The 10 Best Deadlift Variations for Beginners to Improve Your Pulls Today

Everyone starts somewhere. These beginner deadlift variations will kickstart your gains.

The deadlift is a fantastic exercise that improves total body strength, hypertrophy, and improves athletic capacity. Beginners and experienced lifters alike often dream of pulling hefty weight from the ground. 

But as a new lifter, you’ll need to take the time to develop positional strength and proper lifting technique. Deadlifting from the floor is an advanced variation, and you’ll need to get some reps under your weight belt before pulling heavy from the floor.

A person prepares to deadlift a loaded barbell.
Credit: pnarongkul / Shutterstock

Here, we will go into 10 beginner-friendly deadlift variations that you can use to develop proper deadlift mechanics and hip hinging strength. These deadlift variations for beginners can help you progress towards more advanced — and heavier — forms of deadlifting.

Best Beginner Deadlift Variations

Best Beginner Deadlift Variations

If you’re new to deadlifting and looking to build form and technique before pulling 500 pounds, look no further than the 10 deadlift variations below. These exercises train the foundational move of the hip hinge, which forms the basis of the barbell deadlift.

Foam Roller Hip Hinge

Why Do It: There are not many deadlift-type exercises that don’t involve a load except for the foam roller hip hinge. Not only are you greasing the groove of your hip hinge, but you’re activating your lats by pressing the foam roller against your thighs during the movement.

Lat activation is essential for good deadlift form.

Coach’s Tip: Performing with a wall behind ensures you practice the hip hinge and not the squat.

Sets and Reps: Two to three sets of 15 reps.

Cable Pull-Through

Why Do It: The cable pull-through is a pure hip hinge exercise that focuses on your glutes and hamstrings with your upper and lower back supporting your neutral spine. This is all needed to pull safely from the floor.

With this move, you’ll strengthen your glute lockout, which has great carryover to even more demanding hip hinge variations.

Coach’s Tip: If you feel a lot of pressure on your back but not your hamstrings, check your hip hinge technique in the mirror.

Sets and Reps: Two to four sets of 12 to 15 reps.

Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift

Why Do It: The dumbbell Romanian deadlift is similar to the barbell Romanian deadlift variation — which you might see your favorite lifters pulling on the platform. But with dumbbells, you’ll use less load and have more freedom with your shoulder positioning than a barbell allows.

You’ll be able to build good hip hinge form without the weight and pressure of a barbell.

Coach’s Tip: Keep the dumbbells close to your thighs and aim to shift your weight back into your heels.

Sets and Reps: Three to four sets of eight to 15 reps.

Landmine Deadlift

Why Do It: The landmine deadlift can be easier on your lower back because it encourages a more upright torso position.

You have more latitude with your foot and back positioning, which means you can put less pressure on your spine while still working on your hip hinge.

Coach’s Tip: Pay attention to your setup by having the end of the landmine just in front of you. You may need a wider foot position here for comfort and form. 

Sets and Reps: Three to four sets of six to 12 reps.

Kettlebell Deadlift

Why Do It: The kettlebell deadlift is a great variation for beginners because it teaches proper deadlift mechanics and can be done with a lighter weight.

The offset nature of the kettlebell increases your stability demands, which encourages you to slow down and perform this with good form.

Coach’s Tip: If your hip mobility is limited or you lack the confidence to deadlift from the floor, placing the bell on a yoga block or platform step will shorten the range of motion.

Sets and Reps: Try four sets of eight to 15 reps.

Trap Bar Romanian Deadlift

Why Do It: The trap bar, or hex bar, is great for beginners and advanced trainees alike. The weight distribution is in line with your center of gravity. On top of that, the neutral grip puts less stress on your upper body joints.

This may elicit less hamstring engagement, but it can be easier on the lower back than the barbell variation.

Coach’s Tip: Start with the trap bar elevated in the rack to make it easier to set up and finish.

Sets and Reps: Three to four sets of six to 12 reps.

Trap Bar Rack Pull

Why Do It: Trap bar rack pulls improve your lockout strength, which is essential for good deadlift technique. They also work around any existing hip mobility issues while still promoting solid hinging form.

Trap bar rack pulls are easier on upper and lower body joints while boasting many of the same benefits of barbell rack pulls.

Coach’s Tip: Your setup is the same as with the trap bar Romanian deadlift. Make sure the trap bar is below your knees before you start.

Sets and Reps: Three to five sets of four to eight reps.

