The 6 Best Accessory Exercises for The Conventional Deadlift

Legs 3 min Read

Written by

Keith Hansen

To have a great conventional deadlift you need to have strength throughout the entire body. Your deadlift will only be has strong as the weakest link in the chain.

The single best exercise to improve your deadlift is, well, more deadlifts.

But that advice is most useful for seasoned trainees who have brought all of their weaknesses up to par.

Accessory exercises for the conventional deadlift are the best way to bring up your weaknesses.

The most common weak links in your deadlift chain are:

– Glutes
– Thoracic Spine (upper back)
– Lumbar Spine (low back)
– Hamstrings
– Latissimus Dorsi (Lats)
– Grip Strength

If you have some weak links in the chain you can use the exercises outlined below to shore them up.

1. Hip Thrusts – GLutes

Hip thrusts are the ultimate glute builder. When you throw a band around your knees and weight on your lap this exercise is the king of glute hypertrophy.

Your glute medius, maximus, and minimus will all grow, and this translates to stronger deadlifts.

2. Weighted Cat/Cows – Upper Back

This move is a variation of a yoga pose, and once you add some weight to it you have made it into a strength training exercise.

Any good deadlift starts with the setup, and the cat/cow is a critical component of the set up. Performing weighted cat/cows will provide muscle-building stimulus to muscles that normally receive minimal growth from deadlifts.

Weighted cat/cows will reinforce your thoracic spine positioning for deadlifts, and give you the muscle necessary to hold it.


3. Straight Legged Deadlifts – Lower Back

People do so much ab training and often neglect the low back. That’s because every fitness magazine cover highlights a 6-pack as the ultimate display of sexiness.

But you’re not reading this article for a sexy 6-pack. You want to know how to improve your deadlift, and you will do this through a strong low back.

I’ve heard it said before that “the muscles in the front of the body are for show, and the muscles in the back are for go”.

Use straight legged deadlifts to give your low back a solid hypertrophy stimulus to remove it as a weak link.

4. Romanian Deadlifts – Hamstrings

Romanian deadlifts will grow your hamstrings like no other exercise. Shelve the hamstring curls, because you won’t need them anymore.

Romanian deadlifts have the single greatest carryover of any exercise on this list. Not only will they build massive hamstrings, but they develop incredible isometric upper back & lat strength. You need all three of those for massive conventional deadlifts.

5. LAt Pulldowns (Lats)

When your deadlift setup is perfect your shoulders are actually a little in front of the bar. This allows the rest of our body to position itself optimally, but this entire setup hinges on one muscle. The lats.

The lats act like a rope tugging on the humerus (upper arm bone) that keep it close to the body. This keeps the bar close to the body. This minimizes your mechanical disadvantage. This allows you to pull more weight safely.

Improving your lat strength will ensure that the bar never gets away from you.

6. Grip Crushers (Forearms)

A few years ago I started to train my grip. I let go of the idea that my grip would get strong because I didn’t use straps. I embraced the idea that if a muscle was important to me then I would give it the attention it deserved.

The result was that my grip has never failed on a deadlift since.

A weak grip is one of the most common failures in the deadlift, but it is the easiest to fix.

Get yourself a gripper (we recommend the Captains of Crush brand) and get to work.

In no time your bulging forearms will be capable of picking up weights the rest of your body will only dream of.

Need a Training Program?

These are the best exercises to work on the weak points in your deadlift. We have organized some of these exercises and more into a program to strengthen your deadlift as well as your squat and bench.

You can check out our free guide, The Seriously Strong Intermediate Program, by clicking on the link below.

Download The Seriously Strong Intermediate Program

Head over to 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.