3 Exercises to Improve Your Deadlifts

Deadlifts are a staple in any serious strength training program and for good reason. This compound exercise targets a wide range of muscles, including the hamstrings, glutes, lower back, and upper back, making it an excellent full-body workout. However, as with any exercise, constantly improving your deadlift performance requires more than just deadlifting. Accessory exercises are crucial in targeting specific weaknesses, improving technique, and preventing injury.

Today, we'll discuss the essential accessory exercises that can help you take your deadlifts to the next level, tailored specifically for our fellow Australian lifters:

Romanian Deadlifts (RDLs)

Target muscles: Hamstrings, glutes, and lower back

The Romanian deadlift is a fantastic accessory exercise that primarily targets the hamstrings and glutes while also working the lower back. RDLs have a similar movement pattern to conventional deadlifts, making them a great way to improve your hip hinge technique, which is crucial for an efficient deadlift. Incorporating RDLs into your workout routine can lead to significant improvements in your deadlift performance.

How to perform RDLs:

  • Start with the barbell in your hands at hip level, using a shoulder-width grip.
  • Keep your chest up, shoulders back, and knees slightly bent throughout the movement.
  • Push your hips back, allowing the barbell to slide down your thighs as your torso moves towards the floor.
  • Keep the barbell close to your body, maintaining a neutral spine.
  • When you feel a stretch in your hamstrings, reverse the movement by driving your hips forward and standing tall.
  • Perform 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps.

Paused Deadlifts

Target muscles: Lower back, glutes, and hamstrings

Paused deadlifts involve performing a regular deadlift while incorporating a brief pause during the ascent. This pause forces you to maintain tension and control throughout the movement, addressing any weaknesses or sticking points in your deadlift technique. Paused deadlifts can be especially beneficial for those who struggle with maintaining proper form during the initial pull off the floor.

How to perform paused deadlifts:

  • Set up for a conventional deadlift with your preferred grip and foot placement.
  • Begin the lift by driving your feet into the ground and extending your hips and knees.
  • As the barbell reaches your knees, pause for 1-2 seconds while maintaining tension and proper form.
  • Continue the lift by driving your hips forward and standing tall.
  • Perform 3-4 sets of 3-5 reps with a lighter load than your regular deadlifts.

Rack Pulls

Target muscles: Upper back, traps, and posterior chain

Rack pulls are a partial deadlift variation that focuses on the top portion of the movement. By starting the lift with the barbell elevated on a squat rack or blocks, you can target your upper back and traps more effectively while still engaging your posterior chain. Rack pulls can help improve your lockout strength and overall grip, both of which are crucial for a strong deadlift.

How to perform rack pulls:

  • Set up a barbell on a squat rack or blocks at knee height.
  • Assume your regular deadlift stance and grip the barbell using a double overhand or mixed grip.
  • Engage your lats, brace your core, and pull the barbell off the rack by extending your hips and knees.
  • Lock out the movement by standing tall and squeezing your glutes.
  • Lower the barbell back to the rack under control.
  • Perform 3-4 sets of 4-6 reps.


Overall, these exercises will go a long way in helping you improve your deadlifts. Of course, you might not feel like they're worth your time and feel like your deadlifts will improve by themselves the more you do them. While that's true to a certain extent, including these accessory exercises will help you boost your deadlifts much faster and can help you overcome any weaknesses you may have that may be impeding your lift. So, put effort into participating in these exercises to take your lifts to the next level!

Photo by: Marcus Wilkinson | Body Recomposition Specialist | Iron Body Gym

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