Trap Bar Deadlift

Why Do It: The trap bar deadlift is less technically demanding than the barbell deadlift because you’re inside the load rather than the load being in front of you.

There is less shear force on your lower back, and using the D-handles shortens your range of motion. This makes the trap bar deadlift a great advanced variation for the beginner.

Coach’s Tip: The trap bar may be more forgiving than a barbell, but keeping your chest up and shoulders down is still essential. Think about pushing your hips back and keeping your shins relatively vertical.

Sets and Reps: Three to five sets of three to eight reps.

Barbell Romanian Deadlift

Why Do It: The Romanian deadlift is a great variation to target your hamstrings and glutes and minimize lower back stress while building good deadlift technique.

With this variation, you lower the bar to about mid-shin level, which keeps constant tension on your glute and hamstring muscles for better hypertrophy and strength gains

Coach’s Tip: Unrack and re-rack from hip height in the squat rack for an easier setup and finish.

Sets and Reps: Three to four sets of six to 12 reps.

Barbell Rack Pull

Why Do It: The rack pull is similar to a standard deadlift, as it trains your erector spinae muscles, mid-back, and upper back muscles. The difference is that you pull with a partial range of motion, with the bar starting at either just above or just below your knees.

Because you’re pulling from a higher starting point, it’s easier to maintain a neutral spine throughout compared to the conventional barbell deadlift.

Coach’s Tip: When progressing with the rack pull, increase the weight and not the physical rack height.

Sets and Reps: Three to five sets of four to eight reps. 

Muscles Worked by the Deadlift

The deadlift is a compound exercise that recruits several muscle groups at once. The deadlift is highly dependent on posterior chain strength, postural awareness, and neural recruitment. Below are some of the primary muscle groups involved in the deadlift.


The back, which includes the latissimus dorsi muscles, rhomboids, and trapezius (upper, middle, and lower) are all trained while deadlifting. The main function of the back in the deadlift is to assist the gluteus maximus and hamstrings by reinforcing the proper positioning of the spine


The hamstrings are responsible for hip extension, assisting the gluteus maximus during the deadlift. Some deadlift variations — such as those that keep the lifter in a more upright torso position — decrease the amount of hip flexion at the bottom of the deadlift, slightly decreasing hamstring engagement.

Nonetheless, the hamstrings are highly engaged in most deadlift variations.


The glutes, specifically the gluteus maximus, are primarily responsible for extending the hips during the deadlift. The glutes work together with the hamstrings and back muscles to perform the deadlift.

Erector Spinae

The erector spinae, aka, the lower back muscles, work to assist the glutes, hamstrings, and upper back muscles in the deadlift. The erectors are responsible for stabilizing the spine and resisting spinal flexion under load.

Benefits of Deadlifts for Beginners

Below are just a few of the top benefits that beginners can expect to gain when performing the 10 beginner deadlift variations above.

Increased Back Strength

Deadlifting is a total body movement that can build serious total body strength and develop the muscles of the posterior chain.

Experienced lifters and beginners are often drawn to deadlifts for the opportunity to build bigger lats, increase athletic potential (sports, sprinting, jumping), and gain the muscle mass necessary for maximum strength and power.

Improved Athleticism

The deadlift increases strength and muscle hypertrophy of the glutes, hamstrings, and back muscles. These muscle groups are collectively referred to as the posterior chain and these muscles are responsible for many athletic movements like sprinting, jumping, and other explosive movements.

This power comes from your glutes via powerful hip extension, and this is something the deadlift creates in spades. 

Builds More Muscle

When looking to gain strength and muscle mass, beginners will benefit from performing compound movements like squats, deadlifts, and presses. These exercises stress a high amount of muscle mass at once and increase overall metabolic and mechanical tension on the body.

Because you’re recruiting so many muscles — and so intensely — during deadlift variations, beginning deadlifters will often experience significant muscle growth. These “newbie gains” might seem to taper off over time, but that’s when more advanced deadlift variations and rep schemes can come into play.

Want to Learn More About Deadlifts?

When you’re looking to get strong, everyone from your training buddy to your coach is likely to steer you toward deadlifting. There’s a reason this move is such a popular choice in the gym — it’s a total-body strength and muscle-builder that can bring your lifting game to new heights.

Want to get a jump on your next one-rep max attempt? Check out these deadlift articles and get training.

Featured Image: pnarongkul / Shutterstock