Different Types of Deadlifts

Updated: Dec 18, 2020

Today’s discussion is based on the different types of deadlifts. There's a variety of them to choose from that work similar muscle groups, but each deadlift having their primary focus for use.

Deadlift variations can be used for muscle development, max effort, or even to fix issues causing you to not progress further i.e. accessory lifts.

This movement in general, regardless which type of deadlift you choose, is going to work the body as a whole especially your legs and posterior chain (muscles on the back side).

As much as I love squats, I would venture to say deadlifts are the one exercise that everyone will benefit from - and should be performing. However, too many execute it incorrectly and injure themselves, which gives the movement a bad name.

When I say everyone I even mean seniors as well. This doesn't mean it has to be heavy ass repetitions, but rather reasonable loads to encourage muscle development and strength. Let's take a look at all the different types of deadlifts available for you.

Conventional Deadlift

This is my go to exercise and method of execution. The conventional deadlift is where your feet are around shoulder width apart or narrower, and executed with an emphasized hinge at the hips.

Several exercises have a foundation for positioning similar to the conventional pull, which is why it's very important for carry over. Think about it. Nearly all standing row movements for the back are in the hinged position, and also includes stiff leg and RDL.

If you're preparing, or starting up, Olympic weightlifting then conventional deadlifts should be a key exercise to learn as well. Snatches and cleans are both started from the conventional deadlift position.

The movement isn't desired by many within the powerlifting community because it requires more range of motion (ROM) to execute vs. sumo deadlifts. The sticking point is usually just below or above the knees.

Primary muscles worked are your quads, hamstring, and back. Again, it's a full body movement, but these are the primary movers.

different types of deadlifts conventional

Sumo Deadlifts

The sumo deadlift is great for those with dominant leg strength seeking to pull heavy loads at competition. The name comes from how wide you stand similar to a sumo wrestler ready to hold their ground.

The ROM is considered less from floor to top position, which is why lots of powerlifters use this stance instead. Primary muscles being used are all within your upper legs, glutes, and back.

However, when executed properly you can take much of the pressure off the lower back by the upright and wide stance. This makes it a good alternative to conventional pulls while recovering from minor low back pains in my opinion.

Sticking points are normally clearing the floor and below the knee. Success rate is pretty high for lockout if you can pass the knee.

Touch and Go Deadlifts

The cheater way to deadlift, right? This idea is about as useless as those who believe sumo is cheating. Both are just different variations to use. Sure, you can just dislike the use of a deadlift variant, but no need to say they are cheating or unhelpful just because you don’t agree.

I digress though. First, let’s cover the touch and go deadlift. This version has several useful benefits:

  1. Increases Muscle Endurance

  2. Improves Strength

  3. Improves Grip Strength

Muscle endurance improves from being able to continuously pull the load without resetting for maximum control of power.

This exercise is not to see how hard you can slam the weight into the floor. That’s what makes people believe this is a useless exercise. You simply allow the weight to tap the floor like you’re giving it a quick kiss, and then pull the weight back up.

Stop and go deadlifts are when you pull the bar from the floor, and once lowered you stop and reset for another pull. Essentially your x5 reps in the set are honestly a bunch of singles with no rest.

The issue with this is that you focus only on the concentric phase, which is when you’re in the position to pull from the ground in terms of the deadlift. This is good for pure strength and explosion, but not the best for muscular growth.

Sure you can control the deadlift down, which is an option you should be doing some training blocks, but this is another way to utilize the eccentric phase while performing more reps.

Aside from this, when you touch and go you also improve grip strength. The entire set you’re grasping the bar firmly and never releasing until the end of the set. Stop and go deadlifts, many reset grip as well, so this is another advantage to consider for the later variation.

Lastly, time under tension is the goal for touch and go deadlifts. The more time under tension means not just muscular growth, but true strength training as well. Generally touch and go can be used with heavier weights around 70-90% of your max pull.

The lowering portion of the deadlift, also referred to as the eccentric phase, is greatly necessary for improving growth and strength in the quads, hammies, and lower back.

Powerlifting of course is focusing on that one rep pull, but having stronger muscles and central nervous system is what allows both new and advanced lifters pull even more weight for reps.

Many are going beyond 800lbs easily, and it’s not just from practicing raw singles all day.

This is an alternative reason for incorporating touch and go deadlifts.

Deadlift Pause Reps

Another great deadlift variation to consider adding into your training program is the pause rep. As the name implies, you are literally pausing for 1-5 seconds at around mid-shin level while pulling the weight up.

Pause reps are not really intended to be performed with 90% your max or above, but rather around 60-85% (under most training circumstances and needs). There’s a lot of stress placed on the lower back while paused with heavy resistance.

So don’t get crazy and keep the weight being used reasonable. One of the main reason for paused deadlifts is to strengthen core muscles, but we don't want to injure the back either.