Top 10 Deadlift Accessory Exercises for a Big Pull!

If you’ve got a weak deadlift, you’re a weak person. 

It’s the biggest test of strength – and you’re lagging behind. 

It doesn’t just make you look bad. Deadlifting wrong also means missing out on huge gains and putting yourself at risk of back injury.

We’re fixing that right now – discussing the best deadlift accessory exercises for a big pull.

What Does the Deadlift Train; Things You Need to Know

Most people are bad at deadlifting because they don’t understand how it works. Knowledge is power.

First, the deadlift is a hip exercise  not a back or leg exercise. You should prioritize the function of the glutes and hamstrings. 

While other muscles are working, these are the main muscles handling the load. They are also the main ones that should grow if you deadlift properly.

[image demonstrating hams and hip extensors]

The deadlift is about opening the hips. It’s a fundamental movement pattern. If you can’t do it, your back is at risk, and you’re not going to build the glute, hamstring, and back mass you want.

Practicing and strengthening the hip hinge is the key to good deadlift accessory exercises.

Main Ways to Ruin a Deadlift

How could you mess up the deadlift? What are you doing wrong?

Here are some of the most common ways people get hurt or ruin their deadlift – so you can avoid them.

Poor Hip Action

Bad hip action will round your back in the deadlift or cause improper hip position. That can ruin the whole exercise!

Proper hip action is the whole point of the deadlift. Move your hips backward and think about the movement as pushing them forward to stand up. This lets you use the target muscles to lift the weight. That means less injury risk and better muscle growth. 

Lazy Setup

Most people are lazy when setting up for the deadlift, which immediately ruins the exercise. It’s as simple as learning some essential steps and repeating them every set.

You need to spend more time in the setup and consider where your joints are. The hips should be set back, and the knees roughly above the heels. This is also the right time to ‘brace’ your core, flattening the back and keeping you safe.

You need to build tension in the setup so you don’t “yank” the bar off the floor. When this happens, you’re pulled out of position and off balance. It can ruin your deadlift before it’s even started!

Too Much Leg

Too many gym goers bring the hips down too much, not back

This is the fastest route to make your deadlift way harder. Your hips will shift up early in the lift, throw off your center of balance, and put stress on the lower back.

Hips back and down, not just down. You need to feel the hamstrings getting long as you push your hips back, then you’re ready to deadlift!

Best Accessory Exercises for Deadlift

The best deadlift accessories focus on building the hip hinge. They also build the posterior chainthe glutes, hamstrings, and spinal erectors.

We’re mixing heavier and lighter options. Whatever workout you’re doing, this list will provide the perfect option. 

Remember: you don’t always need to exhaust yourself to get stronger. Pick lighter weights if you’re tired. Use simpler or lighter deadlift alternatives when you’re tired.

1. Paused Good Morning

The paused good morning is the best way to learn the hip hinge. You can start light, focusing on pushing your hips backward while keeping your foot flat on the floor. 

This also trains core stability while you’re moving the hips – key to a big deadlift. The long lever makes it challenging with light weights, keeping you safe from injury while you build strength and muscle mass.

How to

  1. Take a barbell on your back – as in a back squat.
  2. Step out with a tight core and extended upper back, standing tall.
  3. Bend at the hips, keeping your knees in place and pushing your hips backward.
  4. Keep pushing back as far as possible or until you feel a deep stretch in the hamstrings.
  5. Reverse the movement by extending the hip, bringing the hips forward and shoulders back. 


Train the paused good morning as a warm-up to your sessions or at the end of a session to build back strength. 

For beginners, this should be a primary exercise. You can use it less often and more heavily as you gain experience. You can also use a kettlebell in the goblet position if this is too challenging – which is more common than you’d think!

2. Romanian Deadlift or Stiff-Legged Deadlift

The Romanian Deadlift (RDL) and Stiff-Legged Deadlift (SLDL) are both hip hinge exercises. They remove the ‘leg drive’ part of the full deadlift, letting you focus on the hip muscles and back stability.

