Why Deficit Deadlift?
The deficit deadlift benefits your conventional deadlift.
And when you improve your regular deadlift, you stand to gain more deadlift fitness benefits than you could ever imagine.
The traditional deadlift is a classic exercise.
It is one of the best strength training exercises you can do.
Not only are they good for building muscle and strength, especially your posterior chain muscles, they also teach you the safest and best way to lift heavy objects off the floor.
In addition to being a strength-training staple, deadlifts are also one of the lifts contested in both the sport of powerlifting and strongman competitions.
While there is nothing wrong with traditional deadlifts, some exercisers want or need some additional deadlift training variations.
One of the best deadlift assistance exercises is the deficit deadlift, sometimes known as an elevated surface deadlift.
Regular Deadlift vs Deficit Deadlift
What is the difference between traditional deadlifts and deficit deadlifts?
In the standard version of the barbell deadlift, you stand on the floor so that the bar comes up to about the middle of your shin.
Using regulation-sized 20kg/45 lbs. plates, the bar should be about nine inches off the floor.
With deficit deadlifts, you stand on a low platform, which has the effect of lowering the height of the bar.
This additional range of motion makes the exercise much more demanding because the weight has to travel further, and your body is placed in a less mechanically advantageous position at the start of each rep.
Deficit deadlifts provide a multitude of benefits over regular deadlifts.
Eliminate deadlift back pain with the barbell deficit deadlift
The Biggest Benefits of Deficit Deadlifts
The increased range of motion in deficit deadlifts has the following effects and benefits:
#1. Increased Power Off the Floor
Deficit deadlifts build strength, especially at the start of each rep.
A lot of lifters find breaking the weight away from the floor especially hard.
After all, the weight is stationary, and that means you need to really explode the weight upward to get it moving.
By starting in a deep, inefficient pulling position, deficit deadlifts teach you to be quicker and more powerful off the floor.
When you return to the standard deadlift, you should find that you are much stronger at the beginning of the lift.
#2. Better for Building Muscle
If you want to build muscle, the range of motion is as important as the amount of weight.
Deficit deadlifts increase the range of motion and, by default, increase time under tension (TUT) per rep.
TUT is a critical factor for building muscle.
In straightforward terms, deficit deadlifts are harder than when you pull from the floor.
When it comes to building muscle, harder is better.
Using a deficit gives you an alternative to increasing the weight.
In fact, for a lot of lifters, increasing the deficit is more effective than adding weight to the bar for building muscle.
#3. Increased Flexibility
Deficit deadlifts force you to start each rep from a deeper deadlift position.
The increased amount of hip flexion is useful for improving hip mobility and flexibility.
Be warned; the deeper start position could increase your risk of rounding your lower back.
If you round your back because of a lack of mobility, do NOT deficit deadlift.
Doing this could lead to injury.
If you are using deficits to improve your mobility and flexibility, do them with a lighter weight and focus on keeping your lower back slightly arched throughout.
You must never round your back no matter what deadlift variation you are doing.
Instead, you must always maintain a neutral spine, a flat back when deadlifting.
#4. Better, Tighter Set-Up Position for Regular Deadlifts
Proper deadlift form starts with a tight set-up position, also known as bracing.
Your body should feel like a coiled spring before you lift the weight from the floor, with every muscle in your body contracted.
Getting into a deep deadlift position forces you to get really REALLY tight.
This should transfer to a tighter starting position for regular deadlifts.
A better set up that will make your future deadlifts both safer and stronger.
As good an exercise as deadlifts are, you’ll soon get bored if you do them over and over again.
Adding deficit deadlifts to your deadlift program will give you some much-needed variety and will help keep your workouts fresh and interesting.
This will be especially welcome if you deadlift twice a week.
Rather than do the same exercise twice, do regular deadlifts once and deficits once.
This should prevent boredom.
In addition, having some variation of the deadlift in your workouts will prevent the overuse injuries that are often the result of doing the same movements too often.
#6. Force Glute and Hamstring Activation
The deficit deadlift will force you to activate your gluteus maximus and hamstring muscles, something you might not achieve with the regular deadlift.
This activation is critical for developing leg drive off the floor, as well as one more benefit that could be the most important:
#7. Prevent Lower Back Pain
Some people turn the deadlift into two movements, first, they extend their legs, raise their hips, and then pull the weight up.
This two-step deadlift is a great way to hurt your back because you are putting too much load on your lower back, and increasing the likelihood of experiencing deadlift lower back pain.
You never want back pain.
The deficit deadlift will help you eliminate this bad habit of a two-step deadlift where your hips rise up too early and you end up pulling the weight up with your lower back only, which is a recipe for disaster.
Instead, the deficit deadlift will train you to engage your lower body and focus on your leg drive, because you need to drive off the floor to get out of the deficit deadlift position.
