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Equipment swap: barbell deadlift

Timing is everything when you’re fitting in a training session before work, between meetings, or on a lunch break. So when the equipment you need is taken, it can really throw a wrench in your plan. That’s why Furthermore introduced Equipment Swap, a mini-series that offers alternative exercises when your fitness tool of choice is unavailable.

“The deadlift works every single muscle group in the body,” says Tony Ponte, Tier 3+ trainer at Equinox Flatiron in New York City. The exercise targets the hamstrings, glutes, lats, core, and upper back muscles. It also improves grip strength, which makes you better prepared for pull-ups, muscle-ups, and other next-level moves.

Don’t limit yourself to the barbell version. “Using different loads and stances allows you to work the body in slightly different ways while teaching you how to activate the muscles you want to work,” Ponte says. Perform the deadlift with faulty form (common mistakes include squatting and rounding the back), and you’ll miss out on the benefits while increasing your risk of injury.

On days the barbell and weight plates are unavailable—or if you want to improve your deadlift technique—he recommends performing one to two of the below exercises instead. Using other forms of resistance like kettlebells, dumbbells, bands, and the ViPR, they’re full-body strengtheners that help you perfect the hip hinge.

Integrate these variations into your routine and you’ll have a stronger, safer deadlift when you do grab hold of the bar.

Kettlebell deadlift

The benefits:

Having the weight between your feet teaches you to shoot your glutes back during the movement, a critical part of the deadlift that people often miss.

Do it:

Stand with feet hip-width apart and a slight bend in the knees, with a kettlebell (start with 10 kg) between your feet. Hinge hips behind you, pressing the glutes back, lower your chest to the floor until it’s almost parallel with the ground, and grab hold of the kettlebell. Press your hips forward, raising your torso and lifting the weight to stand tall for 1 rep. Do 3 sets of 5 reps, working up to 5 sets of 5 reps.

Increase the challenge:

Slow down on the eccentric (lowering) phase, or progress to a kettlebell swing, which is essentially the plyometric version of the kettlebell deadlift.

Single-leg dumbbell deadlift

The benefits:

Improves hip, ankle, and core stability

Do it:

Hold a dumbbell in each hand, arms at sides, palms facing each other. Hinge hips behind you, pressing glutes back and lifting right leg behind you, lowering weights toward the floor until torso is parallel to the ground and your spine forms a straight line. Return to standing for 1 rep. Perform 6 to 8 reps, then switch sides and repeat for 1 set. Complete 2 sets.

Increase the challenge:

Add instability by holding a dumbbell in only the hand of the lifted leg.

Single-leg ViPR deadlift to skier

The benefits:

Challenges you mentally and doubles as cardio

Do it:

Hold a ViPR with both hands in front of your chest, left foot planted, right leg lifted off the ground. Hinge hips behind you, pressing glutes back and lifting right leg behind you, and lower the ViPR toward the floor until torso is parallel to the ground, keeping spine straight. Return to start and immediately press through your left foot to jump laterally to the right. Land on the right leg, decelerate into a lunging position, and then spring out of the position laterally in the opposite direction. Land on the left leg in the same manner. That’s 1 rep. Perform 4 to 6 reps, then switch sides and repeat for 1 set. Complete 2 sets.

Increase the challenge:

If you have the balance, eliminate any rest or pauses between reps and increase the number of reps you perform

Resistance band pull-through

The benefits:

Teaches the hip hinge without loading the back; works as a warm-up for heavy deadlifts

Do it:

Loop a long resistance band with handles around an anchor point behind you, like a pole or post. Stand tall with feet hip-width apart, band between your legs, and one handle in each hand, stepping forward until there’s tension in the band. Hinge hips behind you, press glutes back, and lower your torso until it's parallel to the ground. Keep spine straight and allow your hands to move between your legs and behind you. Pause at the bottom, then return to start for 1 rep. Perform 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps.

Increase the challenge:

Choose a band with more resistance or stand farther away from the anchor point to increase the tension.

TRX deadlift

The benefits:

Uses bodyweight to teach hip hinge

Do it:

Stand on right foot and hold both ends of a TRX, arms extended in front of shoulders, far enough from the anchor point that the straps are tight. Hinge hips behind you, pressing glutes back and lifting left leg behind you. Lower your torso until it's parallel to the ground, moving arms away from your body to form a Y shape so you maintain tension in the straps. Pause, then press through the heel of your planted leg to return to start. That's 1 rep. Perform 10 to 15 reps, then switch sides and repeat for 1 set. Complete 3 sets.

Increase the challenge:

Rely less on your arms to hold your weight, using the TRX for balance only.

Staggered-stance kettlebell deadlift

The benefits:

Isolates the standing leg’s glute and hamstring

Do it:

Holding a kettlebell (start with 10 kg) in your left hand, stand in a staggered stance, your right foot behind you with the heel off the ground. Keeping arms close to your body, hinge hips behind you, pressing glutes back, and lower your chest and the kettlebell until torso is parallel to the ground. Pause, then drive through the heel of your front foot and press hips forward to return to standing. That’s 1 rep. Perform 8 to 12 reps, then switch sides and repeat for 1 set. Complete 3 sets.

Increase the challenge:

Place your back foot on a glider, moving it away from and toward your planted foot with each rep.