Anyone who wants to get fit and grow their muscles has been told they need to hit the weight room.
Lifting weights is highly beneficial — beyond just build muscle — and it’s an efficient workout.
One of the best and most fundamental exercises you can do is the deadlift. There’s just one problem:
A lot of people hate the deadlift!
Many people hate deadlifts because it’s a difficult movement to master and they’re afraid of getting injured. It also takes a long time to warm up for heavy deadlifts.
Some of these issues can be resolved by working with a coach and ensuring you use proper form at all times. But even if you have perfect technique, sometimes you just don’t enjoy doing deadlifts — if that’s the case, try deadlift alternatives like RDLs, hip thrusts, and rack pulls instead.
If that sounds like you, then don’t worry—you can get to the bottom of your hatred for deadlifts and work around it.
Why Do People Hate Deadlifts?
Several personal trainers and weightlifting coaches have encountered people who hate deadlifts.
These are the most common issues their clients have:
1. There’s Too Much Preparation
As James Jackson, personal trainer with criticalbody.com says:
“Warming up for the dreaded deadlift correctly can easily sap 15-20 minutes of your gym time (sometimes even more!) if you’re pulling even remotely big numbers.
(Especially if you’re deadlifting 405 or beyond!)
“Not only that, but hunting down the precise plates that you need and then loading them onto the bar can often feel like a workout in itself.”
You want to use your time at the gym productively, so an exercise that takes so much prep is not ideal.
2. It’s Difficult
Your eyes feel like they’re about to pop out.
Your fingers are burning and ready to fall off.
Your muscles feel like they’re being torn asunder.
Deadlifts hurt, and they’re difficult to master. Plus, you need proper form throughout the entire movement.
It’s difficult to perfect that form on your own, so deadlifts will hurt even more.
Nobody wants to feel like they’re not getting anywhere as they struggle with a difficult exercise, so naturally, you’re going to resent deadlifts.
Speaking of struggling with form…
3. You Don’t Have Proper Form
Deadlifts sound easy on paper.
It’s simple to look at someone doing them and think, “I can do that!”
But they’re really not as easy as they look.
Jamie Hickey, a personal trainer with truismfitness.com, says:
“[Deadlifts are] not really designed for the human form and take some time to master the ability to maintain spinal stability while executing this motion.”
Learning how to deadlift means having to learn new ways to move your body, which doesn’t come naturally to a lot of people.
4. They Cause Back Pain
It’s very easy to get a back injury from doing deadlifts.
Jake Dickson, weightlifting coach and personal trainer at barbend.com, says:
“A weak core will leave you susceptible to lackluster form at best and back injury at worst.”
Erica Marcano, athletic trainer and strength and conditioning coach at thenotoriousatc.com, adds:
“The main complaint I’ve heard from people (gym-goers, trainers, PTs, doctors) is a fear of back injuries from a deadlift/back pain or discomfort during a deadlift.”
Back pain can decrease your quality of life until it heals, so shying away from deadlifts is natural if they’re the cause of your discomfort.
5. They’re Too Painful on the Hands
Jake Harcoff, kinesiologist and strength and conditioning coach at aimathletic.com, points out:
“Deadlifts require a ton of grip strength to not only move the bar off of the ground, but also keep it in your hands throughout the set.”
He notes that unless you work with your hands daily, your grip strength usually isn’t the best.
Plus, without the right amount of strength, the barbell can slide in your hands and irritate the skin, in some cases causing calluses or tears.
Tips to Find More Deadlift Motivation
Jake Harcoff says:
“Unfortunately, if you hate deadlifting there isn’t much that can be done to make them more enjoyable.”
However, there are a few things you can do that will make them just a little easier, and that can be incredibly motivating if deadlifts were previously torturous for you.
1. If There’s Too Much Preparation
Going to the gym with a buddy can make your deadlift preparation more efficient.
Make sure it’s someone who’s just there to help, not someone there to work out.
Your buddy can bring you the plates you want to load onto your barbell.
They can also bring over your next set of plates while you’re completing your reps, which can save a lot of time.
The workout will still be time-consuming if you’re working to lift some serious weight, but you can try to make time go by faster by staying entertained.
Listen to a podcast, some music, or an audiobook while you work out.
Time will go by slowly at first, but it’ll speed up as you get used to the exercise and it becomes less of a chore.
(Here are some tips if you’re forced to go to the gym alone.)
2. If It’s Difficult
Jamie Hickey recommends, “Start light! Increase weight when you can complete each set, without getting sloppy or cheating out of the lift by breaking position too early in descent for power.”
If you need to, start with something you find easy to lift.
Then you can move on to lifting mildly challenging weights, and do so in short sets.
Don’t push for three sets of 10 to 15 reps straightaway.
Just try to go for three or four reps in one or two sets instead, and increase the weight when you feel confident enough.
Every new activity is going to be a challenge until you get used to it and grow with it.
