When it comes to strength training and achieving our fitness goals, we all have one common aim: to keep getting better.
Part of that challenge is achieving Personal Bests. You’ll have often heard people refer to “Smashing their PB”, and there’s nowhere you’ll have heard that more than from lifters!
When it comes to achieving one of these PB’s, all fitness lovers know that it is unrealistic to think that performing the same lifting workout day in day out will break records. To grow stronger we have to consistently challenge ourselves every time we’re in the gym.
One way of doing that is to add deadlift accessory exercises to your routines. Accessory exercises are variations or more focused additional movements that help you perform the primary exercises better. This helps you improve your form and ultimately achieve better results.
Below I’ve compiled 5 of the best accessory exercises to use when pushing for your own deadlift PB.
Snatch Grip Deadlift
The snatch grip deadlift is in essence, a wide grip deadlift. To locate your grip, when you pick the bar up, move your hands out until the bar is sat comfortably in the crease of your hip (top of thigh)..
This wider positioning means your hips extend further back to correctly perform the movement. This places greater emphasis on the muscles of your glutes, traps, hamstrings and upper and mid back, engaging and strengthening the muscles.
If you are not used to the snatch grip deadlift, it’s easier to start from the top position so that you can tell that your grip is in the right place. However you can also start straight from the floor if you know where to place your grip.
I teach you the correct way of Snatching here: How to Snatch
- Strengthening the core and lower back
- Injury prevention through increasing your back tightness
- Stronger posterior chain muscles, most notably the glutes and spinal erectors but also including the hamstrings, traps, delts and quads
How to Perform a Snatch Grip Deadlift:
- Find your snatch grip by sliding your hands out until the bar sits comfortably in the crease of your hip, at the top of your thigh.
- Pull the bar tight to your body, engaging your lat muscles
- Hinge forward at the hips and bend your knees until the bar reaches the floor.
- Keep your back straight and your arms extended as you rise out of the bottom position.
- Perform a drive to standing, ensuring not to round the back, and squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement.
2. Deficit Deadlift
The deficit deadlift is an accessory that is performed by standing on either blocks or plates and placing the bar lower than its normal starting position.
If your stance is conventional, the deficit will be between 2-4 inches. However if you use a sumo stance, the deficit is around 1-2 inches.
In the deficit deadlift accessory, the muscles which enhance bottom-end strength are forced to contract harder in order to support and overcome the external load. This helps boost strength when attempting to lift maximal weights from the floor.
- Enhancing and strengthening speed off the floor
- Improving flexibility in the starting position
- Increasing hip, leg and low back strength (Posterior Chain Development)
How to perform a Deficit Deadlift Accessory:
- Create a platform for your Deficit Deadlift accessory by standing on either blocks or plates. Remember to place the bar either 2-4 inches or 1-2 inches lower depending on your stance.
- Drop your hips into your chosen start position
- Initiate movement using your quads to “push the floor away”
- Control your hips – they’ll want to shoot up quickly because of the deficit
- Keep tension maintained on your quads as you complete reps
3. Paused Deadlift
Pause deadlifts are identical to deadlifts, except just as their name suggests, you pause for around 2 seconds between the floor and your knee. The bar must be motionless throughout the pause, and should not drop when the pause is finished and you are driving back up to standing. Their goal is to provide additional pull strength from the pause.
Pauses can be added wherever, depending on which point in the range of motion a lifter wants to strengthen. So you could implement them just off the floor, or above or below the knee.
- Posterior chain strength: The pause takes place at a point of mechanical disadvantage for the posterior chain (hips are further away from the bar), which builds strength.
- Resilience and endurance: The legs and back become more resilient to load thanks to the longer time under tension.
- Lat Engagement: the bar must remain tight to the body during the pause, which means the lats must engage tightly to support the movement.
How to Perform a Paused Deadlift Accessory:
- Decide exactly where you will be pausing (e.g. just below the kneecap)
- Assume your position for a regular deadlift
- Start the deadlift as normal, then pause at your chosen moment. Keep these pause positions consistent with each rep.
- Count the pause in your head or out loud to avoid rushing it
- After the pause, finish the rep strongly without letting the bar drop or rounding your back
4. Romanian Deadlifts (RDLs)
Romanian deadlifts begin from a standing position and emphasise the engagement of the glutes and hamstrings.
In Romanian deadlifts, the correct form instructs you to push your hips back as you lower the weight, which naturally places your shoulders further than normal in front of your barbell. The barbell then travels just below your knees before you drive to a standing position.
The Romanian Deadlift is commonly used by Olympic weightlifters because of its ability to train both back tightness and hamstring strength.
- Developing lower and upper back tightness in each position of the deadlift.
- Bettering grip strength
- Mobilising hips and hamstrings
How to Perform an RDL accessory:
- Start by placing your feet hip width apart and holding your barbell at thigh level with a shoulder width grip.
- Unlock your knees whilst keeping your back straight; the knees will have a slight bend in them when you perform the movement, but they don’t move forwards as they would in a squat.
- Keep the weight on your heels and drive your hips back. The barbell should stay on your thighs with your shoulders travelling just in front.
- Once the barbell is below your knee, drive your hips forward to stand back up, squeezing your glutes at the top of the movement.
Quite simply the Banded Deadlift is identical to a regular deadlift, the only difference is that you attach resistance bands to the barbell. Once the barbell is pulled off the floor, the bands add resistance to the movement which means lifters must apply maximum strength to the top of the lift.
This is great for working the top half and lock-out portion of the deadlift.
- Learning how to accelerate the barbell through the range of motion.
- Maximising strength as maximum force must be applied all the way to the top of the lift.
- Building strength in the lock-out
How to Perform a Banded Deadlift:
- Place the resistance band lengthways over the barbell, ensuring it is in the centre of the bar
- Stand on the section of the resistance band that is on the floor
- Adopt your regular deadlift stance and grip placement
- Keep your back straight and your hips back, then drive to a standing position
- Ensure your form is strictly maintained as you start to feel the resistance from the band, and squeeze the glutes against the band’s resistance at the top of the movement.