The deadlift has been enjoying more popularity than ever thanks to the rise of the so-called “YouTube powerlifting” – a phenomenon that has greatly contributed to the “do you even squat and deadlift” mentality.
Since many beginners look up to the YouTube fitness celebrities, they start to believe that deadlifting is the key to the physiques presented by their online idols. That’s not the case at all because many of the popular YouTube fitness channels are maintained by people who use anabolic steroids despite claiming natural. Therefore, the average user is often left with the wrong impression that the deadlift is the key to exceptional growth when it’s nothing more than a very difficult exercise.
Are heavy deadlifts overrated?
The deadlift places a lot of stress on the central nervous system (CNS) and has a long recovery time. When you perform heavy deadlifts, you may need 7-10 days to fully recover depending on what else you are doing and how strong you are in the first place. That’s because the lift starts from a dead stop, and the body has to generate a ton of force to lift the weight.
The problem, however, is not that deadlifts are hard. That’s to be expected with anything worth doing. The main issue is that the results you receive for performing something so difficult could be achieved with other approaches that may be better for your particular case.
The strength and muscle size that you can potentially build by deadlifting can be reached with a combination of exercises that are less stressful. A popular example would be the forgotten Romanian deadlift.
What do you think will happen if you add 200lbs to your Romanian deadlift?
Your hamstrings, lower and upper back will get stronger.
However, the Romanian deadlift comes with a stretch reflex at the bottom which makes the exercise less stressful and easier to recover from.
At the same time, the strength developed by the Romanian deadlift will translate to the regular deadlift very well because the lifts have similar mechanics.
Why kill yourself when you can reach the final destination by following a less stressful path?
Almost Everything Will Build Your Deadlift
When your squat goes up, your deadlift goes up too automatically.
When your Romanian deadlift goes up, your deadlift goes up too automatically.
I would say that the best substitute for the deadlift would be a combination of front squats and Romanian deadlifts. Those two have more benefits than the deadlift alone. Why? Because the front squat will build your starting strength (quadriceps drive) over a greater range of motion whereas the Romanian deadlift will take care of your posterior chain. In addition, the front squat also works the upper back intensely.
Ultimately, you will never find someone with a strong front squat and Romanian deadlift who doesn’t pull a lot of weight. It’s physically not possible.
Another option would be a combination of back squats and pulls such as power cleans and barbell rows. The squat will build your raw leg and hip power whereas the power clean will help you acquire an explosive pull which will translate to your deadlift.
If the power clean is too technical, you can simply stick with back squats, heavy shrugs, Romanian deadlifts and barbell rows. As long as you progress, your deadlift will go up.
At the end of the day, however, the choice is yours. If you want to deadlift, go for it. There is absolutely no reason to avoid doing the lift if you like it. You are free to do whatever you want.
Nevertheless, people need to realize that the results produced by the deadlift can be reached through different paths.
Will I Burn In Hell If I Drop The Deadlift?
No. Dropping the deadlift offers two solid benefits.
1. An Opportunity to Squat More
By removing the deadlift, you reduce the workload of your lower back. This is one of the many reasons why Olympic weightlifters don’t waste time on deadlifts. They rarely do the movement because it’s pointless for them. It takes way more than it gives back.
2. Less ego in your training
I am perfectly aware that the deadlift is reasonably safe when done with good form. Nonetheless, many people deadlift just to be “alpha”. When that happens, you are essentially performing ego lifting.
I am certainly not anti-deadlift. If anything, that’s my best lift because I have long arms. However, I am not a powerlifter which means that performing the deadlift is not mandatory for me. This is true for many people out there. Besides, even some powerlifters skip the deadlift for as long as possible to avoid CNS burnout.
If you like to deadlift, go for it, but don’t be a slave to dogma.