But it won’t feel as difficult if you start with something so easy that you end up craving a challenge by the time you’re halfway through your workout.
3. If You Don’t Have Proper Form
You’re never going to learn if you keep trying to do deadlifts alone, but a coach or personal trainer will fix your form and motivate you all at once.
Consider hiring one.
Nick Biggs, head of fitness and development at StrengthPortal.com says,:
“The deadlift is a very complex movement. It can be performed safely if it’s done correctly, but there is a lot of room for error.”
Only an expert will be able to get rid of that room for error, and once you have proper form, you’ll feel much more equipped to tackle this exercise.
4. If They Cause Back Pain
Deadlifts are going to cause back pain if you’re not doing them right.
However, Erica Marcano says, “A deadlift can actually HELP people with back pain in the long run, by strengthening the core and lower body—if your technique is right!”
That’s why paying attention to the tip above about consulting an expert is imperative.
Your back is still going to hurt a little if you’re brand new to the exercise, but this will lessen with time.
Try not to push yourself too hard. Learn what your body is comfortable with, then push just slightly past that limit.
As your pain decreases and your abilities grow, you’ll feel motivated to keep going until you can hit your goals while remaining pain-free.
If you want to hit those goals sooner, supplement your training with some core strength-building exercises such as planks, crunches, push-ups, and situps.
5. If They’re Too Painful on the Hands
According to Jake Harcoff:
“If the issue is grip strength, lifting straps or gloves can be utilized in order to take some of the stress off of your hands. However, using straps won’t solve the underlying grip strength issue.”
You need to work on your grip strength before you feel comfortable and motivated enough to perform deadlifts.
Pullups, dumbbell curls, and Farmer’s walks are fantastic for building grip strength. The rowing machine is also great for your grip.
Return to deadlifts once you feel more confident with your hands. You’ll hate them much less when the hand discomfort is gone.
Top Alternatives to Deadlifts
Coaches and trainers have varying opinions on whether or not you need deadlifts.
Most of them agree that they’re beneficial but not irreplaceable.
Here are a few alternatives suggested by the experts:
1. Romanian Deadlifts
James Jackson believes performing Romanian deadlifts is perfect if you’re training primarily for muscle growth.
Several other trainers recommend them as alternatives to the traditional deadlift, too.
With Romanian deadlifts, you don’t lower the bar to the ground after each rep and you have to hinge your hips more, so it’s slightly less stressful on your lower back.
This will reduce the pain and exhaustion you feel when performing the movement.
Furthermore, Romanian deadlifts are great for your hamstrings and glutes, and James recommends them for training those muscles.
He cites them as superior to conventional deadlifts in that regard.
2. Use a Hex Bar
The hex bar, also called the trap bar, is designed for deadlifts.
That’s why several experts recommend using it instead of a barbell. It makes the weight easier to lift and puts less strain on your body.
Nick Biggs points out, “Unlike the conventional deadlift, the trap bar deadlift eliminates the need to have a strong back for the lift.”
While building a strong core and back remains beneficial, you won’t have to do a ton of strength training to build up to performing trap/hex bar deadlifts.
3. Rack Pulls
Nick Biggs recommends rack pulls as an excellent alternative to deadlifts.
They’re similar exercises, but the rack pull offers a smaller range of motion. It may be easier for someone who dislikes how challenging deadlifts are.
Rack pulls are fantastic for your upper body, glutes, and hamstrings, just like deadlifts.
However, they’re more challenging for your grip—if you struggle with grip strength, this isn’t the alternative for you.
4. Weighted Hip Thrust
David Stone, strength and conditioning coach and assistant track and field coach at Elmhurst University, is a big supporter of rack pulls and trap bar deadlifts as well.
But he also recommends weighted hip thrusts.
The exercise targets lower body muscles such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.
The traditional deadlift also targets these, so weighted hip thrusts will help you if you seek to build and strengthen those muscles.
Weighted hip thrusts are less challenging on your back and arms, but you still need plenty of core strength to perform them.
5. Dumbbell or Kettlebell Deadlifts
Barbells are mighty and intimidating, so Jake Dickson recommends using dumbbells or kettlebells instead.
They’re smaller and it’s easier to master movements with them.
Jake refers to these exercises as more compact, but he cites them as a great way to learn the mechanics of the traditional deadlift.
These exercises will also help your grip strength, particularly kettlebell deadlifts.
Kettlebells carry their weight low and you have to work harder to stabilize them. They also have thick handles, and that’ll challenge your hands.
Reducing the strain that deadlifts put on you will surely boost your motivation, but remember, deadlifts are never mandatory.
There are plenty of alternatives for you to try.
The most important part of working out is ensuring that it works well for you.
You can’t go wrong if you adapt the workout to suit your goals and your comfort level, so find what you enjoy.
You can always return to deadlifts when you’re a little stronger and ready for the challenge.
For more tips, don’t miss:
Hope this helps!