The 15 Best Deadlift Accessory Exercises for a More Powerful Pull

Deadlifts are a mainstay in strength programs for a reason. Here are the accessory moves you need to hinge your way to stronger pulls.

Expert Verified By: Jake Dickson, CPT-NASM, USAW-L2

The deadlift — your favorite go-to for building strength and muscle across your whole body. This move forms the basis of many other weightlifting exercises like the snatch and clean. Improving your deadlift has excellent carryover to all things hip hinge.

To keep getting better at the deadlift, you need to deadlift more. But even if you’re very skilled, there comes the point when weaknesses in different points of your deadlift — off the floor or lockout, for example — start to slow you down. That means it’s time to add some deadlift accessory exercises to your training split.

Person wearing a powerlifting singlet and lifting belt deadlifts a loaded barbell.
Credit: sportpoint / Shutterstock

Here, we’ll dive into the 15 best deadlift accessory exercises with a splash of anatomy and programming tips and tricks to get the most out of these moves.

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15 Best Deadlift Accessory Exercises

  1. Deficit Deadlift
  2. Barbell Good Morning
  3. Romanian Deadlift with Horizontal Band Resistance
  4. Bent-Over Row
  5. Rack Pull
  6. Kettlebell Swing
  7. Hip Thrust
  8. Landmine Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift
  9. Meadows Row
  10. Barbell Back Squat
  11. Barbell Romanian Deadlift
  12. Front-Rack Bulgarian Split Squat
  13. Band-Assisted Broad Jump
  14. TRX Body Saw
  15. Unilateral TRX Row

1. Deficit Deadlift

With the deficit deadlift, you’ll pull from a raised surface like a weight plate or small wooden box. This increases your range of motion. Doing so helps boost your speed from the floor while improving your upper and lower back strength since you have more ground to cover.

Since you’re on an elevated surface, you’ll use extra lower back strength to avoid excessive spinal rounding at the lumbar spine. Moreover, the larger range of motion gives you more time under tension for increased strength and muscle potential.

How to Do It

  1. Stand on a weight plate or low wooden box no higher than four inches with the loaded barbell in front of you.
  2. Set up the same as with a conventional deadlift. 
  3. Grip the bar. Keep your chest up and squeeze your armpits together.
  4. Push the ground away and pull the bar up until your knees are extended and your glutes locked out.

Coach’s Tip: Because you’re elevated, you may need to bend your knees more than average to maintain a neutral spine during your hinge.

Sets and Reps: Perform 3 to 4 sets of 3 to 5 repetitions. 

2. Barbell Good Morning

The barbell good morning trains and strengthens your entire posterior chain, including upping your glute strength. This exercise puts the glutes and hamstrings through a larger range of motion for better muscle-building potential.

Practice the good morning when you want to improve your hip hinge technique. It’ll also train your ability to keep your lower back neutral under load — all needed for a stronger and safer deadlift.  

How to Do It

  1. Get under a loaded barbell set in a power rack.
  2. Set up the same way you would for a back squat and perform a crisp walkout.
  3. With a slight bend in your knees, hinge at your hips until your torso is almost parallel to the floor.
  4. Reverse the lift by contracting your glutes and hamstrings until you stand back up.  

Coach’s Tip: Start with a lighter weight than you think you need. 

Sets and Reps: Do 2 to 3 sets of 12-15 repetitions. 

3. Romanian Deadlift with Horizontal Band Resistance

Adding a horizontal resistance band to the Romanian deadlift (RDL) will improve your hinge technique, hamstring, and upper back strength. The horizontal band engages your upper back and lats because the band is pulling the barbell away from you

This exercise provides constant tension on your hips and hamstrings for great muscle-building potential. That tugging will encourage you to sit back into your hip hinge, training your hamstrings to do more work as a hip extensor.

How to Do It

  1. Loop a light or medium around the middle of the barbell before you put plates on.
  2. Secure it to a low anchor point in front of the barbell.
  3. Bring the bar back toward you until it’s receiving tension from the band.
  4. Hinge down and deadlift off the floor.
  5. Perform your RDL as usual, ensuring that the bar is always close to your body.

Coach’s Tip: Load up with decent weight to counteract the force of the band. 

Sets and Reps: Try 2 sets of 8 to 10 reps. 

4. Bent-Over Row

The bent-over row strengthens your upper back, shoulders, biceps, and grip. It’s a popular accessory exercise for improving your conventional deadlift. 

The bent-over row holds an isometric hip hinge. Doing so under load for time will help strengthen your lower and upper back endurance. This improves your technique and also allows for a safer and stronger pull.

How to Do It

  1. Hinge at your hips and grab a loaded barbell with a grip slightly wider than shoulder-width.
  2. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and row the barbell until it’s touching your stomach.
  3. Aim to keep your elbows angled at about 45 degrees throughout the movement.