Build Power Off the Floor and More with the Deficit Deadlift
How-To Deficit Deadlift
It’s clear that deficit deadlifts have some very valuable and noteworthy benefits.
But, to get the most from this exercise, you must do them correctly.
Follow this step-by-step guide to pulling from a deficit.
#1. Load your bar so that it is nine inches from the floor.
Don’t use too much weight too soon.
Remember, the increased ROM means deficit deadlifts are harder than regular deadlifts.
#2. Place a 2 to 4-inch platform directly under the center of the bar and stand on it.
Your feet should be roughly hip-width apart.
#3. Squat down and grab the bar with an overhand or mixed shoulder-width grip.
Straighten your arms, drop your hips, lift your chest, and brace your abs.
Look straight ahead.
This is your starting position.
#4. Extend your legs and drive your feet into the platform.
Without rounding your back, stand up, and push your hips forward.
Make sure your hips do not rise faster than the weight.
#5. Stand fully upright, but don’t lean back.
#6. Push your hips to the rear, bend your knees, and lower the weight back to the floor.
Let it touch down and settle.
Do not bounce it or “touch and go.”
#7. Reset your starting position and repeat.
What to Use for a Platform?
To do deficit deadlifts, you need a deficit deadlift platform.
Contrary to what you might think, this does not have to be anything fancy.
In fact, you should have no problem finding a way to do deficit deadlifts, even in a poorly equipped gym.
Here are some options:
1. Weight Plates
Smooth-sided 20kg/45 lbs. weight plates make an ideal deficit deadlift platform.
Just lay a weight plate on its side and stand on it.
If you need a broader platform, place two weight plates side by side.
Need a higher platform?
Stack two or more weight plates on top of each other.
2. Aerobic Step Box Top
Step aerobics boxes are usually modular and are between 2-4 inches high, which is the perfect height for deficit deadlifts.
Most gyms have aerobic steps, and they are light, durable, and easy to move.
Use one for your deadlifts and then put it back where you found it, so you stay on the right side of the gym manager.
3. A Stack of Mats
If your gym has solid rubber exercise mats, you can stack them up to form a perfectly serviceable deficit deadlift platform.
Even better, use energy-absorbing mats like the ones that most gyms use as floor protection in the free weights area.
You can use these alternative methods to create a larger range of motion.
4. Snatch Grip Deficit Deadlift
A snatch grip is a very wide, overhand grip.
Do your deadlifts with your hands spread as wide apart as possible.
This will force you to adopt a deeper deadlift start position without resorting to standing on a raised platform.
How to Snatch Grip Deadlift
5. Use Smaller Plates
Bumper plates are usually pretty uniform in size.
They’re designed so that they set the bar at nine inches above the ground.
Using smaller diameter plates will put the bar lower, creating the same effect as pulling from a deficit.
Try using 25 lbs./10 kg plates instead of 45 lbs./20 kg plates to increase initial pulling depth.
Whichever method you use to create your deficit, start off small and increase the deficit and range of motion gradually as you get used to the exercise.
Also, make sure you warm up your posterior chain thoroughly before starting to reduce your risk of overstretching or pulling a muscle.
Warning: Too big a deficit too soon could result in serious injury, especially when combined with heavy weights.
How Much Weight Should You Deficit Deadlift?
Strength coaches agree that deficit deadlifts are considerably harder than regular deadlifts.
That’s part of what makes them such a useful exercise.
Because of this, beginners to this exercise should start off light and only increase their weights once they have mastered the fundamentals of the lift.
Initially, use about 50-60% percent of your normal deadlift weight and do a couple of reps less per set.
In other words, stay well within your limits – at least for the first few deficit deadlift workouts.
As you start to feel stronger and more mobile, do more reps per set and then gradually increase your weights.
The amount of weight you can lift in deficits will always be less than your normal deadlift weight.
But the good news is that, as you get stronger on deficit pulls, your regular pulls will go up too, and usually by more weight.
That’s the power of deficits!
Deficit Deadlift – Wrapping Up
Whether you want to build more posterior chain muscle, get better at regular deadlifts, or just inject your workouts with a little extra variety, deficit deadlifts can help.
They are not an easy exercise to master, and you must pay extra attention to using proper form and technique if you want to avoid injury.
But they are very beneficial, and you’ll soon start to feel and see their effects.
If deficit deadlifts have a disadvantage, it is that you need some extra equipment to do them – such as an aerobic step box top or a few extra weight plates.
But, even if you don’t have these things, you can still enjoy all the benefits of deficit pulls by using a snatch grip or simply loading your bar with smaller diameter plates.
Ultimately, deficit deadlifts are harder than regular deadlifts but, when it comes to getting stronger and building muscle, harder is almost always better!
Now that you know the effectiveness of the deficit deadlift, it is time to learn about The Top 10 Deadlift Accessory Exercises to Improve Your Deadlift.
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