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Build a Huge Back with the Deficit Deadlift – Benefits, Technique and Muscles Worked

Build an iron posterior chain.

This definitive guide to the Deficit Deadlift will teach you everything you need to know about this useful and effective exercise.

What is a Deficit Deadlift?

A Deficit Deadlift is any type of Deadlift where the lifter is elevated and the weight still starts from the floor.

This difference creates an increased range of motion.

It places the athlete at a disadvantage, making the Deadlift harder and consequently making you better.

Muscles Worked by the Deficit Deadlift

The exercise targets many of the same muscles as more traditional Deadlift variations. These include:

  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Spinal erectors
  • Calves
  • Traps
  • Lats
  • Upper back
  • Core and abs

Benefits of the Deficit Deadlift

Like any Deadlift, this exercise will yield excellent benefits to athletes that choose to include them in their programming.

A Stronger Posterior Chain

The posterior cain has to work hard to support the load and stabilise it through the full range of motion.

Enhanced Pulling Strength from the Floor

Many lifters struggle with the initial pull when it comes to the Deadlift. The D Deadlift forces you to work at a disadvantage. In turn that improves your ability to generate power and force.

When you take these new skills back to the conventional method it will feel easier because you will be used to the disadvantage.

Better Posture

You must maintain a strong, straight back at all times during the exercise. This will help your overall posture in general life as well as in the gym.

More Time Under Tension

The extra range of motion from the deficit also translates into more time under tension. A longer way to pull takes longer to do it.

This is great news for both hypertrophy and strength gains.

How High should the Deficit Be?

Usually, the D Deadlift is performed using a surface that is 1 – 4 inches high.

Vary this depending on your exact goals and training experience. Find what works for you.

What Should I Stand on During the Deadlift?

During the exercise a bumper plate or metal weight plate are the most common options and are easily found in a gym. Wooden planks or stone blocks are also useful options as well.

You can be creative as long as the raised platform is stable and hard. Use what you have at hand.

Fitness Gear Bumper PlatesSource: Victor Freitas on Unsplash
Take your pick

How to do the Deficit Deadlift

  • Adopt a conventional Deadlift stance on your platform/bumper plate
  • Point toes out slightly, bend the knees
  • Reach down and grip the bar with a pronated or mixed grip
  • Inhale and brace your core, glutes and grip
  • Drive your feet into the platform and lift the barbell upwards
  • Fully extend your hips and knees at the top position
  • Pause, then lower the weight to the starting position
  • Exhale
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps

Training Tips

Test the movement first to see how you will need to make slight mechanical changes to your hip hinge.

Bracing and breathing are absolutely vital. Make sure to concentrate on these elements at all times.

Don’t let the hips shoot up too quickly as your body will be positioned higher than normal.

Keep your back straight and strong at all times.

Drive power through the quads to propel the bar upwards.

Pay close attention to your set up and the first pulling phase.

How Much Weight should I Use?

A good place to start is to reduce them by at least 15 – 25% of your usual Deadlift programming.

If you are new to the technique then reduce the load much further and build up gradually.

Yow will reap the benefits by working on excellent form and gradual progress.

abs workouts deficit deadliftSource: Stevie D Photography
Challenge yourself

Deficit Deadlift Variations

The following are all effective variations that can be trained with a deficit format.

  • Snatch Grip Deficit Deadlift
  • Romanian Deficit Deadlift
  • Stiff Leg Deficit Deadlift
  • Sumo Deficit Deadlift

Deficit Deadlift Alternatives

Use these exercises as alternatives.

  • Trap Bar Deadlift
  • Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift
  • Glute Bridge
  • Barbell Hip Thrust
  • Lying Hamstring Curl with Band
  • Bulgarian Split Squat

Who Should Use Deficit Deadlifts in their Training?

Find out if this exercise is right for you.


It makes sense to be familiar with the conventional Deadlift technique first before you start trying deficit variations.

Total beginners to weightlifting will receive excellent benefits from the conventional lift so they should stick to the that lift before adding in the D Deadlift.

Strength and Gym Athletes

If you want a stronger body, or hypertrophy is your goal, then this exercise is an excellent addition for you to include.

It can help to add new stimulus, train weaknesses and keep your body guessing. All assets that will keep your progress on track


Got more questions?

Are Deficit Deadlifts Effective?

Yes, they are highly effective. They can create meaningful strength and muscle gains when performed and programmed correctly.

Are Deficit Deadlifts Harder?

Yes, they are harder. This is because the deficit results in a longer range of motion.

This provides an additional challenge for the entire posterior chain, hip mobility, back muscles and grip. They also create more time under tension which adds to the difficulty level of the lift in general.

When should I use Deficit Deadlift?

You should use this exercise when you want to strengthen your posterior chain, challenge your mental toughness and improve your power for the first pull from the floor.

Learn More

Learn how to Conventional Deadlift to build incredible strength, muscle and an injury resistant back or add other effective deadlift variations to your training:

Best Guide to the Sumo Deadlift – Benefits, Muscles Worked, Technique Tips and More
Try The Romanian Deadlift for Stronger and Bigger Glutes
Build Bigger Muscles and Solid Strength with the Snatch Grip Deadlift
Why Should You Do Stiff-Legged Deadlift; Benefits and Muscles Worked

If you want to further improve your training, try these Reverse Grip Pull Down or

Hack Squats articles.

Read more: 12 Important Deadlift Benefits Everyone Needs to Know

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