Coach’s Tip: Hold the top position of the row for a beat.

Sets and Reps: Perform 3 to 5 sets of 6 to 8 repetitions. 

5. Rack Pull

The rack pull trains the posterior chain muscles, including the erector spinae muscles, lower back, mid-back, and upper back muscles. The partial range of motion with the rack pull focuses on the lockout strength of your glutes and a little less on your hamstrings.

Because you’re pulling from a higher starting point, it’s easier to maintain a neutral spine throughout the lift. You can also lift more with this deadlift variation, so you’ll acclimate your body to lifting heavier weights to increase your deadlift strength.

How to Do It

  1. Set the barbell up above or below your knees in the squat rack.
  2. Assume your standard deadlift stance and grip.
  3. Hinge down, grip the barbell with an overhand shoulder-width grip, and squeeze your armpits together.
  4. Keep your chest up and shoulders back and pull up until lockout, finishing with your glutes. 

Coach’s Tip: You can also perform this move off of lifting blocks.

Sets and Reps: Do 4 to 6 sets of 3 to 5 reps. 

6. Kettlebell Swing

Kettlebell swings are a powerhouse for boosting your glute and hamstring strength. While swinging the kettlebell, you’ll train your entire body for increased stability because you’re constantly adjusting to the shifting center of mass with each repetition. 

This improves your core stability and endurance, which you need to pull off solid deadlifts. That makes kettlebell swings an excellent accessory exercise for the deadlift. The swing also strengthens your anterior core and lower back, which is needed for a safer and stronger pull.

How to Do It

  1. Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart, with the kettlebell just in front of you.
  2. Hinge down to grip the kettlebell, squeeze your armpits, and get your chest up.
  3. Hike the kettlebell behind you and thrust your hips forward, using this momentum to swing the kettlebell.
  4. Finish by squeezing your glutes and quads. 

Coach’s Tip: Avoid pulling up on the kettlebell with your shoulders or arms after you thrust.

Sets and Reps: Do 3 to 5 sets of 15 to 20 swings. 

7. Hip Thrust

The hip thrust builds strength and mass in your glutes and is a great accessory exercise for the deadlift. It’s as close to an isolation movement as exists for the glutes.

Focusing on that backside will carry over to the big lift by improving deadlift lockout strength. The hip thrust also focuses less on your lower back and hamstrings to give them a welcome break from heavy pulling. It’s also less technical and easier to perform than other heavily loaded movements on this list.

How to Do the Hip Thrust 

  1. Sit with your back against the edge of a bench parallel to you.
  2. With padding across your pelvis, roll a loaded barbell into the crease of your hips.
  3. Once the barbell is secure, drive your feet and back towards the bench. 
  4. Keep your upper body steady as you lower your hips toward the ground and when extending into lockout.

Coach’s Tip: You want your shoulder blades on the bench and your upper body and hips in a straight line.

Sets and Reps: Try 4 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions. 

8. Landmine Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift

The traditional single-leg Romanian deadlift is a unilateral move that uncovers strength imbalances between each side of the body. As such, it is a tremendous balance challenge. To help with balance, enter the landmine single-leg RDL.

Due to the long lever and fixed bar path, the landmine variation is easier on balance and allows you to go heavier than you can with dumbbells or kettlebells. As a bonus, gripping the thick sleeve of a loaded barbell recruits more forearm muscles for improved grip strength.

How to Do It

  1. Stand perpendicular to a barbell loaded in a landmine base or the corner of a wall.
  2. Hinge at your hips to bend forward until you can grab the sleeve of a barbell with one hand. Stand up.
  3. Lift the foot on the same side as the loaded hand off the floor.
  4. Maintain a slight bend in your knee and find your balance.
  5. Hinge forward until your torso is about parallel to the ground.

Coach’s Tip: Start off with just the bar until you acclimate to the unique tension provided by the exercise.

Sets and Reps: Do 3 sets of 15 repetitions. 

9. Meadows Row

The Meadows row was invented by bodybuilder and coach extraordinaire John Meadows. Compared to other single-arm row variations, the Meadows row gives you more upper back activation. That’s a vital component for pulling heavy. 

In addition to all that upper back-building, you’ll get added grip strength benefits. By holding the barbell’s fat end, you’ll need to recruit even more finger, wrist, and forearm strength. You’ll also even out upper back imbalances between sides for better muscle development.  

How to Do It

  1. Stand side on to the landmine with a staggered stance.
  2. Hinge down and grip the barbell with an overhand grip.
  3. Push your back hip up slightly to feel a stretch in your lats.
  4. Row the handle towards your back hip, driving your elbow behind your body while retracting your shoulder blade.

