The deadlift is one of the best exercises around for working pretty much your entire body. It massively recruits your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back, causing tremendous strength and muscle gains in your posterior chain.  

But what happens if you can’t deadlift in your home gym ?

Whether you lack equipment, have an injury, or want to mix things up, this guide shows you the best deadlift alternative exercises and how to perform each one. You'll have everything you need for a bigger and stronger posterior chain. 

As impressive as deadlifts are, what happens if you can’t do them? The list below is some of the best substitutes for deadlifts and how to perform them.  

1. Barbell Rack Pull (Barbell Deadlift Alternative)

Barbell Rack Pull

The barbell rack pull, or as it's sometimes known as "the block deadlift," is a partial range of motion deadlift that focuses on the top end of the exercise.

This barbell deadlift alternative starts at knee height, so it reduces the range of motion your body needs to work through.

This allows you to load the barbell with more weight and overload your lockout portion of the movement.  

It’s an excellent deadlift substitute that places your glutes and lower back under more load than the regular movement.

The barbell rack pull can be performed using two elevated boxes or a power rack, and use whichever you have available in your home gym.  


  • Develops your lower back and glutes.
  • Easier deadlift variation for taller gym goers.

How to do it: 

  1. Set up two boxes so your barbell can rest on them at around knee height. If you’re using a power rack, set up the support bars at knee height.  
  2. Stand in front of the barbell and grip the bar just outside your legs.  
  3. Place your shoulders slightly over the barbell.  
  4. Take a deep breath and brace your core muscles.  
  5. Lift the barbell from the rack or boxes and drive your hips forward while squeezing your glutes.
  6. Reverse the movement in a controlled manner until the barbell is back in the starting position. 
  7. Repeat and complete your set. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • I use Olympic bumper plates to elevate the bar off of the floor. While it’s not ideal, it’s a good DIY workaround solution.  

2. Farmer’s Walk 

Man Doing Farmers Walk Outside

While the farmer's walk isn't a direct replacement for the barbell deadlift, it can be combined with other substitutes for deadlifts on this list to create one hell of a workout.

The farmer's walk is one of the only exercises on this list that primarily targets your grip strength. As you know, grip strength plays a massive role in the deadlift and can be make-or-break for many lifters.  

If you’ve struggled to perform heavy deadlifts due to your grip giving way before your knees achieve lockout, then this is the exercise you want to perform.  

By holding heavy dumbbells in each hand for an extended amount of time, all the smaller muscles in your hands and forearms are forced to engage to prevent you from dropping the weight.

This will help develop gorilla-like grip to help you smash your next deadlift PR attempt.  


  • Develops your forearm strength.
  • Engages your core. 

How to do it: 

  1. Grab a set of heavy dumbbells.  
  2. Hold them hanging at your sides.  
  3. Draw your shoulders back (retracted), open your chest and keep your head up, looking forward.  
  4. Walk for a certain amount of time or distance and then pace the dumbbells down.  
  5. Rest, and then repeat for the desired time or distance.  

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Walk slowly during this exercise and try to limit the swaying of the weight you're lifting. The idea is to let your core do most of the work stabilizing your body. 

3. Barbell Hip Thrust (Deadlift Alternative For Bodybuilding)

Man Doing Barbell Hip Thrusts in the Gym

The barbell hip thrust is one of the best alternatives to deadlifts for lower back pain. It lets you place huge amounts of load on your glutes and some on your hamstrings without putting a ton of stress on the back.  

It’s an ideal movement for anyone who suffers from lower back pain but needs to train their glutes. You’ll probably find that the lower back pain subsides by training your glutes more often.

As this deadlift alternative's main focus is on the glutes, it's a popular movement used by bodybuilders to develop strong and well rounded buttocks. 

It's one of my favorite deadlift alternatives and all of my clients LOVE it. 


  • Strengthens your posterior chain. 
  • Helps with lower back injury prevention.

