements, like hamstring curls and hip thrusts. 

By training isolated muscles, like the glutes and hamstrings, your goal is not to train the muscles for a stronger deadlift, but to use the deadlift to train your individual muscles.   

These reps are not often performed with heavy weight for 3-5 reps, but rather with a lighter weight that the lifter can repeat for 8-12 reps without their form breaking down. 

Here’s a sample workout of a hypertrophy-focused deadlift workout using variations:

  • Barbell Deadlift – 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Romanian Deadlift – 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Single leg DB deadlift – 3 sets of 12 reps
  • Deficit Stiff Leg Deadlift – 3 sets of 10 reps
  • Lying Hamstring curls – 4 sets of 10 reps
  • Seated Hamstring Curls – 4 sets of 10 reps

Light Squats

A second option for supplementing your deadlift work is light squats. 

I suggest light squats over heavy squats, because deadlifts are quite taxing when done right, and you just don’t need to train two heavy lifts in a single workout – we have lots of time in the week to spread it out more judiciously. 

However, that doesn’t rule out squats entirely. Performing light squats after deadlifts can be a fantastic addition to your workout when we consider a few things. 

Frequency

Let’s say you have a dedicated squat/quads workout in your week already. I would absolutely support incorporating light squats in a deadlift workout as a way to get additional squat/quad volume in my week, without having to give myself a second dedicated squat day. 

When you deadlift, your lower body is already warmed up and primed to perform some light squats. Alternatively, you could use light squats as a warmup for deadlifts. You might even perform 3-5 sets of squats before warming up your deadlift to get some substantial squat volume in, without taxing yourself before your deadlift sets. 

Ideally, muscle groups are trained twice per week to get enough stimulus to grow (see the research here). So if you only have one day dedicated to squats, I’d waste no time adding some light squats to my deadlift day to make sure my quads get attention twice a week. 

Training Split

I think a great split for adding squats to deadlift day is an Upper/Lower split, the PPL split, and the full-body split. 

In these training splits, we have some flexibility in how we train our lower body – they aren’t too specific about training squats or quads one day and deadlifts on another day. These splits are also applied often to those with goals revolving around general strength and wellness, rather than very specific bodybuilding or powerlifting goals. 

That being the case, this is a great way to combine some deadlifts with squats to get some good lower body volume in a single workout. 

Check out my other articles explaining different training splits:

Goals

As always, your goals are the biggest factor in defining how you build your deadlift day. In the case of adding light squats to your deadlift workout, I’d say the best candidates are those with overall health and wellness goals, as well as powerlifters. 

Powerlifters will likely have a coach or program that dictates this for them, but it’s worth noting that the powerlifter will benefit from performing light squats the same day as they deadlift, as a powerlifting competition will have them performing both these lifts on the same day. It’s never too early to start adapting to the way you need to perform on meet day. 

For overall health and wellness, we aren’t too worried about having a great squat or an impressively heavy deadlift; we aren’t worried about having perfectly symmetrical quads or hamstrings with the right ratio to our waistline – we just want to have a nice, well-rounded athletic physique. 

So really, combining some squats with your deadlifts is a great way to burn more calories, and use more muscles in an all-round lower body training day.

Here’s what a deadlift workout might look like with light squats added in:

  • Deadlift – 5 sets of 5 reps
  • Sumo Deadlift – 5 sets of 5 reps
  • Squats – 4 sets of 10 reps
  • Goblet Squats – 4 sets of 10 reps

Back Exercises

Adding back exercises onto your deadlift day would be a complimentary addition because a lot of back musculature is involved in the deadlift.

There’s a debate out there about whether the deadlift is a leg exercise or a back exercise, which we’ve addressed here

If we want to use deadlifts to train our back, then it’s a great idea to add more back exercises to the same workout. By surrounding my deadlifts with other back work, I make deadlifts a back exercise. If I surround my deadlifts with other leg work, it becomes a leg exercise. It’s that simple. 

Think you should add more back work to your deadlifts? Let’s review the factors:

Frequency

I’d recommend adding additional back work to your deadlift day if you look at your training schedule and don’t see much back work already being done. If you are getting deadlifts in regularly, but not getting dedicated back work, this is a perfect chance to supplement your deadlift with related back work. 

If you already have a dedicated back day that is separate from deadlifts, you might consider adding different supplemental deadlift work to round out your training. 

Training Split

Ideally, I’d recommend a deadlift+upper back day for those on a bodybuilding split, like the bro split, and even someone on a powerlifting program, in many cases. 

In the case of a bodybuilder, your upper back is a key element of your overall physique. A well-toned back is a real crowd-pleaser, so you need dedicated training to get there. For these lifters, combining your deadlifts with upper back work is a fantastic option. 

By training the deadlift, you activate nearly every muscle in your back. Following your sets of deadlifts, you can hone in on each muscle and hit it from various angles by then performing isolated movements on your lats, traps, rhomboids, etc. 

For the powerlifter, or strength-focused lifter (even if you don’t train to compete), the upper back is often a weak point in the deadlift. In most powerlifting programs, there is not a “back day,” so you need to identify the best time of the week to get that work done. 

My preference? Get your back work done the same day that you deadlift.  

Goals

For powerlifters, if you have a  weak back, your shoulders and upper back will round, putting youin a less than ideal position to lock the lift

Youmay get the bar off the ground and up to your knees, but with the weight pulling your upper body forward and out of position, you can’t finish the lift. 

For these lifters (and anyone who wishes to avoid that issue becoming a problem for themselves down the road), adding dedicated upper back work after your heavy deadlift top sets is a great way to build muscle mass and strength specific to improving your deadlift technique and abilities.

