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Deadlift Stances: How to Choose, Benefits & Common Mistakes

Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers | Senior Coach
Last updated: September 9, 2023

Deadlifts are a great exercise for working out the whole body.

A solid deadlift begins with sturdy feet and an ideal deadlift stance.

As a certified fitness trainer with over eight years of experience, I've used different stances when performing deadlifts and coaching my clients.

Some are easy to perform, and some are challenging, targeting even more muscles.

In this article, I will provide my experiences with deadlift stances, how to choose the best deadlift stance, common mistakes, and the benefits of performing the deadlifts.

Quick Summary

  • The deadlift stances include the conventional deadlift stance, deficit deadlift stance, sumo deadlift stance, and squat stance deadlift.
  • Deadlift stance can significantly affect your workout performance, safety, comfort, and results. Choosing the correct stance for your fitness level and body type is critical for getting the maximum benefit from your deadlift.
  • The ideal deadlift stance will be shoulder-width apart or somewhat narrower than shoulder-width apart. Taller people or those with a bigger height will benefit from broader stances that are nonetheless shoulder-width apart.

The Deadlift Stances

A person doing deadlifts

Conventional Deadlift Stance

The standard or conventional deadlift stance is a basic and extensively utilized variant of this exercise, and it is a mainstay in many exercising regimens.

Although it's the most basic deadlift stance, it is far from easy and takes experience to accomplish effectively and safely.

To get a conventional deadlift stance, stand with both feet shoulder-width apart.

However, certain athletes may choose a slightly wider or narrower stance based on their body form and size.

Your feet should be pointed forward with a small outward inclination of not over 10-15 degrees, which may vary depending on the foot size and comfort.

The conventional deadlifts focus on muscles in the legs and posterior chains, such as the lower back, glutes, and hamstrings.

You should feel strain in the glutes and hamstrings when you lift the weight off the ground.

The stress should transfer to your core and lower back when the barbell passes the knee point, and the upper body begins to rise.

Deficit Deadlift Stance

A person doing a Deficit Deadlift Stance

The deficit deadlift is a version of the traditional deadlift that involves standing on an elevated platform, typically 2-4 inches high, to improve the exercise's range of motion.

When lifting the barbell, the larger range of motion requires more effort, making the movement more difficult and engaging extra muscle fibers in the feet and back.

Deficit deadlifts can enhance lower-body power and muscle activation, notably in the hamstrings, erector spinae, and glutes.

Furthermore, an improved range of motion can improve hip, ankle, and knee mobility and flexibility.

However, this version is best suited for experienced bodybuilders with expertise in deadlift variations.

Locate a 2-4 inch raised area to stand on to conduct a deficit deadlift. Most people who practice this variant stand on the end of their weightlifting platform or utilize a hefty weight plate.

Set the barbell on the ground underneath you and do a standard Olympic deadlift from that elevated posture.

Sumo Deadlift Stance

A person doing a sumo deadlift

The sumo deadlift stance is a common deadlift workout variant.

To adopt the sumo deadlift stance width, stand with both feet shoulder-width apart or slightly wider, with your toes pointed outward at a 45-degree angle.

This posture necessitates additional movement in the hips, ankles, and groin, which might make it more difficult than a standard stance based on your flexibility and mobility.

The sumo deadlift stance works many of the same muscles as the traditional deadlift, such as the glutes, lower back, and hamstrings, but it additionally emphasizes the adductors and quadriceps.

However, because it has a shorter total range of motion (ROM) than conventional deadlifts, it places less strain on the back but greater strain on the knees and hips, making it a popular compound workout for lower body strengthening.

You should feel tightness in your adductors and quadriceps when you lift the barbell off the floor in a sumo stance.

The stress should transfer to your glutes, lower back, and hamstrings as the barbell passes the knee point and the upper body rises.

The load should feel equally dispersed across the entire body during the lockout period, like in a traditional deadlift position.

Related: Sumo vs Conventional Deadlift

Squat Stance Deadlift

A person doing a squat stance deadlift

Squat stance deadlift is a new phrase for an activity that isn't well known, although it has supporters in coaching and physiotherapy.

Squat stances, as the name implies, demand you to do a deadlift from a squat position, which means standing with both of your feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointed slightly outward.

The overall posture is quite similar to the sumo stance, including the workout's range of motion and effect on the body.

The squat stance deadlift, however, needs more mobility in the ankles, hips, and knees due to the forward-pointing toes, increasing the total risk of injury in these regions.

This makes it tough to advocate it over sumo deadlifts for most individuals.

That said, it's worth noting because anatomy differs from individual to individual, so it could be worth experimenting to see if it functions better for you than a standard sumo stance.

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How To Choose the Optimal Deadlift Stance

A person doing deadlifts at the gym

To identify the optimal deadlift stance, evaluate your foot posture in relation to the hip width.

If you can get the knees to stack over your feet, you'll be better positioned to leverage the quadriceps and benefit from your deadlift.

When determining your deadlift posture, you must consider three factors.

How Your Arms Hang Near to Your Shins

Your posture should enable your arms to hang naturally from your shoulders and to grab the outside of your shins.

