That’s right you should not be deadlifting anymore. Nah, I’m just kidding that would be crazy. Deadlifts are like squats, there are few if any other exercises that even come close to matching the amount of strength building and fat burning potential these two lifts have. But it is a good idea to have a backup plan, and as I will address, it can even help add weight to your deadlift while reducing pain from the deadlift.
Bodybuilding.com writer Al Kavadlo wrote a great piece about getting the numerous results from deadlifting while using nothing more than a pull-up bar. The deadlift is known for increasing back size and strength, adding girth to the legs via explosive strength and size, and also helping to increase the functional strength of the abdominal muscles. If the proper deadlift form is kept, these benefits can occur all at once. However, many people (including myself), have improper form or negative recruitment patterns (recruitment of muscles not targeted in the exercise). Also, if you find yourself without gym equipment sometimes, there are ways around missing a workout. Al Kavadlo details that the benefits of deadlifts can be accomplished with just a few bodyweight exercises:
1. Pull Ups
As one of the best tests of strength for military members and also a stable of the Presidential Fitness test administered in schools, pull-ups can increase back strength and size. With many variations, this exercise can target biceps and is very cost effective.
2. Back Bridges
I remember doing these all the time as a child. They were easy, fun, and you could even “walk” like this if you were good enough. I tried these last year and I fell on my back hard. Whether it was because I’m much bigger than I was as a child or needed to increase strength and flexibility to do this, this exercise has many benefits. The back portion of the deadlift can be substituted for this exercise while minimizing the pain and injury in the spine accompanied with deadlifting. This yields itself to use as a recovery workout as well. Even if you begin with just raising your back without your hands, this is a good starting point for progress.
These will target both legs actually, but it will do so in different ways. This will target the quads, glutes, and hamstrings in the leg with the weight on it while targeting the hip flexors and quads on the leg in the air. This will challenge your flexibility, balance, muscle control, and stamina. So while the name is slightly deceiving, it will still generate the same desired goal of increased leg strength and size that deadlifts traditionally do. This will also target your core because you need sturdy abdominals to balance on one foot up and down.
Overall, for pretty much any exercise in the gym can be substituted for a body weight exercise. This method of exercising is not popular in some circles because of the difficulty of them, but also because it’s unfamiliar for some who are used to pushing around a bunch of weight. This relegation to push-ups, pull-ups, and planks can be jarring too. But I can tell you from experience, I get a better holistic workout using these body weight exercises, than just machines and free weights alone.