Deficit Deadlifts vs Regular Deadlift

In this article we will breakdown two deadlift movements, each offering lifters a great way to increase pulling performance, back and hip strength, and boost your deadlift. Let’s examine the deficit deadlift versus the regular deadlift.

The Deficit Deadlift

The deficit deadlift is a common deadlift variation seen among avid powerlifters, strongman, and weightlifters (pulls from blocks). The benefits of the deficit deadlift have been discussed in a previous article, which goes through all the reasons why (and scenarios) the deficit deadlift can boost your regular deadlift and posterior chain strength.

Exercise Demo

Below is a brief video demonstration of how to set up and master the deficit deadlift. Note that the heights of the deficit in which the lifter pulls from can vary, with deeper defects resulting in more strength, mobility, and body awareness needed, often increasing the demands of an already challenging deadlift.

The Regular Deadlift

We have done a plethora of articles covering the regular deadlift (barbell), documenting how to guides, benefits, and more. The deadlift has been around for ages, and is seen in powerlifting meets, weightlifting (as clean/snatch deadlifts) and is the staple of nearly every strength and mass program.

Exercise Demo

Below is a thorough video tutorial on how to master the deadlift. The key is to get set up correctly, create tension, and remain in balance and positioning over/on top of the barbell throughout the pull.

Deficit Deadlift vs Regular Deadlift

Both of these movements provide a purpose, and have been very, very effective at increasing posterior chain (back, glutes, hamstrings, and traps) strength and performance. Whether you are a weightlifter, powerlifter, functional fitness athlete, or enthusiast, this deficit deadlift vs regular deadlift breakdown is your go-to guide on determining which deadlift variation is best for your goals.

Degree of Difficulty

The regular deadlift requires proper hip mechanics, spinal awareness, strength, and overall posterior chain pulling abilities. The deficit deadlift includes all of the same demands, however with the added necessity to demonstrate them across a larger range of motion. Due to the increased range of motion, the joints must flex to a deeper degree, increasing the mechanical disadvantage of the lift, therefore increasing difficulty and demands upon the lower back strength, leg drive, and flexibility.

Flexibility and Mobility Demands

As briefly discussed above, the deficit deadlift requires a greater amount of hamstring and hip mobility, due to the lifter needing to cover a longer, more strength our range of motion in the pull. This is something to keep in mind with lifters who may be lacking proper flexibility in the deadlift, as going into a deficit will often result into more drastical technical and posture breakdowns.

Lower Back Strength

The lower back must increase stability and produce a great amount of isometric strength to resist the forward loading of the deadlift. The added range of motion increasing the need for the erectors to be strong enough to resist a deeper and more disadvantageous pulling position. In the event the lifter has poor mobility in the ankles of hips/posterior chain, or lacks proper upper back strength and extension, the lower back could be subject to injury if the lifter cannot support eh load with the hips, hamstrings, and lats.

Leg Strength

By increasing knee and hip flexion in the setup, due to the deficit deadlift, the lifter must take a more upright positioning to not fall over the barbell if they were to keep their hips high. By doing so, the lifter must work to separate the barbell off the floor with the legs, specially the squat patterning muscles (quadriceps, glutes, and back).

Which Deadlift Variation is Best?

No one deadlift variation is the best, however the deficit deadlift does offer us great amounts of benefit due to the longer range of motion. The drawbacks of this are exercise may be seen if someone has issues with mobility (which suggests you need to address mobility), they may have issues doing deficit deadlift. Secondly, the deficit deadlift by default will limit the amount of maximal weight one can do in a lift (at that specific time). Lastly, some lifters have breakdowns in the first pull. If this is the case, deficit deadlifts may be the perfect exercise to teach and strengthen the setup and starting position.

Deadlift Massive Amount of Weight!

Wanna deadlift more weight? Check out these tips from some SERIOUSLY strong deadlifters.

Featured Image @juliusmaximus24 on Instagram, by @martsromero

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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.