Coach’s Tip: Rest your non-working forearm on your front thigh.

Sets and Reps: Go for 3 to 5 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions. 

10. Barbell Back Squat

The back squat is the “king of all exercises” for a good reason. Barbell squatting allows you to load your legs with more weight than most other leg exercises. Not to mention, you’ll be calling in muscular favors to support and move the weight across your entire body — including your back.

Although the squat and deadlift are entirely different movements, the barbell squat helps to improve your leg drive, which is needed after the initial pull from the floor. And especially if you’re doing the low bar back squat, you’ll be strengthening your upper back in a pretty major way.

How to Do It

  1. Step underneath the barbell. Secure it on your upper back in a high or low position to lift the barbell off the squat rack.
  2. Adjust your grip width so you will get your elbows underneath the bar.
  3. Unrack it and take a few steps back.
  4. Take a deep breath and squat down to your preferred depth.

Coach’s Tip: Adding a pause at the bottom will develop better isometric core strength.

Sets and Reps: Do 3 to 6 sets of 3 to 5 repetitions. 

11. Barbell Romanian Deadlift 

The barbell Romanian deadlift is similar to the standard deadlift, but the Romanian version will have you lowering the bar to shin level rather than to the ground. This slight tweak keeps tension on your glute and hamstring muscles throughout the entire lift. 

The conventional deadlift definitely involves your hamstrings, but the RDL is more of a hamstring specialist. You’ll be recruiting the backs of your thighs pretty heavily here, which will come in handy to support your conventional deadlift lockout.

How to Do It

  1. Stand in front of the squat rack with the bar racked several inches below your knees.
  2. Hinge to grip the barbell with your preferred grip in front of your quads.
  3. Take deep breath and brace your core, then stand up with the bar.
  4. With control, lower the bar to shin height. Pause for the beat and then stand back up.

Coach’s Tip: The RDL should mimic the top half of a standard deadlift to the letter.

Sets and Reps: Try 3 or 4 sets of 6 to 8 repetitions. 

12. Front-Rack Bulgarian Split Squat

If you were to choose one unilateral strength accessory exercise to improve your barbell deadlift, the front-rack Bulgarian split squat would probably be it. This brutal exercise builds leg drive with its large range of motion and massive recruitment of your quads and glutes. 

You’ll also bolster your hip mobility while building anterior core and upper back strength. You need all of these components for a stronger pull. Holding the weight in a front rack also improves anterior core and upper back strength to help keep your spine neutral under a heavy compressive load.

How to Do It

  1. Clean a pair of kettlebells into the front rack position.
  2. Keep your chest up and your shoulders down.
  3. Place your back foot on a weight bench and then adjust your foot to your ideal position.
  4. Drop into a split squat by taking your back knee towards the floor while maintaining a slight forward lean.
  5. Drive your front foot through the floor to the starting position.

Coach’s Tip: Keep your elbows pointing forward for the duration of your set.

Sets and Reps: Try 2 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions on this one.

13. Band-Assisted Broad Jump

Broad jumps are a beastly expression of lower body strength and power. With broad jumps, you’ll train yourself to run faster, jump higher, and improve your deadlift lockout strength.

Performing broad jumps with the band makes it harder to overcome the resistance at the beginning. You’ll have to work harder for a more powerful takeoff. But the band might make it easier on the landing because it’ll take some of the impact off your knees

How to Do It

  1. Loop a resistance band around a power rack, step into it, and secure it around the front of your hips.
  2. Walk forward until you feel the band pulling you backward.
  3. Hinge forward, keeping your chest up. Let tension build in your hamstrings.
  4. Explode forward and jump, landing on the balls of your feet. 

Coach’s Tip: Go for the lightest or thinnest resistance band you have access to here.

Sets and Reps: Do 3 sets of 5 jumps. 

14. TRX Body Saw

Your big barbell lifts do strengthen your core, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to ignore training core strength. The TRX body saw builds tremendous anti-extension strength throughout your core and spine.

The barbell deadlift puts an incredible compressive load on your lower back. Strengthening your anti-extension strength can help ensure a safer and stronger pull. The TRX body saw also strengthens your glutes, hip flexors, and deltoids, making it more than just a core exercise.

How to Do It

  1. While on the floor with the TRX behind you, put your feet into the straps, which should be a foot above the ground.
  2. Get into a front plank position on your elbows.
  3. Press your elbows into the floor, squeeze your glutes, and use your elbows to push and pull your body back and forth for reps. 

Coach’s Tip: You can also perform this movement by laying your shins across a barbell with a bar pad.

Sets and Reps: Try 3 sets of 15 reps. 

15. Unilateral TRX Row

Upper back and lat strength are essential for keeping a neutral spine during deadlifting. The TRX unilateral row will build the kind of upper back strength you need to keep command of that barbell.