How to do it: 

  1. Set up a bench or step in a knee-high position.  
  2. Sit with your back against the bench and place a heavy barbell across your hips (be sure to use a barbell pad for comfort).  
  3. Hold the barbell and bend your knees, planting your feet flat on the floor underneath your knees.  
  4. Push your hips upwards, squeezing your glutes to generate the power until your hips are as high as they’ll go.  
  5. Lower the barbell slowly until it’s resting on the ground.  
  6. Repeat for the desired amount of reps.  

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Once you've mastered this deadlift substitute, you can make it tougher by performing one and a half reps. This is where you perform one rep and immediately follow it up with a half rep. Do this for an added challenge and a killer glute pump. 

4. Single-Leg Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift (Deadlift Alternative With Dumbbells)

Man Doing a Deadlift Alternative With Dumbbells

The single-leg dumbbell Romanian deadlift is an excellent deadlift substitute with dumbbells. Not only does it allow you to work on each side individually, but it helps you improve your balance and coordination.  

Single leg exercises have plenty of benefits, making this one of the best deadlift alternatives on this list. 

During the movement, you’ll work your posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes, and lower back) iso-laterally, ensuring both sides of your body are working equally as hard—no muscular imbalances over here.  

This stiff leg deadlift substitute is best suited for intermediate or advanced gym-goers. But, if you have good balance, feel free to try it.  


  • Helps fix muscular imbalances.
  • Develops your hamstrings and glutes.

How to do it: 

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each of your hands.  
  2. Keep your back straight and core braced. 
  3. Place your weight on one foot and hinge forward from the waist.  
  4. As you hinge forward, your non-weight-bearing leg should rise backward until your body creates a “straight line” from your toe to your head.  
  5. Return to the starting position in a slow and controlled manner, then repeat.  
  6. Once you’ve completed your reps with one side, switch to the opposite leg.  

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Keep your hips square at all times; don’t be tempted to allow one of them to rise out of alignment.   

5. Deficit Deadlift 

Man Doing Deficit Deadlift Exercise

The deficit deadlift is one of the best deadlift alternatives, and it helps increase the range of motion during your deadlift, placing more emphasis on the quads.  

As this deadlift alternative increases the range of motion, it’s recommended only to be attempted by more advanced lifters.

Beginners tend to find the regular deadlift difficult enough and don’t need to make it even harder or may increase the chance of injury.  

One of the easiest ways to elevate yourself is to place your feet on a 45lb Olympic plate, and it’s usually the perfect height for most people.  


  • Increases your range of motion. 
  • Great for advanced lifters.

How to do it: 

  1. Choose where you’re going to deadlift and place a 45lb Olympic plate on the floor. You may wish to use two bumper plates depending on how wide your stance is.  
  2. While standing on the 45’s, place the barbell over your feet until it touches your shins.  
  3. Set your hips up in a slightly lower than usual deadlift position and brace your core.  
  4. Lift the barbell with the aim to “push the earth away” and squeeze your quads during the initial part of the deficit deadlift.  
  5. Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement, locking your hips out.  
  6. Reverse the movement and repeat. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Start with a small deficit to begin with and build it up as you become stronger. And trust me, you will become stronger with this movement in your workout.

6. Pause Deadlift 

Woman Doing A Pause Deadlift In The Gym

The pause deadlift is an outstanding substitute for deadlift exercise as it increases the time under tension (TUT), making the exercise more challenging.[1]

As the movement is more challenging to perform than the traditional deadlift, it's recommended that only advanced gym-goers try this deadlift alternative.  

One of the main benefits of using the pause deadlift is it requires less load on the barbell due to the increased difficulty. It also shifts the emphasis onto the quads; the burn you’ll feel during the set is phenomenal. 


  • Increased difficulty is great for more advanced lifters.
  • Places more force through the quads.

How to do it: 

  1. Start in the normal deadlift position with your feet underneath the barbell.
  2. As you pull the barbell off the floor, pause mid-way for around 1-2 seconds (usually between the floor and the knee).  
  3. Ensure the barbell is entirely motionless.  
  4. Proceed with the remainder of the deadlift, locking out your hips at the top.  
  5. Return the barbell to the floor and repeat.  

