The deadlift is a compound exercise that targets almost all your muscles, from head to foot. However, if performed incorrectly, they can cause muscle tweaks, pinched nerves, slipped discs, or other serious injuries to your back. In fact, many people don’t know how to deadlift correctly which could trigger injuries suddenly and without expecting them.
A 2015 study suggests that many injuries are training-related. Subelite to elite lifters reports that 12%-31% of their injuries are related to the deadlift exercise. These injuries might be caused by excessive heavy loads, a large range of motion during the movement, and faulty lifting techniques.
Deadlifts primarily target the muscles along your entire backside, otherwise known as the posterior chain, which includes your lower back, glutes, hamstrings, calves, and traps. There are many great bodyweight alternatives to the traditional deadlift. Whenever you don’t have access to a gym because of travel, these four exercises will be your best choice.
Deadlift Alternative Using Bodyweight
This exercise is otherwise known as the upside-down bodyweight deadlift and it is a fun exercise to do on a pull up bar or gymnastic rings. The inverted deadlift targets the lower back, glutes, abs, back, and shoulders, and is an overall great compound exercise. This will assist in the advancement of statics exercises such as the front lever, and back lever.
- Begin by gripping the bar or rings tightly, followed by pushing your feet off the ground to be an inverted pull up position where your head is down towards the floor, and your feet are pointing towards the ceiling. Engage your glutes and core to ensure a straight line from head to feet.
- Inhale as you sink your hips down until your back is parallel to the ground, keeping your arms and legs straight, and core engaged.
- Exhale as you squeeze your glutes and extend your hips upward to return to the starting position.
- Repeat this for 8-10 reps for 4 sets.
Back Lever Leg Raises
This is an advanced level exercise within the back lever progression. It will primarily work your core, lower back, glutes, and back. You will develop full-body strength as you’ll have to squeeze every muscle to have a good form. This exercise can be performed on gymnastic rings or a pull up bar.
- Grip the bar or rings tightly and begin in a dead hang position.
- Tuck your knees in towards your chest followed by bending your elbows and raising your hips, continuing the movement until your feet pass through the arms and over the head until your back is parallel to the ground.
- Straighten your legs to form an L-shape between your torso and legs, followed by hyperextending your legs (raise your legs) until your body is in a straight line from head to feet. Brace your core throughout this movement.
- Slowly lower your legs back to form an L-shape.
- Repeat this between 8-10 reps for 4 sets.
Deadlift Alternative At Home
The reverse hyperextension is a great exercise that builds a bulletproof posterior chain, it is a movement where you will extend your legs up behind as you lay on your front on an elevated surface. It’s simple, effective, and easily advanced.
- Lie with your head facing down on a flat bench or any elevated flat surface. Wrap your arms around the edges of the surface to stay secured with your legs hanging off the end of the bench.
- Exhale as you engage your core and straighten your legs by activating your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back muscles from below the hip line until your body is parallel to the ground.
- Inhale as you slowly lower your legs down with control. Minimize the use of momentum.
- Repeat this movement between 10-12 reps for 4 sets.
Straight Leg Bridge
The straight leg bridge is a simple and effective exercise for increasing posterior chain strength, performance, and power. This exercise is used to address muscle weaknesses or as a corrective drill as it can help to enhance overall hip extension, which is key for movements such as deadlifts.
- Lie face-up on the floor with your heels resting on the edge of a bench or a plyometric box and your arms at your sides with your palms facing down.
- Exhale as you extend your hips off the ground until your body is in a straight line from head to feet. Brace your core and glutes tight to ensure you don’t overextend your back during this movement. Hold the top position for two seconds.
- Inhale as you slowly lower to the starting position.
- Repeat his between 10-12 reps for 4 sets.
Lower Back Calisthenics Routine
To sum this all up with the exercises I’ve covered, here’s a workout routine that you can follow at least once a week. This could be added to your lower body sessions, but just make sure that you prioritize form, which means executing your exercise tempo in a slow and controlled manner to increase time under tension on your muscles.
The Takeaways: Deadlift Alternatives
By now you should have a good understanding of bodyweight alternative exercises for the deadlift. You will be able to perform the majority of these exercises anywhere and anytime. By including this into your routine, you’ll be able to:
- Develop your lower back strength
- Minimize the risk of deadlift-related injuries
- Possibly reduce your lower back pain
Having said that, you’ll need to work on other muscle groups also to ensure body symmetry. This is exactly why within Gymless coaching programs, our expert coaches have taken some time to carefully choose every exercise incorporated into your training routines so that you can build muscle and strength while minimizing the risk of injuries by correcting your forms in the process, just like many other clients have done with the Gymless programs.
To find out which program is best for you and your circumstances, simply book a consultation with our coaches today.
I’m Pat Chadwick, a qualified Level 2 and Level 3 calisthenics coach and athlete from London, England, with six years of experience. I’ve competed in various UK competitions, including the Kalos Stenos Championships, where I achieved third place in the lightweight category. My passion is highlighting the beauty of calisthenics as an authentic and pure form of body expression. I believe that everyone has the potential to become a champion of their body and mind, and that calisthenics opens the door to personal empowerment.