The Benefits of Deficit Deadlifts


Sebastian Padilla

Diagnosing your Deadlift Woes 

Does your conventional deadlift suck? Do you pull sumo really fast but can’t lockout to save your life? If so, you might need some good ol’ deficit deads to bring your quad strength and starting position up to speed. 

Deficit Deadlifts Explained

A deficit deadlift consists of putting yourself in a height deficit compared to the bar by stepping onto a block, mat, plate, or any other object you can use to elevate your body, but not the bar. Now, don’t get this confused with a block pull, which is raising the bar but not yourself. This is its own thing entirely.

There are two deadlift variations when adding a deficit. A deficit deadlift can be done in either a conventional or sumo position, with different outcomes depending on your stance. 

Conventional Deficit Deadlift 

A conventional deficit deadlift can be done with a deficit ranging anywhere from one to three inches. Compared to when you pull from the floor, this will force the lifter to bend their knees more and engage the quads to break the floor.  Any lower deficit can change the bottom position of the regular deadlift and promote the lifter to “squat” the deadlift. 

“Squatting“ the deadlift refers to the common mistake when powerlifters sink their hips too low and let the knees get too far over the bar (similar to the position you are in the bottom of the squat). This will lead to the hips shooting up before the bar leaves the ground and an early knee lockout which will place you in a suboptimal position. 

Well, then how do I perform a deficit deadlift that does not lead to me “squatting’ my deadlift? You first start off with a moderate deficit of  1-3”.  You then ensure correct positioning is achieved by doing a Romanian deadlift to the bar and bending the knees just enough to grab the bar. In this position you should be parallel to the ground, you would now lock your upper back into position by sticking your chest out and pulling the bar close to you. 

Lastly, you will drop your hips as needed to reach the point of maximum tension on the bar. Once this position of maximum tension is achieved, you will start the movement by pushing the ground away from you, forcing yourself to use a lot of quad strength to break the ground.

Sumo Deficit Deadlift 

What are the benefits of a deficit deadlift for a sumo puller? Unlike the conventional deadlift the sumo deadlift is already very quad dominant. Here’s the catch: syncing knee and hip lockout can be extremely hard and the biggest source of error in sumo deadlifts. 

A small deficit (1-2”) while in a sumo deadlift can force the lifter to build more tension off the floor by creating a more difficult position. This small change of increasing the range of the motion can help ensure proper technique. 

For a proper sumo deficit deadlift, you need to make sure your stance is not so wide that reaching for the bar is already strenuous on the adductors. If it is, you will need to bring your stance in. A good rule of thumb for sumo, in general, is that your shins should make a straight line when viewed from the front. This will ensure you can generate the most amount of force from the ground in the deadlift position with heavy weights. 

After you’ve checked your stance width, you will reach for the bar with hips high and lock your back into position exactly like you would on a conventional deadlift. Now you will lower your hips and push your legs outwards in order to get your hips as close to the bar and your torso as upright as possible. 

Pulling from a deficit will create a massive amount of tension against the bar. All that is left to do is to maintain this position while pushing the ground apart in the direction your feet are pointing. 

Give it a try!

The small additional range of motion in the bottom of a deadlift can have a big impact on your ability to deadlift with proper technique. Now that you know what a deficit deadlift can help with and how to perform it, you can utilize it to bring your deadlifts to the next level.

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Alex Gaynor


Sebastian Padilla


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