The Deadlift — 3 Ways to Build More Strength

Tanner Batten | tanner@paradigmsport.com


It’s no secret that the deadlift is my favorite exercise. It is one of the few movements that work the body head to toe.  It not only strengthens the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back, but also taxes the upper body to a great extent.  The deadlift has some of the greatest carryover to everyday life as we are constantly picking things up and setting them down.  If done correctly, it can teach athletes how to properly brace and lift objects pain-free for a lifetime.  Since I always want to up my favorite lift, I have tried nearly everything to do so.  Here are the three exercises I consistently program for myself and my athletes:

1. Paused DeadLift

Regardless of the lift you want to improve, a pause can make you stronger in a hurry.  Although this sounds simple, it definitely won’t be easy.  Place that pause at the portion of the lift that you struggle with the most.  Do you struggle locking the bar out on a heavy deadlift? Well, let’s pause for 3 seconds right above your knees.  Can’t break the bar off the floor?  Let’s add that pause about 1” from the ground. 

A pause forces the athlete to swallow his pride, take some weight off the bar, and work on technique.  Another huge benefit of a pause is the increased time under tension.  You may be stuck on your deadlift because you have a underdeveloped muscle group.  A pause can help stimulate new muscle growth needed to help you smash through that next PR! After 4-6 weeks training with a paused variation, that bar should feel awfully light doing regular deadlifts.
2. Block Pull
Another great way to improve a lift is to shorten the range of motion and overload the movement.  The block pull accomplishes both of these goals.  Like a box squat, a block pull can help the athlete get the feel of heavier weight and overload their lagging muscle groups.  You will simply need to place the bar on 2-4” blocks (bumper plates work great too) and start pulling! This shortened range of motion will allow you to add more weight to the bar and really build confidence with the movement.  One word of caution though, this accessory exercise is made to assist your deadlift, not boost your ego.  Just like the paused deadlift, spend 4-6 weeks training the movement and then get back to deadlifting from the floor!

3. Hip Thrust
This last movement is definitely underrated in its ability to develop an athlete.  First and foremost, maybe you are reading this and can’t safely deadlift due to a nagging injury or chronic pain.  If this is the case, the hip thrust is the exercise for you! It effectively takes the lower back out of the equation and will allow most trainees to work their lower body pain-free.  Even if you don’t have any kind of injury, it would benefit you to take some stress of your lower back and train the hip thrust.  Rotating movements will help you stay healthy long-term and eliminate staleness in training.  Whether you will be using this exercise in lieu of the deadlift or simply adding it to your program, I guarantee it will benefit your deadlift in the long term.  
All in all, the deadlift is a fantastic exercise to develop total body strength.  If you’re a beginner, you probably just need to deadlift more and practice your technique.  If you’ve been at this for a while now and your strength has plateaued, give these exercises a try! As always, if you are looking to prioritize strength work with a full-body training program, sign up for Personal Training! Not only will you get to use many of these exercises, but you’ll also get some great coaching along the way.