Alongside the bench press and the squat, the deadlift stands as one of the core exercises of bodybuilding. This weightlifting exercise not only gives the hamstrings, quadriceps and glutes an intense workout, it engages muscles as diverse as the shoulders and abs. Once you've mastered the standard barbell deadlift, you can incorporate variations such as the split-leg deadlift to add variety to your regimen and prevent your body from getting acclimated to a certain exercise.
As its name implies, the split-leg deadlift requires you to split your leg position. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing inward. With your back straight, place one foot a step in front of the other, supporting your body weight on this leg while the rear leg extends slightly behind you, its foot resting on the toes. Lean forward from your hip, keeping your back completely straight as your body forms a 90-degree angle at the back and hips. Return to the starting straight-backed position – this completes one rep. Alternate your front leg for each set.
A similar deadlift variant known as the split-stance or isometric deadlift also splits the legs apart during the lift. To perform this exercise, place a weighted barbell directly under your hips. Assume a split-legged position, just as you would for the split-leg deadlift, with the bar between your front and rear feet. Bend down so that your front knee forms a 90-degree angle and extend your rear leg backward, as though entering a lunging position. Grasp the barbell overhand as indicated by the grip markers. Keeping your back straight, rise into a standing position, with your knees still slightly bent so the bar does not contact your crotch. Return to the starting position to complete one rep. Alternate your front legs for each set. For added challenge, elevate your rear leg on a low bench.
The split-leg variation works the same groups of muscles as the standard barbell deadlift – including the quadriceps, trapizeus and even the abdominals – but this variation puts particular focus on the hamstrings and gluteal muscles. Like the split-leg lift, the split-stance or isometric deadlift takes some of the exercise's focus from the upper body and places it on the lower body and trunk. In particular, the isometric deadlift leads to increases in lower-body strength, according to its creator, University of Minnesota hockey coach Cal Deitz.
Split-leg and split-stance deadlifts aren't the only deadlift variations. Similar to the split varieties, stiff-legged deadlifts put the burn squarely on hamstrings, while quadriceps deadlifts focus on the front thigh muscles. The sumo deadlift, which requires a wider stance than the standard deadlift, helps reduce lower back strain.
Dan Ketchum has been a professional writer since 2003, with work appearing online and offline in Word Riot, Bazooka Magazine, Anemone Sidecar, Trails and more. Dan's diverse professional background spans from costume design and screenwriting to mixology, manual labor and video game industry publicity.