For the lifter focused on muscle size and appearance, deadlifts really do activiate just about every muscle in your upper back to hold on to the bar and keep your upper body in position. Unless you have a fantastic mind-muscle connection with each muscle in your back, it’ll be difficult to train each of them in an isolated movement. 

Use the deadlift and combine it with the isolated back movements you’re already doing to get even more out of your time in the gym. 

Here’s a sample workout that relies on the deadlift as a back exercise:

  • Deadlift – 5 sets of 5 reps
  • Snatch Grip Deadlift – 4 sets of 10 reps
  • Lat Pull Down – 4 sets of 10 reps
  • Bent over BB Row – 4 sets of 10 reps
  • Underhand BB Row – 4 sets of 10 reps
  • Seated V-Grip Cable Row – 4 sets of 12 reps

Other Compound Exercises

Another way to structure your deadlift day is to  do several compound exercises in a single workout. 

This is not likely the case for a bodybuilder who has specific days to train those other lifts/muscles, but a really good idea for those focused on overall health, weight loss, and general athleticism.

Frequency

This option (adding more compound exercises) would be best suited for those who aren’t able to lift often in a single week, specifically those who can only train 1-2x a week. 

Since we have so little time to train, we want to get as much bang for our buck, so we focus on compound movements and full body routines. 

If this is you, I’d look at adding other compound movements to my deadlift day, like squats, bench press, rows, pull ups, and pressing movements. Things like walking lunges, sled pushes/pulls, burpees, kettlebell swings, and olympic lifts are all great options to get your heart rate up, use nearly every muscle in your body at once, and burn lots of calories in a single workout. 

The other case for combining compound movements in a single workout would be powerlifters. 

Commonly, powerlifters will want to train the squat, bench, and deadlift two times a week each. Rather than just doing two squat days and two bench days and two deadlift days, the lifts can be combined into a single workout. 

For example, you could combine heavy deadlift day with light squats (see above) as a backoff exercise, or dynamic effort bench, since your lower body is likely quite fatigued after deadlifting. 

Training Split

If your training split is very broad (full body, upper/lower), then combining compound lifts into a single workout makes the most sense to me. 

If your training split is more specific (dedicated squat days, more than one lower body day, or specific quad days and hamstring days), then you can likely incorporate compound lifts more regularly throughout the week, and don’t need to do them in a single workout. 

By doing several compound lifts, you’ll get the most out of your limited time and focus in the gym.  

Goals

Overall, combining compound lifts is best suited for those with weight loss and overall wellness goals, as well as powerlifters, in the right combination. 

As we stated previously, compound lifts use lots of muscles at once and burn more calories, so if you’re trying to cover a lot of bases and make strides, compound lifts ought to be at the top of your list of exercises to perform early on. 

For that reason, adding compound lifts like pull ups, squats, and lunges to your deadlift workout makes for a great combination. 

See a sample workout below relying on several compound movements:

  • Deadlift – 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Squats – 4 sets of 10 reps
  • Overhead Press – 4 sets of 10 reps 
  • Pull-ups – 4 sets of 10 reps
  • Box Jumps – 4 sets of 10 reps
  • Sled Pushes – 4 laps of 50 feet down and back

Other Lower Body Work

The final way you can structure your deadlift day is to include other lower body work. This is more where we look at the deadlift as a leg exercise than a back exercise, because we are supporting it with more lower body work. 

Whether they are isolated or compound movements, any lower body exercise we do is working one or more muscles that we use in the deadlift. So they can be used to warm up our deadlift muscles or train them further after we deadlift. 

This is probably the most flexible category of deadlift supplements, because frankly, these are the best fit the most generic and flexible training splits. If your goals aren’t too specific, then your training doesn’t need to be that specific either.

Here are a few ways to identify if more lower body work is the best addition to your deadlift day:

Frequency

Putting more lower body work on your deadlift day is best suited for those who only train legs once or twice a week and need to get lots done in that time. 

In this case, train your deadlifts in a meaningful way, then supplement that with 4-5 other leg exercises. 

Training Split

I’d say more lower body work is the best addition to deadlift day for those with training sessions broadly dedicated to “lower body” or “leg days.” This would include the Upper/Lower split, the PPL split, and the PHUL split. 

These splits all call for at least two lower-body days a week, so we really just need to focus on training our whole leg in some way twice per week. As such, you should incorporate deadlifts in some way, then support them with a variety of other leg exercises. You have free range of which ones to add when your program is as flexible as the splits mentioned above. 

Goals

This approach to deadlift day is definitely the least specific of anything we’ve discussed today, so I wouldn’t recommend it to someone with very specific muscle growth or strength goals. 

Rather, if your goals are simply to train legs regularly, to enjoy the benefits of regular resistance training, and overall wellness, this is a great option for you. 

Here’s a sample of a general lower body workout centered around deadlifts:

  • Deadlift – 5 sets of 5 reps
  • Leg Press – 4 sets of 10 reps
  • Seated Hamstring Curl – 4 sets of 10 reps
  • Seated Leg Extension – 4 sets of 10 reps
  • Sled Pulls – 4 laps of 50 feet down and back
  • Box Jumps – 4 sets of 10 reps

What To Read Next

We’ve discussed a lot of training splits in this article, and if you’re unsure at all, then check out our other guides that dive deeper into how to organize your training:


About The Author

Adam Gardner

Adam Gardner is a proud resident of Utah, where he lives with his wife and two kids. He has been competing in powerlifting since 2016 in both the USPA and the APF. For the past three years, he and his wife, Merrili, have coached beginning lifters to learn the fundamentals of powerlifting and compete in their first powerlifting competitions.