The 5 Best Conventional Deadlift Variations To Increase Your 1RM

Legs 3 min Read

Written by

Keith Hansen

The Deadlift is the truest test of grit. It answers the question of how deep will you dig to get that barbell off the floor.

A key difference between the deadlift and other exercises is the deadlift starts at the hardest part of the lift. There is no build-up. There is no easing into it. You have to put in maximum effort to even get it an inch off the floor, and then you have to keep that going to the top.

If your deadlift one rep max won’t budge then you should give some of the variations below a shot.

1. Block Pulls

Block pulls are great. You can do them from true blocks. You can do them from the power rack. In a pinch, you can use 45lb plates as makeshift risers.

I tend to perform block pulls from 2″-4″ high in normal training, but another great variation is to start even higher. You can start at 8″-10″ with a weight you want to pull from the ground but just don’t have the strength for yet. Program 3-5 heavy singles with 5%-10% more than your current maximum, and after each successful workout lower the block height by 1″.

This will give your grip a chance to get accustomed to the weight as well as the rest of your body. Going 1″ lower each workout allows you to build confidence in the weight and before you know it you’ll be strong enough to pull from the floor.

2. Sumo Deadlifts

It is obvious to everyone that the main difference between conventional deadlifts and sumo deadlifts is the grip placement and stance. What is less obvious to most people is the shift in muscular dominance of each lift.

You will use much more glute & hip strength in the sumo deadlift. In the conventional deadlift, you will have to use more upper & lower back strength to complete the lift.

If your glutes/hips are what’s holding you back from lifting more weight switch to the sumo deadlift for a while. It will feel foreign at first, but it will take your conventional deadlift to the next level.

Check out our youtube playlist on How to do the Sumo Deadlift.

3. Band assisted Deadlifts

Band assisted deadlifts are probably the least done variation on this list. They require an anchor point somewhere above your head, and this need is usually fulfilled by a power rack. You’ll also need a pair of looped resistance bands.

This variation is great because you will get all the feels of deadlifting heavy weight through a full range of motion. It is helpful because it makes the load lightest where you are weakest, and gives you the full weight at the top.

4. Band Resisted Deadlifts

Band resisted deadlifts are a useful variation because of the three resisted/assisted variations on this list they are the simplest and cheapest setup.

You only need one looped resistance band for the simplest setup, but you can get creative when you have two bands and some anchor points.

Like the other accommodating resistance variations band resisted deadlifts make the load easiest at the bottom. This allows you to overload the top of the lift and feel more resistance than otherwise possible.

The key to this variation is to lift has hard and fast as possible while maintaining great form.

5. CHain REsisted Deadlifts

Chain resisted deadlifts are the most expensive & complicated variation to set up. It takes a lot of tweaking, a lot of equipment, and a good deal of time to set up.

Why should you do them?

Because they look badass. And by proxy, you will look badass.

The benefits of this variation (beyond the cool factor) are the same as band resisted deadlifts.

The load is lightest at the bottom and heaviest at the top. A key difference between band resisted deadlifts & chain resisted deadlifts is the ability to measure the additional resistance.

In a correct setup, you can know exactly how much the chains are adding to your barbell at the top. With band resisted deadlifts it is always a bit of a guessing game and can be hard to have consistency across training sessions.


Use these variations to add some depth to your deadlift workouts. To add some more diversity to your workout check out The Seriously Strong Advanced Program. Our free advanced program is our version of 5/3/1 that is sure to push your max to new heights. Check it out by clicking the link below:

Download The Seriously Strong Advanced Program

See The Serious Guide to the Conventional Deadlift for more information about the deadlift.

Keith Hansen

Keith was an All-State wrestler in high school and in 2007 hung up his singlet to attend Florida State University to pursue a B.S. in business management. He wasn't sure what industry he wanted to be involved in at the time, but soon realized after graduating in 2011 that fitness was the ever-constant activity in his life. Keith began studying to become a personal trainer and in 2013 earned the National Strength and Conditioning Association's Personal Trainer certification. After a short stint as a big box gym trainer he realized he wanted to bring something different to Tallahassee. Keith competes in Powerlifting, Olympic Weightlifting, and Crossfit.