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Want an extra challenge? Try adding a pause to the negative part of the movement too (so you pause twice during each rep). It's a killer.  

7. 45-Degree Back Extension 

Man Doing 45-Degree Back Extension Exercise

If you’re looking to develop your lower back and glutes without deadlifting, the 45-degree back extension is a fantastic stiff leg deadlift alternative. 

While some gyms don’t have this, it could be something you have in your home garage gym, as it’s a relatively small but valuable piece of equipment.

I've used this deadlift alternative many times to help new clients learn the hip hinge movement needed for the deadlift. 

As far as deadlift alternatives go, this is a simple yet effective exercise.


  • Great for beginners to learn the hip hinge.
  • Develops your lower back.

How to do it: 

  1. Set up the back extension so your waist can bend over the top of the machine without causing discomfort.  
  2. Pick up a plate or dumbbell and hold it against your chest.  
  3. Place your feet on the platform and lock your ankles into the padded supports.  
  4. Lower yourself toward the floor in a controlled manner.  
  5. Keep your spine neutral and your legs straight.  
  6. When you feel your hamstrings and glutes are at their maximum stretch, pull yourself back to the starting position.  
  7. Repeat until your set is complete.  

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Start off using your body weight. You'll be shocked by how tough this deadlift substitute is without needing any additional weight.  

8. Standing Cable Pull Through (Deadlift Alternative For At Home)

Woman Doing Standing Cable Pull Through

The standing cable pull-through is a brilliant alternative to deadlift for back pain as it places less stress on the lower back than the conventional deadlift does.  

One of the best things about the cable pull-through is it mimics the hip hinge movement that the barbell deadlift does, so you get all the benefits of working your glutes, hamstrings, lower back, hip flexors, and more without aggravating the back.  

A nice benefit of the standing cable pull-through is that the cable creates constant tension throughout the movement, so your muscles need to work hard to control the weight throughout the exercise. 

If you don't have a cable machine in your home gym, you can use a resistance band instead, making it one of the best deadlift alternatives for your home or garage gym.


  • Creates constant tension in your glutes and hamstrings.
  • Good for all abilities. 
  • Low risk of injury.

How to do it: 

  1. Walk up to your cable machine and adjust the height of the rope pull attachment so it’s at ground level.  
  2. Stand with your back to the machine with the rope between your feet.  
  3. Pick up the rope with both hands and stand upright.  
  4. Walk forward several steps to create tension in the cable.  
  5. Draw your shoulder blades back and down and brace your core muscles.  
  6. While maintaining a neutral spine, bend from the hips until your hamstrings are fully stretched 
  7. Push your hips forward and squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement.  
  8. Repeat until your set is complete. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Stand on a plate or small step to eliminate the risk of cable burns in areas you don't want to be burnt... if you get my drift. Your private parts will thank me.  

9. Bulgarian Split Squat 

Man Doing a Bulgarian Split Squat Exercise

The Bulgarian split squat is an excellent deadlift substitute that will not only strengthen your leg muscles, but it'll also put your balance to the test.  

It mainly targets the hamstrings and glutes by isolating each side of the body one at a time. The iso-lateral nature of the movement makes it perfect for fixing any muscular imbalances that may have developed while using bilateral training methods, e.g., barbell deadlift.  

It’s an excellent alternative for the stiff leg deadlift as it primarily works your glutes and hamstring muscles.

If you can’t perform the exercise, you can try out Bulgarian split squat alternatives.


  • Trains each side iso-laterally. 
  • Helps eliminate muscle imbalances. 
  • Works your lower body through a huge range of motion.

How to do it: 

  1. Stand 2-feet in front of a knee-high bench and place one of your feet on the bench behind you.  
  2. With your opposite leg, shuffle forward or backward (depending on your current position) until you’re in a comfortable position to perform a lunge-like movement.  
  3. Slightly lean forward at the waist and bend your leading leg until it reaches 90 degrees.  
  4. Drive yourself back upwards toward the starting position by pushing through your lead foot.  
  5. Repeat the movement for the rep range you want to work.  