Because your posture prevents the arms from naturally hanging toward the ground, you shouldn't have to push the grip on the bar wider.

You should grip such that while the arms are straight and firm throughout the deadlift, it does not interfere with your knee placement with your feet.

If this occurs, your arms may press your knees inward.

This would produce friction between your feet and arms, making the lift more difficult and extending the range of motion of the barbell.

Hip Position or Back Posture in Relation to Deadlift Stance Width

A person doing proper deadlifts

Your deadlift stance width must enable you to maintain a neutral hip-width posture and a level lower back.

If your stance width is too narrow, it restricts hip mobility, resulting in an arched lower back.

We want the hips to be as raised as possible while remaining as near to the bar as feasible.

This allows us to balance the use of our quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings throughout the execution.

You are less likely to arch your back if your posture allows you to fold at the hips properly.

Shoulder Posture in Relation to Stance Width

In a proper deadlift position, our armpits should be squarely above the barbell, and our shoulders should be slightly before the barbell.

If your deadlift posture makes it difficult to keep your shoulders slightly before the barbell at the starting position, it might affect how the barbell moves during the action.

From start to end, you want the barbell to go in a straight (vertical) line.

Common Mistakes

A person at the gym holding a clipboard

The following are the two most frequent deadlift stance mistakes:

  • Standing too narrow: You should stand as narrowly as possible to ensure that the deadlift is completed with the least range of motion feasible, but there is a limit. You should never stand more than hip-width apart. Standing too narrowly might result in poor form and posture, particularly a rounded lower back.
  • Standing too wide: If your stance is too wide, you must adjust the arms out, causing your shoulders to begin lower and nearer to the bar. This indicates your torso tilts forward more, causing you to hinge further through your hips. As a result, you have to go through a greater range of motion. You work more with the posterior chain muscles, including your low back, glutes, lats, and hamstrings.

Benefits of the Deadlift

A person doing a deadlift at the gym

You'll Target Many Muscles Simultaneously

In deadlifts, the leg muscles are the major movers, but the core, back, and upper body are all used to stabilize the weight, making the action a particularly effective full-body workout.

You'll Increase Your Power

Deadlifts are linked to increased power and jumping ability. They can increase vertical jump efficiency, which is a power output metric.

Deadlifting may improve both the knee flexors and extensors' "rapid torque characteristics" or their ability to flex powerfully [1].

You'll Improve Lower Body Strength

When a deadlift is done correctly, you will feel a significant burn in the muscle groups being worked.

This is because they emphasize the hamstrings and glutes, two of the biggest muscles in the body [2]. Strength gains will occur from regular glute and hamstring exercises.

As for how rapidly improvements in power come with exercising, that depends.

"Initial strength increases from lifting in the first few weeks are mainly due to neurological adaptation - you become more efficient and may fire your muscles quicker."

- Jason Machowsky, Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist

You'll Improve Your Back and Core Strength

A person with good back muscles

Deadlifts will strengthen your back and core. A more robust back equals a stronger back.

As previously stated, the action is a posterior-chain workout, which means it works the muscles at the back of the body.

Frequent posterior-chain exercise has been linked to decreased back discomfort and can improve overall posture [3].

You'll Increase Muscle Mass

While resistance exercise helps to increase muscle building in general, the ability to simultaneously exert immense pressure on numerous muscles in a deadlift implies that muscle will likely build fast (assuming you exercise frequently and intensely).

"Significant muscular loading during a deadlift might stimulate the body to retain lean muscle mass."

- Daniel Bubnis, National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Certified Personal Trainer

You'll Maintain Bone Density

A doctor looking at bone density

Bone mineral density measures the strength of your bones [4]. The lower the bone mineral density, the greater your chance of injury.

The deadlift is very effective for increasing bone density.

Due to the bone's “muscle-induced mechanical stress,” deadlifts may assist in preserving bone density.

In short, the deadlift muscles pull on the bones they are moving, stimulating their development.


Is Wide Stance Deadlift Easier?

Yes, a wide-stance deadlift is easier. The main reason people adopt a wide stance is mobility. It simplifies getting down to the bar, particularly if you are taller or have reasonably long legs.

What Are the 3 Different Deadlift Variations?

The three different deadlift variations are Romanian, conventional, and sumo deadlift.

What Type of Deadlift Is Hardest?

The type of deadlift that is hardest is the deficit deadlift. Deficit deadlifts are more difficult than conventional and many other variants because they need more back muscles, time under tension, and hip mobility.

Supplementing Your Deadlift Workout

The deadlift stances you employ determine the type of workout you will get.

The breadth and positioning of your legs impact your range of motion, targeted muscle groups, maximal capacity, the center of balancing, force distribution, and injury risk.

Experimenting with various deadlift stances will help you identify the most comfortable for you according to your physical well-being and preferences.

This piece has provided you with the best deadlift stances. Consider incorporating them into your training regimen, and use these strongest pre-workout supplements for the energy to perform the workouts.

These supplements have proven effective upon testing by providing us with the energy, concentration, focus, and pump required to complete our sets and repetitions.


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