Is it heavy lifting heresy to brag about this classic power lifting move, or is the regular deadlift not as helpful for people as its reputation makes us believe? According to Ebenezer Samual, Men’s Health fitness director and David Otey, Men’s Health Advisory Board member, it could be one of the most hyped-up exercises we have been accustomed to including into every kind of workout routine.
“It is not the king,” Samuel says about the barbell deadlift. “There are many reasons why there are a lot of workouts out there that you would like to do or you are told to do that are really a little overhyped.”
What causes the barbell deadlift to be overrated, according to Samuel? Even with the exercise being helpful as a hinge movement, from a body mechanics view—raising the bar straight up in front of you—is not a natural position and can cause an injury in the future.
“The only helpful reason to include a barbell deadlift in your workout is if you are a powerlifter or a CrossFit athlete,” Samuel says. “If you are not one of these, then choose one of these other 3 options. You will get much more from it while still building a lot of muscle.”
Three alternatives to consider:
Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift
A main effect of this is the attention on hip extension. What you are not doing with this exercise, Samuel says, is you are not going all the way down to the ground, like a regular deadlift, which might not be a good option for a lot people.
Trap Bar Deadlift
Only by the position of its handle, the trap bar lets you lift heavy weight, and do explosive motions, like deadlift jumps. “It is just a more natural way to deadlift. It also includes the knees and hips more, about the same as picking up something outside of the gym, like groceries,” says Otey.
When it comes to natural and safe lifting, the nearest similarity to picking up from the floor will be a kettlebell. “The point to a deadlift is lifting something up from the ground without movement,” Otey says. “Picking a lighter option can let you use your body in other ways, but does not force it like a barbell does.”