5 Benefits of Deficit Deadlifts

With so many deadlift and pulling (snatch and clean pull) variations to choose from, it can often be overwhelming which one to choose based on your needs, weaknesses, and individual goals. The deficit deadlift is a great deadlift variation for those of us who struggle with back strength (lower), trouble separating the barbell from the floor in the initial pulling phases, or simply lacking strength and bar speed to accelerate the barbell towards the latter aspects of the pull.

Therefore, in this article we will discuss the five benefits (reasons) why you should give these a try and help you start integrating them on a regular basis.

Deficit Deadlift Exercise Demo

This exercise can be done using a wide array bars or deadlift variations making is a simple and effective deadlift and pulling technique for nearly every athlete. Note, that deficit deadlifts can also be “integrated” into weightlifting training, often seen as specific snatch/clean pulls/deadlifts.

Benefits of the Deficit Deadlift

Below are five benefits one can expect from performing deficit deadlifts, which can be done using a variety of block heights, rep schemes, and loading.

Increased Leg Strength and Drive

Deficit deadlifts, and other pulls (like deficit snatch and clean pulls) are done regularly in powerlifting and weightlifting training sessions. One purpose is to increase a lifter’s usage of the legs and hips in the movement, made necessary by the increased joint flexion of the ankles, knees, and hips (due to the increased range of motion). By doing so, a lifter must increase knee flexion and in turn increasing quadriceps involvement, which can be a great mover of loads off the floor in the setup of the deadlift/clean.

Lower Back and Posterior Chain Strength

Due to the increased joint flexion of the hips, the lifter must sit deeper into their start position and potentially have a greater torso lean in the pull. By doing this the need for lower back and posterior chain strength and health is key to avoid excessive spinal roundage at the lumbar spine. By increasing the range of motion, you force a lifter to develop maximal tension and strength at the end ranges which will help develop posterior chain and lower/middle back strength.

Greater Force Production

Accelerating the barbell from the floor in the deadlift is key to gaining some sort of momentum going into a sticking point. By increasing the range of motion by a deficit, the lifter must work to accelerate loads from a very closed joint angle, which will significantly make lifts like the deficit deadlift harder. By increasing strength at deeper ranges, you can engage more muscle fibers and be more likely to exert great force at latter stages in the pull.

Better Set Up

The practical takeaway from all of the above biomechanical and physiological benefits is that they all will enable a lifter to gain greater strength, balance, and control in the set up, which is critical for strong and safe pulls. Increased posterior chain strength, greater leg drive, stronger lower backs, and a general ability to promote more force will most certainly positively impact performance.

Greater Time Under Tension (TUT)

Longer ranges of motion inherently have a longer time to completion, which is key when looking at increasing a lifter’s strength and muscle mass. Whether done with tempos at a purposeful slow pace or heavier pulls that involve a long and slow “grind”, deficit deadlifts can increase time under tension demands.

Deadlift More Weight!

Below is a comprehensive listing of articles and resources that you can use to boost your deadlift, upgrade your training programs, and increase your efficiency as a puller!

Featured Image: @saszy_boy on Instagram

Editor’s Note: Jack Lovett, Owner of Spartan Performance and BarBend reader, had the following to add after reading the above article:

“These are ideal for a lifter who is weak off the floor as the bar will be moving with momentum as it passes the normal starting position for a deadlift from the floor. If these go up, I guarantee your lift from the floor will too.

They do however require a more challenging set up/start position. Thus I won’t use them with all athletes, especially those with mobility issues.

A variation I personally love is the snatch grip deficit deadlift, though straps are recommended as the load exceeds grip.”

Mike Dewar

Mike Dewar

Mike holds a Master's in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Mike has been with BarBend since 2016, where he covers Olympic weightlifting, sports performance training, and functional fitness. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at New York University, in which he works primarily with baseball, softball, track and field, cross country. Mike is also the Founder of J2FIT, a strength and conditioning brand in New York City that offers personal training, online programs for sports performance, and has an established USAW Olympic Weightlifting club.

In his first two years writing with BarBend, Mike has published over 500+ articles related to strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, strength development, and fitness. Mike’s passion for fitness, strength training, and athletics was inspired by his athletic career in both football and baseball, in which he developed a deep respect for the barbell, speed training, and the acquisition on muscle.

Mike has extensive education and real-world experience in the realms of strength development, advanced sports conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, and human movement. He has a deep passion for Olympic weightlifting as well as functional fitness, old-school bodybuilding, and strength sports.

Outside of the gym, Mike is an avid outdoorsman and traveller, who takes annual hunting and fishing trips to Canada and other parts of the Midwest, and has made it a personal goal of his to travel to one new country, every year (he has made it to 10 in the past 3 years). Lastly, Mike runs Rugged Self, which is dedicated to enjoying the finer things in life; like a nice glass of whiskey (and a medium to full-bodied cigar) after a hard day of squatting with great conversations with his close friends and family.

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