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Assistance Exercises to Grow Your Deadlift

Here are four ways to improve your deadlift without deadlifting.


There are countless assistance exercises that will help raise your deadlift numbers. In fact, for most CrossFit athletes, the inclusion of any assistance work is a key step toward getting stronger.

Here’s four specific ways to improve your deadlift.

1. Trunk Twists. Stronger oblique muscles are key to overall strength and accessing hip drive. Though there are a number of movements to train the oblique muscles, try trunk rotations with a sled. This allows the athlete to train abs in a heavy, explosive manner, which is much more like we often demand from ourselves when trying to build core strength and, oddly, less like what we often end up doing.

The athlete will load a sled, stand perpendicular to the sled with the slack out of the strap, and rotate violently with the strap pulled in close to the rib cage to move the sled. This same exercise can be trained with a band looped though any upright structure that allows the athlete to rotate through increasing tension.

2. Glute-Ham Raises. Most CrossFit athletes spend far more time on the glute-ham developer faceup (for GHD sit-ups) than they do facedown. The GHD’s money is in the facedown application of developing the posterior chain.

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While most athletes aren’t strong enough to perform the movement unassisted, athletes can use bands and/or spotters to accumulate sets of eight, 10 or 12 of the GHR. To execute the movement, put your feet in the footholds with your toes facing down and place your knees into the front pad. With an erect torso, squeeze your glutes to maintain forward hips and descend until you’re parallel to the ground. From here, finish the movement by pulling yourself up to the starting position with your hamstrings.

3. Dimmels. Named after the late Matt Dimmel, the movement is incredible for developing the glutes, hamstrings and back, with specific emphasis on hip drive and speed. To execute, lower the bar to below the knee much like a good morning and fire the hips through with maximum speed such that when done well, the bar is driven forward off the hips. Connect reps fluidly with maximum speed from below the knee to hip for heavy sets of eight, 10 or 12.

4. Good Mornings. Though they’re a staple in most powerlifters’ arsenals, the CrossFit community often keeps good mornings light for warming up or activations. Heavy barbell good-morning variations in the eight- to 12-rep range are excellent at developing positional strength for the deadlift, in addition to the carry-over of increased general posterior strength.

Since making it a point to supplement my main moves with heavy assistance work, I’ve seen my deadlift climb back up after a plateau. If you’d like more information about these movements and the experts that got me moving in this direction, visit where Shane and Laura Sweatt of CrossFit Conjugate dish out invaluable knowledge.