Almost any time I pass through the portal and enter the haven that is the gym, I am almost always greeted by a torrent of people bashing out nothing but arm curls.

Some days I wonder if it is due to a pack mentality, where the first person to enter the gym engages in arm curls by default and then everybody else simply follows suit as they are more than likely on auto-pilot.

Look past all of these sheep and you will probably see a behemoth in the corner by himself on the power mat, lifting iron comparable in weight to the hammer of Thor!


The lift that this titan is working on is the deadlift

The deadlift is one of the big three lifts (the other two being squat and bench press) and is a staple tool in the arsenal of any powerlifter and bodybuilder.

It targets a significant number of muscle groups, primarily hitting the lower back, but also seriously works the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, glutes, traps, core and hands.

This exercise does not only develop serious strength, power and flexibility, but can also aid in fat loss due to the considerable number of muscles being worked. It is easy to see why it’s vital to powerlifters and bodybuilders, but it is not exclusive to these two sub-sets of lifters.

Almost anybody can learn to use it, but that does not mean it is the best exercise for everybody

Individuals with longer than average limbs are at a particular disadvantage when it comes to deadlifting.

A lifter with long legs will need to arch their back further forward in order to reach the bar on the ground, resulting in excessive extension of the glutes out behind them, leading them to having their body positioned at too small an angle to the floor.

Lifting this way has a greater chance of sustaining a lower back injury.

Thankfully it is not all doom and gloom for the long-limbed lifter

There are several alternatives available to choose from, but before you choose an exercise you must first know what you want to achieve, i.e. strength/power, size or simply general conditioning.

It is also worth mentioning that, due to the number of muscles targeted during deadlifting, no one exercise can fully substitute it, and so multiple moves may be required.


Alternative deadlifting exercises

The sumo deadlift

If you want to lift heavy, to develop your strength and power, the sumo deadlift is an excellent variation of the regular ‘conventional deadlift’.

The stance taken is much wider than that for the conventional form, which has two benefits; it lets you get closer to the bar and secondly, takes a great deal of stress off the lower back. So not only is this form ideal for long-legged lifters, it is also kinder to those with back pain.

Trap bar deadlifts

Another option for those wanting to develop strength and power is trap bar deadlifts. The trap bar has elevated handles, which reduce the distance that the user has to bend in order to reach the bar.

The form used in this movement is virtually identical to the conventional deadlift, albeit much more user friendly for those with longer legs and is very easy on the back.

The barbell squat

Another alternative to these variations of the conventional deadlift. Like the deadlift, it is a terrific compound movement (involving multiple muscles and joints), mostly targeting the quads, but also hitting the hamstrings, calves, back and core.

Weighted lunges

If strength and power is not your primary aim, and you simply want to develop some general conditioning, then weighted lunges are a superb exercise to consider, or burpees, if you want to inject some cardio into your routine, couple these with the leg extension (or leg press) and leg curl machines and you will seriously work all four quadriceps and three hamstrings.

T-bar rows and barbell rows

If it is your back that you want to train and for whatever reason do not want to or cannot deadlift, then either T-bar rows or barbell rows are the most effective alternatives, these are both compound movements engaging the middle and lower back, biceps, shoulders, core and a little bit of quads and hamstrings.

Couple one or both of these movements with plenty of leg work and you will effectively engage all of the muscles that would be targeted through deadlifting alone – even if you have legs that reach the sky!

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