Conventional deadlifts seem to be more common to the average lifters than sumo deadlifts. Sumo deadlifts seem to take a bit of practice, possibly some mobility work, and overall it seems (to me at least) that it is a bit more technical than a conventional deadlift.
All of that aside, I wanted to give you my 9 best conventional deadlift assistance exercises that anyone should do – especially if you deadlift conventionally.
Side note: This isn’t a comprehensive “fix your deadlift” article. This isn’t going to break down exactly what exercises you should do if you have a certain weakness. The article’s goal is to show you 9 assistance exercises you should start including into your training if you would like to get the most out of your deadlift.
If you love deadlifts as much as I do, check out my article on building a bigger deadlift.
So let’s get to it…
Seated and Standing Calf Raises
If you’ve ever wondered why your calves were sore the day after you squat or deadlift, you will understand why I say having strong calves are important.
Doing seated and standing calf raises will help build a solid foundation and will keep you from going up on your toes. I generally don’t go for “the stretch” necessarily when I do calf raises but I do go for strength. I was blessed with being fat so my whole life has been one calf raise after the other when I walk.
Anyways, heavy calf raises are a great workout to give you the strongest foundation to lift from.
Glute Hamstring Raise/Leg Curls
Since there’s few gyms that have a glute ham raise, leg curls would be the next exercise that I would recommend.
If you’ve read any article from an elite lifter or watched them train, you’ve probably seen them doing some glute hamstring raises. Why? This is one of the best posterior chain exercise you can do.
Training leg curls heavy and to mostly failure will help your squat and your deadlift. I’ve had some of my best lifts and built up quite a bit of endurance when I would train heavy leg curls.
Romanian deadlifts/RDLs is a great exercise that I personally use to train my deadlift. I mostly train without machines due to circumstances, but RDLs are a great way to build mid shin to just past your knee strength.
If you’ve never heard of a Romanian deadlift, check this video out:
The only thing I would add to this is you do not have to fully lock out and only go to mid-shin. Keeping a constant tension on glutes and hamstrings here is key. Go heavy and go for reps here.
Deadlift Stance Box Squats with Pause
This exercise has been great for some individuals to building strength off of the floor. Pick a moderate weight, go for reps, and choose a box height that is as close to your deadlift starting height as possible. If you are able to do this exercise, you will notice a huge difference after a few weeks.
Yates Rows with Deadlift Stance
Building a strong upper back and lats help with bar path and keeping you in the groove.
Keeping a deadlift stance with your Yates rows will help build your glutes and lower back while you are holding the weight in position.
Keep good form, go heavy, and don’t be afraid to add a little bit of body movement to simulate a lockout.
T-Bar Rows or Seated Rows
If you do not have access to a t-bar row machine, the next best thing would be to do seated rows with the attachment pictured below
The reason I prefer t-bar rows over seated rows (using the attachment below) because it allows you to use a deadlift stance width and gives you an opportunity to strengthen your glutes and lower back but that is also another exercise that puts stress on your back.
Don’t be a bro lifter and barely row the weight. For this exercise to be effective, fully extend your arms, row the weight and on contraction I want you to try to squeeze your shoulder blades together.
This is the same way that you lock out your deadlifts so use this as practice and really hit those lats and erectors.
Chest Supported Rows
Chest supported rows are awesome because this is something you can hit any day and let your lower back get a rest.
Chest supported rows are great for core activation and with some hyperextension on contraction you are able to really target muscles used in the deadlift lockout.
Heavy barbell shrugs are a great way to build some traps and a strong deadlift.
Use double overhand grip and shrug until you can’t anymore.
I recommend not using straps until your grip gives out (helps build grip strength as a bonus) and then strap up for the rest of your work.
Keep the weight moderately heavy so that you can do 8-12 reps per set.
Back Extension/Reverse Hyperextensions
Almost every gym I’ve visited had a reverse hyperextension machine.
I learned how to actually activate my glutes and build up one hell of a posterior chain from this piece of equipment.
I’ve been thinking about building a home gym again and I think that would be one piece of equipment I would like to invest in.
There is no magical trick to deadlifting more but there are plenty of exercises that help you build strength overall that will help with your deadlift.
Practicing your deadlifts and not maxing out all of the time will help you establish proper form for your body and will help you strengthen your weaknesses.
This isn’t an extensive guide that will promise to add 100 pounds to your deadlift in 2 weeks but if you start incorporating these lifts in with your routines, you will get stronger.
Again, check out my other tips to building a bigger deadlift if you love deadlifts as much as I do.