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Deadcember Deadlift Variations with Scott Thom

Ambassador Scott Thom is no stranger to the KING of exercises: the deadlift! This December, crank up the volume and tighten up form on this beast of a lift.

Deadcember means two things, egg nog and deadlifts! Deadlifts are known as the king of

exercises as they train the majority of muscle mass in your body; your quads, glutes, hamstrings,

erectors, latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, traps, and your forearms. For some the deadlift is an

intimidating exercise, and when I tell my athletes or clients that we have deadlifts in today’s

workout what often follows is, “won’t that exercise hurt my back?” The answer is no. When done

correctly and with proper progressions, the deadlift is an exercise that can greatly increase total

body strength. Before we get to the different variations of deadlifts here are a list of coaching

ques I like to use with my clients and athletes when they are performing deadlifts.


Starting Position:

a. Feet slightly narrower than shoulder width apart.

b. Bar is tight to the body, ultimately touching your shins.

c. Look slightly down and forward.

d. Arms are lined up outside of legs (inside of the arm is flush with outer leg),

e. When looking at your athlete/client from a side profile in the starting position, there

should be a straight line from the shoulder to the hip.

f. Different grips can be used; double overhand grip, hook grip, or over and under grip.



Initial Pull

a. Engage your hamstrings, some people like to give an initial tug on the bar to activate and

make the mental connection to fire their hamstrings during the initial pull.

b. “Grip it and rip it”, squeezing the bar and a strong grip will help you deadlift more


c. Shoulders and hips should rise simultaneously.

d. Look slightly down and forward.


a. Keep the bar tight to the body during exercise.

b. Look straight ahead.

c. Think “big chest” this will help maintain a solid posture during the exercise.


Finishing the Pull and Descent

a. As you finish the pull maintain a solid posture, with your posterior chain fully engaged.

b. Control the weight on the decent this will help improve future deadlifts as you are still

training the muscles used in the deadlift, eccentrically.

Quick Tip: If you find the bar is getting away from your body during the initial pull and

throughout the pull, this could be due to your hips rising too fast and too soon. This could be due

to the bar not starting close to your shins, or could be the result of weak hamstrings. If your

hamstrings are weak, your hips and shoulders will not rise simultaneously and your low back

will take the brunt of the lift. Adding RDL’s, glute ham raises, and wide stance good mornings

to your workout regimen will help strengthen your hamstrings. Another tip for a solid starting

position is to lift barefoot or wear flat sole shoes, Vans or Chuck Taylors will do the trick. The

problem with lifting in shoes that have an elevated heel (majority of sneakers and lifting shoes) is

your starting position is already compromised. Your weight is shifted forward and your hips are

slightly elevated, both will effect your initial pull.


Here are just a couple deadlifts I like to use with my athletes and clients.

Conventional Deadlift:

Sumo Deadlift:

Trap Bar Deadlift:

Deficit Deadlift

Banded Deadlift

Block Deadlifts

If deadlifts are already in your training regimen and you want to improve on your deadlift

max, these are a few variations you might want to try. It’s important to keep the weight lighter

when introducing deficit and banded deadlifts to your workout. Deficit deadlifts require

elevating your starting position making the initial pull much tougher. Making you stronger off

the ground when you transition back to conventional deadlifts. Banded deadlifts will help the

mid-pull and finishing pull, as the band increases tension at the top end of the exercise, forcing

you to pull through the band. Lastly is block deadlifts or rack deadlifts as some people call them,

this means elevating the starting position of the bar by placing it on a rack or by placing blocks

(in my case plates) under the weights. By elevating the starting position you are cutting down

the distance you need to pull. Due to limiting the range of motion you’re able to put more

weight on the bar than normal, this is a great variation for overload days, meaning working

multiple sets at a percentage of your max or higher.

I hope you have a great Deadcember and these deadlift variations help you set new pr’s

before 2016 hits!

Thanks for viewing! Create a great day, and Go Cougs!