Best deadlift variant (without barbell)

I saw coach Chad mention deadlifting as part of a good intergraded strength training exercise. My issue is, I don’t have the money for a gym (cheapest gym near me is $130 a month) or the space for a barbell in my apartment. What would be the best alternative. I’ve seen people talk about dumbbells , kettle bells, resistance bands. Does anyone have experience with different variants they would recommend?


I use dumbbells right now for my routine. They work fine, the only issue is getting heavy enough weight. I am using my largest dumbbells and a weight vest. But ultimately, this lift needs heavy weight. I am interested in an alternative, but expect to buying a bar and weights in the very near future…

I’m using triceps bar for different kinds of weight exercises (military press, deadlift, barbell rows, squats). Small enough for flat, 40kg weight on it.

I use a kettlebell to do a set of deadlifts followed by a set of two-handed swings.


At home I have bands, kettlebells, and dumbbells. My preference for deadlifts is the kettlebell, and then to use the kettlebells (I have 3) for other exercises.

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Do you use a kettlebell that weighs as much as you? According to Chad’s benchmarks I’d need to deadlift my body weight (190 lbs) five times. Should I invest in a 190lbs kettlebell?

Before you injure yourself, which is quite easy to do deadlifting, find someone to teach you proper deadlifting form.

Please do not do that.

First, you’re not going to start anywhere near 190 lbs.

Second, you’re going to punch a hole through your floor if you somehow manage to locate a 190lb kettlebell. That’s assuming you don’t drop it on your foot beforehand.


Why would I injure myself? I’ve deadlifted many times before when I had access to a gym/ barbell. Just haven’t done variants.

Have you deadlifted before? Proper form and technique is important. Do some research for example and be smart. I’m using the kettlebells (e.g. Romanian one-leg deadlift) at home to work on technique, and trap bar at the gym for heavy weight. I’ve been looking for a deal on used trap bar for home.


I work out twice per week with a very good personal trainer. We focus on injury prevention, core strength, and countering the effects of riding a bike 8+ hours per week.

Single leg deadlifts are an absolute mainstay in our workouts. We do a crap ton of weird stuff, but the Romanian one-leg deadlift is the “go to” exercise when in doubt. And you don’t need a ton of weight since you’re only using half your lifting power while also trying to stay balanced. Best part is that it’s basically impossible to cheat and injure your lower back like many folks do with a traditional deadlift.


:+1: I use a 16kg in one hand, and 20kg in the other hand. Then switch for the second set. Two sets for each leg.


Yep, good modification. Another good one is using a single heavy weight (either hand) and alternate lifting it and leaving it on the ground without tapping the ground with your lifted leg/foot. Makes it more of a balance / core exercise then…

If you want to get super wacky hitting the same muscle group, try a Norwegian Hamstring Curl. Doing those slowly without faceplanting is a super impressive move that even the Arnold-types in the gym will respect.


I have no idea whether you’re properly deadlifting or not, I can only speak from my own experience…

I was deadlifting and squatting without issue for two decades. Then I hired a legit trainer and the first thing they did was make me relearn how to deadlift and squat. I had to lower the weight by 50%, wear a rubber band around my knees, and learn how to lift/squat without an inward knee flex at the beginning of every movement. I had no idea I was doing it and wouldn’t believe the trainer till shown video evidence.

Here’s another couple good variants by the way. 1) A sumo deadlift. Just focus on flexing the knees outwards when doing deadlift. And 2) Wearing a “booty band” resistance band around the knees and hitting the abductors (my weak spot) while doing a normal deadlift. (The “booty bands” are the fabric elastic bands that don’t yank every hair off your body like the rubber bands.)

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If you are in the US (they may ship internationally, idk) the one that I really like is called the sling-shot.

They also have other variants that have more resistance but I’ve found this is enough unless you’re a powerlifter. Obviously this isn’t a total substitute for a proper deadlift but it hits your glutes and hips.

Single-leg deadlifts are a great addition, I have a bar but do these anyway. They not only let you get more bang from your limited weight, they also add balance and stability work to the mix. I’m primarily a mountain biker and have found these to be an asset on long descents where core strength and balance are important.

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After listening to Chad and others, I’d like to incorporate some deadlifting. Here is some background:

  1. I have not really deadlifted since high school
  2. during these crazy days, i don’t have access to a barbell
  3. the heaviest weights I have are two 12lb dumbbells.

My questions are:

  1. should I start with the lighter weights? How many reps?
  2. should I load up one of my kids old backpacks and use it like a kettlebell lift?
  3. should I not even bother if I don’t have anyone to coach me through form, using a barbell?

You can certainly start doing dumbbell deadlifts though you will probably quickly top out with only 24 lb to work with. You can then start doing single leg deadlifts. You can also use the dumbbells as kettlebells and do swings with them. The backpack idea might work as long as it’s not too long that it hits the ground and reduces your range of motion.

Another option along with building sound movement patterns through exercises mentioned above (overhead squat, single leg squat, single leg romanian deadlift, hip thrusts) would be to perform isometric deadlifts at different angles with whatever you can find to grip on to or use a strap. Rosstraining talks about building a contraption for this very purpose. The 12lb weights won’t be very effective for building a bilateral deadlift. I found this post from reddit.


Posting a link to Ross Enamait because he shows some good variations and setup, and his book is where I first learned about isometrics.

For maximal strength, 3-6 second holds are best. Longer than that, and you are training to be slow. The body cannot produce maximal force for a long time (you cannot sprint at top speed for 60 seconds). However, for hypertrophy, I wonder if the decreasing force over the duration of a longer hold would essentially make it a continuous drop set.

Static-dynamic protocol: this comes from Siff and Verkhoshansky’s Supertraining (and discussed in Enamait) and it’s a good way to increase explosive power. Do an isometric hold for 3-6 seconds and immediately follow up with fast movements through the same joint angle. So something like doing a static deadlift hold toward the top of the pull, followed by vertical jumps. There is an after-effect following static tension that allows an increase in the effectiveness of dynamic work. In short, you jump higher after doing an isometric deadlift.

Deadlifts also used to be my favorite exercise. Isometric deadlifts are not nearly as fun. But throwing in some jumping makes them ok."

Thanks for the input. Specifically, I’m looking to deadlifts to target low back and posterior chain. But there are certainly other exercises that can do that (planks, etc). I’ll hold off on any significant weight until i can get into the gym and do some proper deadlifts.