Because they’re lighter, you can train them more often and with higher reps. They also teach you to use proper hip extension, with the ‘backward and forward’ movement that’s so important for deadlifts.

How to

  1. Take a barbell in hand in a deadlift position and stand up tall (RDL)
  2. Keep the torso flat and shoulders back and down as you begin to ease the hips back
  3. Keep the knees in one place and push the hips back as far as possible while keeping the foot flat on the floor
  4. Reverse the motion by pushing the hips forward and shoulders back, standing up tall 

Pro tip: The stiff-legged deadlift is about performing a similar motion to the RDL but starting on the floor. The main challenge for beginners is setting a proper flat back and keeping it throughout. Use blocks to raise the barbell if you can’t get into position right away.


The RDL and SLDL are big, heavy exercises. You will find your hamstrings and back tired afterward. Use them as a deadlift variation, replacing a deadlift at least once per week.

These can be reduced over time as you add more weight, improve your deadlift, and need more recovery time between deadlift sessions.

3. Paused Deadlifts

Paused deadlifts are a great way to ensure you’re deadlifting properly, working hard with lighter weights. 

The pause is a great way to strengthen your position off the floor, improving technique and strength at the same time. This is one of the best deadlift accessory exercises for strength. It is also a great way to apply the ‘lessons’ of other accessory exercises to your full deadlift.

How to

  1.  Take a normal deadlift grip on the barbell and set your hips for the deadlift (backward and down a little) with active hips and a flat back.
  2. Pull the slack out of the bar and begin the lift as normal by pushing the floor down and hips in
  3. Pause between mid and upper shin, keeping tension in the hips and core, keeping the bar close with the lats and the chest proud.
  4. Hold this position for 1-2 seconds before continuing the deadlift, driving the hips in, and standing up tall.
  5. Return to the ground and continue the set!


The paused deadlift is slightly lighter than the conventional deadlift, and you need to be sparing with it. You should use it as a deadlift variation – like the Stiff-Legged Deadlift.

4. Glute Isolations: Hip Thrusts or Glute Bridges

Building big, strong glutes is one of the best ways of improving your deadlift. Simple isolation exercises like hip thrusts are perfect for building the strength you need for the conventional deadlift.

How to

  1.  Take a barbell in the hips or set up on a hip thrust machine, with the feet near the hips (your knee angle should be roughly 90 degrees throughout, but no less)
  2. Keep your entire foot flat on the floor and keep the knees stable (the quads should not contribute to the movement!), and set the core to stabilize the trunk throughout.
  3. Push your hips up towards the roof, extending the hips fully and squeezing the glutes to bring the knees out sideways. 
  4. Hold the top position for 1-2 seconds before slowly lowering back to the starting position and completing the rep.


Hip thrusts are a big, challenging exercise, and you want to reduce frequency

Use them once per week unless you’re really missing out on hip strength. You need to use heavy weights, whether you’re doing sets of 6 or 12 – but we’d not recommend anything above that.

Hip thrusts should be heavy – they’re training you to lift heavy weights. That’s the point!

FURTHER READING: Dumbbell Hip Thrust With Perfect Form (& Common Mistakes)

5. 8-Point Plank

For some people, the challenge of the deadlift isn’t hip strength but core and back control. Building the core muscles’ flexion is perfect for building deadlift-specific core strength.

This helps you keep your torso straight, improving your deadlift and keeping the spine safe.

How to

  1. Get on the floor with your hands, elbows, knees, and feet in touch with the ground.
  2. Move your elbows and knees apart until you feel the tension in the core and the lower back ‘trying’ to sag.
  3. Resist this impulse, keeping the front of the core tight and trying to pull your elbows towards your knees ‘through the floor.’ 
  4. Hold this position at a distance that is hard enough to feel very challenging for your prescribed time.


The best way to progress this movement is to move the elbows and knees further apart, lengthening the lever. You can add weight, but focus on length first!

Add it to the end of workouts or between them to build your core for bigger pulls.