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Place your front foot on a small weighted plate, this will help increase the range of motion so you'll get even more from this muscle building deadlift substitute. 

10. Pendlay Row 

Man Doing A Pendlay Row In The Gym

Even though the Pendlay row is an entirely different movement from the deadlift, it’s still considered one of the best substitutes for deadlifts as it relies heavily on your spinal erectors, lats, and core to stabilize your body throughout the movement.  

As this movement is mainly an upper-body movement, you should combine it with another deadlift alternative on this list that works the legs, such as the Bulgarian split squat.

I do this quite often with my clients, and while they might not love it at the time, their body's look great for it.


  • Works your upper body (spinal erectors, core, lats, and rear delts.
  • Great compound movement for power development.

How to do it: 

  1. Place a barbell in front of you with the desired weight you want to lift.  
  2. Grip the barbell placing your hands just outside shoulder width. 
  3. Roll the barbell toward you until it’s a few inches from your shins.  
  4. Straighten the spine and engage your core muscles.  
  5. Keep your torso parallel to the ground and row the barbell to your sternum. 
  6. Return the barbell to the starting point. Let the barbell come to a dead stop.  
  7. Repeat and complete your set.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Once you've nailed the form, don't be afraid to go heavy on this deadlift substitute; this exercise is all about power development.  

How To Do Deadlift Exercises At Home (Without A Barbell)


The dumbbell deadlift is a fantastic alternative to a barbell deadlift and can be performed from home easily while using minimal space. Using dumbbells is more challenging for your grip strength as they’re harder to hold than a barbell. 

You can perform the dumbbell deadlift the same way you’d use a barbell. However, as the dumbbells are lower than a barbell, I’d recommend stopping the deadlift short of the floor (around mid-shin height).  


Kettlebells are versatile pieces of home gym equipment that are a brilliant alternative exercise for the deadlift. An added bonus is that kettlebells don’t require as much room as a barbell.

You can use one kettlebell singly or use a pair of kettlebells to perform the deadlift. The form for the exercises is the same as it is for the barbell deadlift.  

Man Lifting a Kettlebell

Resistance Band 

Resistance bands are light, compact, and can be taken with you anywhere you want. They're an excellent substitute for barbell deadlifts. The strength curve of a resistance band differs from a barbell; the resistance band is lighter at the bottom of the movement and more taxing at the top.  

The resistance band deadlift is performed using the same form as a barbell, but you stand on part of the band and hold the opposite side, then hinge from the hips.


Sandbags can be bought or self-made at home using a duffel bag and sand. It’s a simple yet effective alternative to barbell deadlift.  

Fill a bag with sand, rocks, books, canned food, and perform a deadlift using the duffel bag.  

Using A Couch 

Got a spare couch in your basement? It could be the perfect alternative to barbell deadlift. Making use of your couch or even those storage boxes you’ve been meaning to empty could come in pretty useful.  

Pick up the couch from one end using deadlift form and place it back down. Or pick up a box and move it from one side of the room to another.  

Benefits Of Doing Regular Deadlifting Type Exercises

If you look at most strength training programs, you’ll see the deadlift is one of the staple exercises.

The deadlift is one of the big three lifts performed in powerlifting, but the exercise has many benefits outside of the sport. It’s suitable for most people of all experience levels, particularly if you want to build muscle and strengthen your posterior chain.  

Some of the most notable benefits are: 