Since it’s unilateral, you’ll also combat strength imbalances between sides and build your anti-rotational core strength. This exercise will strengthen your upper back without needing heavy weights, giving your body a break from the dumbbell and barbell.

How to Do It

  1. Take the TRX handles and loop them through each other to form a single handle.
  2. Take a firm grip and adjust your intensity by placing your feet further away from or closer to the anchor point.
  3. Keep your torso centered. Pull yourself towards the anchor point. 

Coach’s Tip: Contract your core and brace hard to avoid tilting your torso as you row.

Sets and Reps: Do 4 sets of 15 rows per side. 

How To Use Deadlift Accessory Exercises

How often you should train the deadlift depends on your lifting experience. If you are a novice with less than a year of training under your belt, then aiming for six to 10 weekly sets, — including accessory exercises — split over two days works well.

A person wearing a black polo that says "coach" in yellow print points to a chalkboard while talking to clients in a gym.
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Suppose you’re an intermediate trainer with two to four years of deadlifting experience. In that case, you can bump your deadlifting volume (including accessory exercises) to 12 to 14 sets per week, split over two to three training sessions. For a veteran gym-goer, 14 to 16 weekly sets are more in order.

Deadlift Accessory Exercise Selection

With a wide range of accessory exercises, it is best to focus on your deadlift weaknesses. If you feel you are losing your upper back position and the bar drifts away, then some horizontal band deadlifts and TRX rows need to be your go-to.

Deficit deadlifts are a smart addition to your training split if you’re an experienced deadlift who is slow off the floor. Training your accessories once or twice a week will go a long way to turning these weaknesses into a strength. 

Deadlift Accessory Sets and Reps

As accessory exercises, these aren’t going to be your main strength-builders. As such, you’ll focus less on lifting as heavy as you can and more on supplementing your deadlift training. 

  • For Strength: Do three to five sets of six to eight reps.
  • For Muscle Growth: Perform three to four sets of eight to 10 reps.
  • For Endurance: Try two to three sets of 10 to 15 reps with less resistance.

Regardless of your set and rep scheme, make sure that you’re pushing hard while using excellent form. 

Deadlift Accessory Training Tips

Training the deadlift is complex in itself. Adding accessory movements to the mix puts even more variables in play. Here are a few critical deadlift accessory training tips to get the most out of these exercises.  

Train for Strength and Hypertrophy

The stronger you are, the bigger your potential to build muscle — and a bigger muscle is potentially a stronger muscle. It pays to train your glutes and hamstrings for strength and muscle, as both will improve your conventional deadlift. Movements like rack pulls are great for strength, and hip thrusts are fantastic for adding some beef to the glutes.

Warm Up

Taking your body through a warm-up that involves the entire posterior area and anterior core is necessary, even for accessory training. Especially if you’re working on a complex or heavy accessory move — rack pulls or front-rack Bulgarian split squats, for example — perform ramp-up sets before hitting your working weight.

Change Things Up

Many deadlift accessory exercises train similar weaknesses, like lockout strength with rack pulls or hip thrusts. To avoid training boredom, overuse injuries, and plateauing, it helps to cycle through accessory exercises every four to eight weeks.


Deadlifting and accessory training both take a toll on your muscles and energy levels. Make sure you’re scaffolding enough rest, active recovery, and regular mobility sessions into your program to keep you on top form. It can also help to take two to three days’ rest from back and lower body work between deadlifting sessions to regain and improve strength levels.

Muscles Worked by the Deadlift

From head to toe, pretty every muscle is involved in deadlifting, but we’re focusing on the main posterior muscles that make or break your deadlift.  

  • Upper Back: Your upper back comprises the lats, rhomboids, and the upper, middle, and lower trapezius. Taken together, these muscles will help keep your spine neutral and keep the bar close to your body during the deadlift.
  • Lower Back: Your lower back is composed of three muscles that form a column called the erector spinae. The primary function of these three muscles while deadlifting is to prevent the flexion and extension of your lower back under compressive load.
  • Glutes: The glutes comprise three primary muscles: the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus. These three muscles are the prime movers in hip extension and play an essential role in producing force for all hip hinge movements, including the deadlift. 
  • Hamstrings: Your hamstrings assist the gluteus in extending your hips and their eccentric strength helps you lower the bar with control.

Accessorize Your Deadlift

Being slow off the floor or unable to lock out a heavy deadlift is not much fun. Attacking your weaknesses with accessory training can bring life back into your pulling program. 

To improve your deadlifting numbers, you need to deadlift more. But you need to train smart, too. By working these 15 deadlift accessory exercises into your training cycles, you will do both — and hopefully boost your one-rep max in the process.

Featured Image: Lyashenko Egor / Shutterstock