6. Back Extensions

You also have ‘core’ muscles at the back, and they do a lot of work in the deadlift. 

A weak back will get rounded easily, pull you out of position, and reduce the load you put into the target muscles.

Strengthening the back muscles with back extensions can be a huge help when the heavy weights start pulling you down.

How to

  1. Set up with your feet hooked into the stand and the pad set deep into your hip crease. This will ensure you’re bending at the hips and not just bending the legs.
  2. Keep tension in the hamstrings and lean as far forward as possible, rounding your back slightly at the bottom.
  3. Reverse the motion by pushing your hips into the pad and extending them, re-straightening your back.
  4. Continue extending until you’re as high as possible and slightly hyperextend the back.
  5. Pause the top position briefly, focusing on working the core and back together and squeezing the glutes.  


You can use back extensions as a warm-up if you bring down the reps, weight, and sets. However, they’re best as a finisher exercise to build the back muscles and hips. Because of lighter loads, they’re a lower-stress option.

The idea is that they build back strength without too much fatigue. Try adding 4-5 sets of 8-12 reps (with pauses) to the end of your sessions – ideally after deadlifts.

7. Broad Jumps

Building explosive strength in the hips is a fantastic way to improve your deadlift. They help you overcome sticking points and make your strength more useful. The broad jump is one of the best ways to do this, specifically for the deadlift.

They’re all about hip extension force, and you can use them for both sports performance and building a huge deadlift.

How to

  1.  Take a squatting stance with your feet underneath your hips, preferably on a soft surface.
  2. Begin a countermovement, bending the hips and legs, pushing your hips back, and ‘projecting’ your chest forwards.
  3. From the ‘stretch’ of the countermovement, push the floor down and back explosively, propelling yourself up and forwards.
  4. Land as softly as possible, with the knees at or above 90 degrees of bend, to complete a single rep.

Pro tip: focus on pushing your hips forwards, through your knees, and attacking the floor.


Jumps can be challenging, so make sure you’re taking them slow. You don’t have to jump for maximum distance straight away. At least work at 80% effort for a few weeks.

Add a little distance over time, and make sure you’re thoroughly warmed up so your knees and hips don’t get hurt.

Jumps can also be used as an incredible warm-up. They force you to use maximum muscle force as fast as possible. You’ll feel the difference if you add 2-3 sets of 3 submaximal broad jumps to your deadlift warm-up. Do them before you touch a bar.

8. Trap Bar Deadlift or Trap Bar Jump

The trap bar deadlift is a great alternative and accessory for the deadlift. It’s simpler than the conventional deadlift. That means more focus on high effort – and less technical worries. You’ll use your quads more, making it easier to lift the same weight.

This isn’t quite the same as the other exercises on this list. 

It’s less hip hinge focused and more upright – but it’s a great simple alternative to the deadlift. For intermediates, this is a great way to overload the muscles without deadlifting more often.

The trap bar jump is also one of the best ways to build hip and leg power, which greatly benefits deadlifts.

How to

  1.  Take a trap bar with high handles and grab them.
  2. Ease the hips back and bend the knees, focusing on getting as upright as possible by pushing the hips back and trying to ‘open’ them.
  3. Push the ground down and bring the hips up and ‘in’, bringing your shoulders backward and standing up tall.
  4. (Trap bar jumps: Continue driving through this position, extending as hard as possible to reach the ‘jump’ – landing as softly as possible)
  5. Lower the weight under control to complete the rep.


Trap bar deadlifts are heavy and hard and should be used as a variation. Trap bar jumps are a much lighter option but still require a little practice to get adapted to the landing forces, which can be a shock to the body.

Put these into your training once a week, at most. You can use unloaded jumps instead or mix the trap bar deadlift into your training.

9. Pendlay Rows

Pendlay rows are a great way to develop the role of the upper back and hips in the deadlift. 

It may not be the same movement, but it develops the lats, lower traps, core, and hips together. This exercise is perfect for better back positioning in the deadlift.

