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Which Type of Deadlift Is Best for You

   Which Type of Deadlift Is Best for You

The deadlift is one of the few movements that work all major muscle groups in the body – depending on the stance and variation, it will help you strengthen your lower back, hams, glutes, hips, calves, quads, upper back, arms, traps, spinal erectors, etc. When you deadlift, your arms, forearms and hands hold onto the barbell and ensure that the bar remains stable throughout the range of motion; your shoulders and traps hold the weight; your back and core musculature help keep the entire body tight and the spine secured; your posterior chain and legs help you lift the weight by acting as a lever.

What’s even cooler, the deadlift is one of the most basic “real life” human movements, and whenever you’re moving a piece of furniture or simply picking your child off the floor – you are deadlifting. In other words, deadlifting helps you build real, functional strength that can improve your everyday life on many levels. That being said, the conventional barbell deadlift isn’t the only way to pick up really heavy stuff off the floor, nor is it necessarily the best way for you.

Besides the standard version, there are many other great deadlift variations that correspond with different training goals and body compositions. This means that there is no such thing as the best type of deadlift, as the effectiveness of any variation will depend directly on whatever it is that you want to achieve.

So the first thing you need to do before you can figure out which type of deadlift you should be doing is answer the question “What exactly do I want to get out of my training?” Once you set clear goals, such as losing fat, improving core strength or developing a maximally powerful back, the rest will be easy.

Got your answer? Now read the rest of this article to find out which type of deadlift is the best for you!

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Deadlifting isn’t inherently dangerous, however deadlifting with poor form can lead to serious injury. And one of the biggest problems with deadlifting is that many lifters lack adequate strength and mobility to deadlift safely and effectively, and this is especially true when it comes to maintaining a neutral spine and properly loading the hamstrings.

That’s why the Romanian deadlift, which has minimal mobility demands, is the most recommendable and safe version for beginners. After mastering the proper form for Romanian deadlifts, you can move on to the trap bar deadlift, as this version will also allow you to improve your deadlifting pattern without stressing too much about mobility. You can go as high as 10-15 reps per set here, especially if you’re looking for intense fat loss.

Then comes the sumo deadlift, which is easier to learn than the conventional version, and will give you great results as long as you work on your groin and hip flexibility. Also, five reps per set is enough for both sumo and conventional deadlifts.

Progressing through the different deadlift versions like this will make it much easier to acquire a proper initial position on conventional barbell deadlifts, thereby ensuring an injury-free, optimally effective training.


If you’re looking to target your quads, or your anterior chain in general, the trap bar deadlift will help you do that more effectively. Typically, lifters will keep an upright spine and include a lot of dorsiflexion, which results with something a lot like a reverse squat.

On the other hand, the way most people do conventional deadlifts (the hips are way back and the torso is inclined more than it should) makes it a much better exercise for building the posterior chain, i.e. glutes, hams and spinal erectors. Therefore, decide which body part is your priority and train accordingly. Or, you could get the best from both worlds with the sumo deadlift, which is kind of in the middle between these two and allows you to hit the quads, glutes, hams, adductors and lower back muscles.


If you use proper form, and don’t have any pre-existing back injuries, deadlifts won’t hurt your back. While it’s true that deadlifting causes spinal compression (when your vertebrae and discs are being pushed closer together vertically), that’s not really an issue for your lumbar vertebrae, since they are designed to deal with compressive forces and your spine can tolerate more force vertically than it can horizontally.

Provided your technique is correct and you start out with a comfortable weight and build up gradually, you will become stronger and more resilient so your body will be able to withstand the spinal compression without sustaining any damage. But compressive forces are not the major issue here – it’s shear force, or the force that is applied to your spine at an angle, that causes excessive strain on the lower back.

The role of many elements of the proper deadlifting form, such as keeping an erect torso and not allowing the bar to drift away from the body, is to minimize shearing force. As you can already guess, the most common reason for back injury while performing deadlifts is the combination of compressive and shear forces, which happens as a result of poor form and weak lower body muscles.

To avoid this, watch your form. Bend down to grip the bar but push your hips back, keeping your torso as close to vertical as possible and your shoulders behind the bar. As you stand up with the bar, push your shoulders back. Avoid rounding your back at all times. If you still have a problem with handling the shearing force on your lower back, switch to sumo or trap bar deadlifts. The sumo variant involves a wider foot placement, which makes it easier to maintain a flat back, while trap bar deadlifts involve the least amount of shear force and are most suitable for people with lower back problems.

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There’s a notion floating around that sumo deadlifts are easier than conventional deadlifts and should be even considered as cheating, mainly because there’s a difference in the hip extension torque required to lift the weight.

However, that’s not true. Simply put, sumo deadlifts are harder on your quads, while conventional deadlifts are harder on your hams and spinal erectors. If you don’t know your weaknesses, do both variants for a couple of months and notice the way you feel and the results you get. If your sumo max is higher than your conventional deadlift max, then odds are that your back is weak. On the other hand, if your conventional max is higher, even though your sumo feels better with lighter loads, chances are that your quads need more work.

When it comes to the trap bar, keep in mind that no serious lifter will ever ask you how much you trap bar deadlift – it’s just nowhere near as impressive as the conventional or even sumo variant. However, if developing max strength isn’t your primary goal, if you have lower back problems or if you simple lack the mobility to properly pull off sumo or conventional deads at the time being, go for the trap bar. In addition, trap bar deadlifts can be the best choice for someone concerned primarily with fat loss.

In terms of carryover, a wider stance will generally carry over into a narrow stance more effectively than the other way around. You will experience a great transfer between trap bar and sumo deadlifts, and between sumo and conventional deadlifts.

You can certainly achieve impressive results with any deadlift version, and we encourage you to experiment with all of them and see which works best for your body type and personal goals. That being said, a good rule of thumb is to train the variant that allows you to work on your weakest areas. If you get to know your weak links and then target them properly, always striving to perfect your form in the process, you’re guaranteed to experience powerful progress.