The 5 Best Exercises To Learn The Conventional Deadlift

Legs 3 min Read

Written by

Keith Hansen

The conventional deadlift is usually the hardest exercise of the Big Three to learn.

The reason for this is that despite your body shape, size, or proportions the equipment setup is the same for everyone.

Once in a while, I have a client walk up to the bar that is simply made to deadlift, but that is 1 out of 20.

The rest of us have to work a little hard to gain the required control so I’ve put together the 5 Best Exercises to Learn the Conventional Deadlift.

1. The Squat

The squat is the first thing we teach strength training newbies. The squat will show everything: imbalances, asymmetries, old injuries, weaknesses, compensation patterns, and the trainee’s body awareness.

The great thing about the squat is that everyone can do it well when given the right cues.

The other great thing is that learning the body positioning for the squat has a lot of carryover to the conventional deadlift.

The thoracic spine (upper back), lumbar spine (low back), and pelvis should all be in the same position in a good squat as they will be in a good deadlift.

The key differences between the two movements are the position of your knees, ankles, and torso.

Learn to squat well first, and learning the deadlift will be much easier.

Here is our YouTube playlist on the squat. 

2. Hip Thrusts

Weak glutes are the plague of the 21st century homo sapien.

Hip thrusts are the vaccine and the cure.

Hip thrusts are the single greatest movement for developing glute strength, size, and motor control. Three things that are critical for a quality deadlift.

Check out this video to see how they are done.

3. The Cat/Cow

The cat/cow is a yoga pose and may not fit your traditional idea of an exercise. That certainly does not diminish its usefulness in learning to deadlift with good mechanics.

Cat/cows are magical because they take you from the worst possible position for your torso, and then put them in the optimal position. Practicing this movement will teach you exactly what it feels like to extends your spine & engage your lats.

Watch this video to see how they are done. 

4. The Romanian Deadlift

Once you have strong glutes and you understand how to put your torso & hips in the correct position for the deadlift it is time to take the next step.

The Romanian deadlift teaches the hip hinge pattern critical to every good conventional deadlift.

It allows you to familiarize yourself with the top portion of the deadlift and teaches you to maintain a strong upper back throughout the movement while pushing the hips back.

Learn how to master the hip hinge pattern by watching this video.

5. the Block Pull

Block pulls are the final stage of learning to deadlift. They allow incremental increases in the difficulty of the pattern and let you identify the exact spots where you have trouble.

You should start at 10″ high, and then decrease the height 2″ at a time once you perform perfect deadlifts at a set height.

Because some people don’t have good dimensions for the conventional deadlift, or they are exceptionally tall, their deadlifts will never be great off the floor. That’s okay.

It doesn’t make sense for a 5’0″ weightlifter to pull from the same height as a 6’3″ weightlifter if it isn’t in competition. Most of us are lifting for ourselves–to improve our strength, to create a nicer body, to stay injury-free. It’s okay to set yourself up for success by tailoring the exercise to your unique body.


Once you’re feeling comfortable, it’s time to start training. We’ve created the perfect program for beginners starting their strength training journey. In The Seriously Strong Beginner Program, you’ll get practice in the squat, bench, and deadlift and also build muscle. Check it out by clicking the link below:

Download The Seriously Strong Beginner Program

Head over to the Serious Guide to the Conventional Deadlift for more information on the Conventional 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.