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Deadlifts are a popular exercise among powerlifters, bodybuilders and general trainees and are one of the best ways to build lower body strength and power. The American Council on Exercise classifies deadlifts as a whole body integrated exercise, but notes that they focus on your hamstrings, glutes, lower back and core. If your deadlift has plateaued or you're looking for a new variation to boost muscle growth, deficit deadlifts -- standing on weight plates -- could be your answer.
Place a 45-pound weight plate on the floor and stand on it. Set up as you would for a regular deadlift, with the bar over the top of your feet and your hands shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees slightly and dip your hips down until your back is flat, then pull the bar from the floor forcefully by straightening your knees and pushing your hips forward. Stand tall at the top and pause for a second before lowering the bar to the floor.
The main benefit that deficit deadlifts offer is the increased range of motion. Standing with your feet on plates mean you have to pull the bar further, which increases the recruitment of your glutes, hamstrings and lower back. According to Joe Meglio, performance coach at the Underground Strength Gym in New Jersey, deficit deadlifts are the best ancillary exercise if you struggle with the initial phase in breaking the weight off the floor with regular deadlifts.
You don't have to stick to regular deficit deadlifts. Strength coach Charles Poliquin, author of "The Poliquin Principles," recommends including snatch grip deficit deadlifts in your routine. This increases the range of motion even further and places more emphasis on your posterior chain muscles -- the glutes, hamstrings and lower back. Poliquin advises doing these on an even higher surface, so you may wish to put two plates on top of each other.
If your deadlifting is limited by your strength off the floor, then take regular deadlifts out of your routine for six to eight weeks in favor of deficit deadlifts. Powerlifter and strength coach Chase Karnes recommends varying the height of the deficit from session to session, so experiment with standing on one, two or three plates. Alternatively, if your goal is to boost the size of your posterior chain muscles, keep doing regular deadlifts once per week, but add in deficit deadlifts once per week, either after your normal deadlifts or in a separate session three to four days later. Perform three to six sets of three to six repetitions.