The Pendlay row’s start position is also a great chance to practice ‘pulling the slack out‘. This technical cue could make a world of difference to your deadlift. 

How to

  1. Place a bar on the floor and take a mid-width, overhand grip on the barbell with a comfortable stance, but further away than a deadlift.
  2. Set your hips back with a flat torso and active hips, stabilizing the line of the back in position.
  3. Keeping your posture static, row the barbell to your chest by hinging the shoulder and pulling the elbows back and around your body.
  4. Squeeze the barbell to your body in the top position, flexing the biceps and squeezing the shoulder blades together for a moment.
  5. Lower the bar back to the floor as slowly as is comfortable, and you’re ready for the next rep!

Pro tip: try to ‘sweep’ the bar back towards the body from the starting position, and let it move forwards on the way down.


Pendlay rows are best when combined with other forms of pulling exercises. For this reason, you should use them 1-2 times per week. Ensure you have some one-arm pulling (e.g., dumbbell rows or cable rows) in your training. 

You should also do some vertical pulls, like the chin-up or pull-up, during the week.

Progress Pendlay rows with more reps, more weight, more sets, or adding a deficit. The deficit lengthens the movement, emphasizing the lats and the “sweep” discussed above.

10. Glute Ham Raises

The glute-ham raise is one of the best ways to build your posterior chain. That means the back, glutes, and hamstrings

It’s a challenging exercise but one of the best ways to build your deadlift. It has a similar movement but a longer range. This extra range adds stretch-mediated hypertrophy for better results.

How to

  1.  Get set up on a glute ham machine with your legs straight and hamstrings in a light stretch.
  2. Hinge the hips, lowering your upper body and lengthening the body.
  3. Reverse the movement, extending the hips and ‘thrusting’ into the pad to extend the hips.
  4. Once fully extended at the hip, use the momentum to continue upwards, bending your knees and ‘pulling’ yourself upright with the hamstrings.
  5. Once you reach the top position, the rep is complete.


This is one of the best deadlift assistance exercises but does have a barrier for entry. Fortunately, you can start with the assisted version to build strength before doing the full movement.

This is a very challenging exercise and fatigues quickly. Beginners will need to add more momentum or support from pushing off the machine (many use handles) or a box. 

You should expect to perform drop sets with the GHR. It is very high fatiguing, and bodyweight alone can be very challenging – especially across 4-5 sets.


What is the best exercise to pair with deadlifts?

The best exercises to pair with deadlifts are paused good mornings, hip thrusts, and Romanian deadlifts. These are the best deadlift accessory exercises because they build the deadlift with less weight.

You can train them more often without hurting yourself. 

They build the important muscles and techniques without the same recovery demands as the deadlift. You’ll also build back and hip muscle mass and strength while you train them!

What are the best exercises to increase deadlift?

The best exercises to increase the deadlift for intermediates are the good morning, paused deadlifts, and glute ham raises. These are perfect for intermediates: they work on common weaknesses like poor setup and weak hips or hamstrings.

These can be used as accessories after deadlifts or throughout the week, as long as you don’t overdo it. Exercises like the glute-ham raise (e.g.) are pretty demanding, and you’ll need plenty of rest afterward!


Everything has to go right for you to pull a big deadlift. These deadlift accessory exercises give you the best chance to pull the best weight while staying safe. You’ll be getting stronger and more muscular along the way.

You’ll build a big back, strong glutes, and protect your knees and hips from injury. These are the secret ingredients in consistent gains, which is all you really need to get a huge deadlift.

If you want a monster pull, try to find some time in your training schedule for each deadlift accessory exercise. Make sure you’re taking time with your technique, setting up deliberately, and you’ll be ready to show off your Powerlifting skills soon. 

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Chris Thompson
Hi, I'm Chris. I'm a personal trainer, writer & co-founder of OxygenFitnessCT. I've been writing hundreds of articles on strength training & muscle building for several fitness websites & apps since 2017. Our goal with OxygenFitnessCT is to help you pick the most effective, suitable exercises to improve your workout & achieve your fitness goals.

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