7 deadlift assistant exercises

Here are some deadlift assistant exercises I’ve seen quite frequently on social media lately. Which is good, cause I like them, I use them and I think they’re great. But one thing is good to know thou, and that is why. I give you the reasons.

Partial deadlifts, second pull.
There are mainly two parts of the deadlift movement as I see it; first pull and the second pull. Both can be highlighted by doing them separately. I often do rack pulls for the second pull. To improve deadlift mechanics you should mimic the deadlift movement. It’s common to “cheat” by bending the knees so one can use a more upright posture and use more of the quads.
Rack pulls are not just a movement drill. Because you can use quite heavy weights it’s a good exercise for improving your grip and practice your abdominal bracing. And for a bonus, the chance of using heavy weights and see that it’s physically possible to lift it, has a positive psychological effect.

Deadlifts from the floor till knee height, first pull.
Good exercise for those who need to practice the startposition and how to initiate the pull by straighten the knees with a powerful push of the legs. Many newbies tend to simply use the arms and back to lift the barbell. But the first pull is mainly done by a knee extension. Brace your torso, hold on to the bar with straight arms and push the floor away. Stop at knee height, paus here for a second, return the barbell to the floor.

Deadlifts with paus on specific positions.
Most people have a sticking point, a specific position where you always seem to loose power during the lift. Mine is at knee height. You could also have a point during the lift where you tend to diverge from an optimal movement pattern. Not seldom it’s the same position and may be caused by a weakness or unawareness. If you pause at this point for a few seconds during the lift you can raise awareness of what’s going on, correct the movement pattern and strengthen the weakness. If necessary.

Deadlifts with slow eccentric movement.
Very good exercise to drill and strengthen the movement pattern. Go for a 8 second tempo on the eccentric phase and be careful to mimic the concentric movement pattern. Slow eccentrics are particularly popular at commercial gyms where you’re not suppose to drop the weights anyway. By the way, you don’t need to be heard all the time. Go quiet.

Romanian deadlifts, RDL.
This is a reverse movement. You start at the top of a deadlift, lower the weight till just below the knees and come back up. Go for a slow eccentric movement. Be careful to mimic the deadlift movement pattern. Feel the stretch and work of the glutes and hamstrings. I use this mainly as a mobility exercise, but it can just as well be used as a strength and muscle building exercise. Anyhow, it gives you a direct feedback of your backside stiffness and works well as a warm up exercise.

Back extensions, 45 degrees
The Roman Chair was one of the very first equipment I bought to my studio. I always teach my trainees to make this a glute exercise. To highlight the glutes and hamstrings you can do one simple trick – grab the foot paddle with your toes and press with your feet just like you do in the deadlift. In this way you will find it easier to activate your buttocks and hamstrings. As soon as you feel tension is going up in your lower back the set is over!
Once you’ve learned this exercise, and manage 20 reps easily, don’t hesitate to use weights, and don’t be afraid to build up to some heavy reps. Most people use far to light resistance. The glutes and hamstrings are strong muscles, and need heavy resistance to grow. Go slow, and avoid to much lower back tension.

Nordic curls
This is a classic exercise I learned already as a kid when doing sports many many years ago but never really haven’t got around to in the gym, till now. It requires creative use of equipment, or a training partner. Nordic curl is an eccentric movement. You stand on your knees and lower yourself to the floor or ground in a slow tempo, go for a 6-8 second count. You can use a cable pulley or rubber band for counterweight if needed.
One very important function of the hamstrings is to stabilize the knee joint and work as an antagonist to the quads. This require a strong eccentric capability, and hamstrings are made up by a big proportion of type 2 muscle fiber units. Romanian deadlifts are good for the same reason, but while RDL:s target the upper part of the hamstrings, Nordic curls target the lower part. So do both.

Of course, there’s a lot more good exercises and I will most likely discuss some of them later on. Stay tuned.