  • Increases Muscle
    Your glutes, hamstrings, lower back, and stabilizing muscles need to work incredibly hard to move the weight, leading to an increase in muscle. Arnold Schwarzenegger used to swear by deadlifts, and if his impressive physique is anything to go by, they sure as hell work.[2]
  • Strength Increases
    If you want to be strong, deadlifts will get you there, and it heavily recruits your muscle fibers in all areas from your glutes to your abs. There’s a reason why it’s the staple of almost every strength training program.
  • Improved Grip Strength
    Increasing your grip strength will help with many of your other lifts such as pull-ups, lat pull down, bent over rows, and more. You’ll also benefit from increased grip strength if you participate in sports such as Jiu-Jitsu or wrestling. 
  • Reduction In Lower Back Pain
    Movement is key to keeping your back strong; deadlifts are perfect for strengthening the back. Strengthen the lower back, and you’ll help prevent any future injuries from occurring.
  • Increases Bone Density
    Deadlifts help fight off Osteoporosis which can develop in the later stages of your life. In addition, a 2018 study found that resistance training dramatically improves your bone health as your body ages. Stronger bones reduce your risk of fractures and muscle breakages, which are serious long-term injuries for the elderly.[3]
  • Activates Core Muscles
    Maintaining a stable core is crucial for your overall health and has sports-specific carryovers that can help improve your overall performance. Your other major lifts, such as squats, will benefit from deadlifting regularly.
  • You Don’t Need A Spotter
    The load isn’t placed above you like it is with a back squat or bench press, so you can safely drop the barbell without having to worry about being crushed under the weight. This is a massive bonus if you’re training in your home gym. Learn more about which workout exercises need spotters.  

What Muscles Do Deadlifts And Substitutes Work?


The glutes are the largest muscle group in the body, making them a key area to work. Having a strong set of glutes removes the pressure placed on the lower back and helps prevent lower back injuries. Building your glutes will also help with other sports you might participate in.  


The hamstrings are the biceps of the legs. They’re vital for the deadlift and are placed under a lot of stress during the movement. They are the antagonist muscle to the quadriceps and need to be worked equally as hard.  

Hip Flexors 

The hip flexors are key movers for your legs and are required to walk, run, bend, kick, and swivel your hips. As you can imagine, these are all critical movements for many sports, and the deadlift is a great way to develop your hip flexor strength.  

Lower Back Muscles 

The lower back is often one of the areas people develop pain in as they age. Much of this can be due to inactivity and not developing the lower back muscle adequately. As the saying goes, if you don’t use it, you lose it.  

Training your lower back muscle with the deadlift is brilliant for injury prevention. 

Upper Back Muscles 

During the deadlift, your entire body is required to help stabilize your spine as you lift the weight from the floor. During the movement, your upper back muscles such as your lats, traps, and rhomboids are engaged to help lock the spine into a safe, neutral position.  


The quadriceps are heavily activated during the first portion of the deadlift. Then, as you move the barbell upwards, your quads are required to help straighten your knees.


As you perform a deadlift, your body needs to engage its core muscles to assist your major muscle groups in lifting the weight on the bar. The core is necessary for stability and helps you maintain a neutral spine position, preventing any injuries from occurring.

Common Questions About Deadlifting

Can you build hamstring muscles without deadlift? 

Yes, you can build your hamstrings without the deadlift. You can perform many fantastic exercises to target the hamstrings, such as the Bulgarian split squat, cable pull through, and more. 

Can kettlebell swings replace deadlifts? 

Yes, performing kettlebell swings is a brilliant substitute for replacing deadlifts in your workout. Whether you've got an injury or simply want to mix things up a little, kettlebell swings are one of the best deadlift alternatives.

Is deadlift bad for knees? 

No, the deadlift isn't bad for the knees as it requires minimal movement in the knees. It's a hip-dominant exercise which places most of the stress on your hips. 

Are deadlifts worth the risk? 

Yes, deadlifts are worth the risk, so long as you're performing them with the correct form. The last thing you want is to waste your time and effort doing deadlifts incorrectly.  


The deadlift is one of the best exercises around for developing your glutes, hamstrings, lower back, and many other muscles throughout your body. I don’t think there is a single muscle not worked during the deadlift.  

However, not everybody is in a position to perform deadlifts regularly. Whether it’s due to injury, not having the equipment and space, or simply you want to mix it up a little to keep things fresh.  

The list above is the complete guide for the best alternative to barbell deadlift exercises. Add them to your workout; you’ll love them.  





Lee Kirwin

Lee Kirwin

Lee has worked in the fitness industry for over 15 years. He's trained hundreds of clients and knows his way around the gym, including what you need for your garage gym. When he's not testing products, he loves weightlifting, Ju Jitsu, writing, and gaming.