Even though the deadlift is one of the best exercises in the gym, it is also one of the most feared workouts.

For some reason, people always treat it the same as they do Leg Day. A few reasons for this are that bars are always taken, and some people just hate exercise. However, doing it with dumbbells could offer a new dimension.

There are tons of ways to perform a deadlift, but first, let’s take safety into account. It’s recommended that you consider a deadlift belt to help support your spine and keep your muscles tight whilst performing it. This belt will be functional for traditional deadlifts or some of the dumbbell alternatives we are about to discuss.

When it comes to the deadlift, there are numerous variations, and whilst each primarily targets the lower back, they also add additional benefits. Since many of these can be performed with dumbbells, you don’t need to wait for the bar to become available in the gym.

So, let’s look at some of the top deadlift alternatives with dumbbells you can use.

Traditional Dumbbell Deadlift

Much like the normal deadlift, the dumbbell deadlift follows some of the same principles. In fact, it can be argued that it is the same exercise, just performed with dumbbells instead of a barbell. The exercise will start with the same principles, where you would pick up the dumbbells with feet about shoulder width apart.

For here, you will squat down to 90 degrees whilst bending your legs. Once you reach this position, simply push up with your legs. However, it is imperative that you focus on keeping your back straight throughout the motion.

Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift

The Romanian Deadlift is one of the more advanced forms of the traditional version.

For this exercise, you will stand with bit feet next to each other and your hands along your sides. With the dumbbells in either hand, the exercise starts where you bend forward whilst keeping your back straight. One of your legs should lift behind you as you perform a repetition.

The exercise is highly effective due to the strain it places on the posterior chain and your balance. In fact, you will also get somewhat of an ab workout due to the additional strain it puts on your core muscles.

Bent-Over Row

Photo: Niragire Tresor/Pexels

The bent-over row is primarily an exercise for the upper part of the back. However, the posture required for this exercise also targets some of the muscles that the deadlift would.

To perform this exercise, you will start with your feet shoulder-width apart. While keeping your back straight, you should slightly bend over to about 90 degrees. With the dumbbells in your hands, you will bend your knees to about a 45-degree angle before performing an upward pulling motion with your hands.

The strain you place on your legs and lower back to keep this posture is indicative of the deadlift. This might not directly target these muscles, but it should serve as a great supplementary exercise.

Dumbbell Stiff-Legged Deadlift

The stiff-legged deadlift is an excellent exercise that predominantly focuses on targeting the hamstrings. However, it also puts plenty of emphasis on the lower back as you maintain the correct form and posture.

To start this exercise, you will need to be in a deadlift position. This means standing with your feet about shoulder-width apart and the dumbbells in both hands. Instead of bending your knees, the exercise requires you to bend over with your back to around 90 degrees before pulling yourself back up.

Remember that your legs need to remain locked throughout the motion to put more strain on your hamstrings. Ideally, you would want to try to touch your toes with the dumbbells for an even deeper stretch.

Dumbbell Hyperextensions

For beginners who struggle with the deadlift, hyperextension is often recommended as a solid alternative. However, you will rapidly improve with hyperextension, and before you know it, you can crank out around 3 sets of 30 repetitions.

To make this exercise more challenging, you can grip a dumbbell and keep it in front of your chest. The motion is simple and follows the exact same pattern as the traditional hyperextension. Not only does this exercise target your lower back, but some strain can also be felt in the hamstrings. Essentially, it targets almost everything that a deadlift does, aside from the added strain on the quad muscles.

Glute Bridge

You might have seen many people perform the glute bridge exercise at your local gym. In fact, it is one of the best beginner exercises that can be performed with or without any additional weights. 

To start this exercise, you will need to lie down on the ground – more specifically, you want to be on your back. Next, you need to bring your knees up to create a 90-degree angle with your hamstrings. Your feet should be firmly planted on the floor. The exercise works by lifting your bottom off the floor to create a 90-degree angle between your lower and upper leg muscles.

However, those looking to make even more gains might want to consider adding some additional weight. Placing or having someone place a dumbbell on your pelvic area will add some weight and increase the exercise difficulty.


As tough as the deadlift is, many studies suggest that it is one of the best exercises for your hamstrings and lower back.

However, many people suffer from long-term injuries and should consider these dumbbell alternatives.

Make sure to let us know in the comments if we missed any more alternatives. 

Photo: Niragire Tresor/Pexels

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