The barbell back squat has long been considered the king of exercises, with entire workouts being built around it, including the classic 20-rep squat routine. It is a highly productive exercise for building muscle mass and strength. However, there are drawbacks to squats. For one, they require a squat or power rack to perform heavy squats safely. Getting pinned under a heavy bar can cause severe injury. Additionally, barbell squats require a high degree of technical proficiency to perform safely. An ugly squat is often a dangerous squat. While squatting is highly functional, when was the last time you did a squat with a heavy weight on your back outside of the gym? Probably never, right? All this means that the barbell deadlift could be the real king of exercises.
Unlike squats, you don’t need a rack to perform deadlifts, and they teach you how to lift heavy weights off the floor, making them a functional exercise. Plus, if you want to build real-world strength and usable muscle mass, the deadlift delivers. That’s not to say that squats are bad, but deadlifts may be better. In this article, we compare and contrast partial and full deadlifts so you can decide which is the best one for you.
The partial deadlift involves starting your rep with the bar higher off the floor than usual. For full or conventional deadlifts, the standard bar height is nine inches. That’s because standard 45lbs/20kg Olympic bumper plates have a diameter of 18 inches. With partial deadlifts, you raise the bar by placing it on blocks or in a power rack with the safety bars set at your preferred height. This reduces your range of motion and changes several aspects of the lift. Partial deadlifts are also known as block pulls and rack pulls, named after the equipment used to elevate the bar.
Powerlifters frequently use partial deadlifts as an assistance exercise to increase conventional deadlift performance. They also feature in strongman competitions where deadlifts often start from a higher position, e.g., the silver dollar deadlift. Partial deadlifts also offer benefits to bodybuilders and general exercisers.
The partial deadlift is a compound exercise involving multiple muscles and joints working together. From top to bottom, the main muscles tested and trained by partial deadlifts are: Trapezius – upper back, Rhomboids – between the shoulder blades, Deltoids – shoulders, Latissimus dorsi – side of the upper back, Core – muscles of the midsection, including the abs and lower back, Biceps – front of the upper arm, Forearm flexors – gripping muscles, Gluteus maximus – back of the hips, Hamstrings – back of the thigh, Quadriceps – front of the thigh, and Triceps surae – calf muscles. Needless to say, partial deadlifts are a very comprehensive exercise that works almost every muscle in your body. Do a few sets of bench presses, dips, or push-ups, and you can theoretically train your entire body with just two exercises.
To get the most from partial deadlifts while keeping your risk of injury to a minimum, follow these step-by-step instructions:
1. Set your barbell in a power rack or on blocks so it’s between lower knee and mid-thigh height. The lower the bar, the more work your glutes and hamstrings have to do.
2. Stand close to the bar so it’s touching your legs. Your feet should be between hip to shoulder-width apart.
3. Hinge forward from your hips, bend your knees slightly, and grab the bar. Hold it using a shoulder-width double overhand or mixed grip.
4. Flex your lats and upper back. Brace your core, straighten your arms, and lift your chest. Take any tension out of the bar.
5. Drive your feet into the floor, push your hips forward, and stand up. Do not bend your arms or round your lower back. Take care not to lean back at the top of your rep.
6. Lower the bar back down under control, allow it to settle for a second or two, reset your core and grip, and repeat.
– Use gym chalk and/or lifting straps to reinforce your grip.
– Wear shoes with flat soles and low heels for stability.
– Use a weightlifting belt for support and safety.
– This exercise works best with low reps and heavy weights.
– Do not use a deadlift bar for this exercise, as doing so may damage it.
Partial deadlifts offer several advantages and benefits, including:
Better for tall and inflexible lifters: Bending down to deadlift a weight from the floor requires excellent hamstring flexibility. Tall people may also find bending over so far challenging. Because of this, some lifters end up rounding their lower backs during deadlifts, increasing their risk of injury. Partial deadlifts start with the barbell raised, making it easier to reach if you are tall or inflexible. This means that partial deadlifts are often more lower back-friendly than deadlifts from the floor.
Lift heavier weights: Partial deadlifts involve a shorter range of motion than full deadlifts. Because of this, you should be able to lift heavier weights compared to conventional deadlifts. Lifting heavier weights will build more strength, especially in your upper back and grip.
Build a bigger back: Bodybuilders use partial deadlifts to increase back size and width. The partial deadlift involves every major upper, lower, and mid-back muscle, and using heavy weights is one of the best ways to increase back thickness and density.
Overcome your sticking points: Like most freeweight exercises, full deadlifts have sticking points. Some lifters struggle to break the bar away from the floor, while others get stuck at the midpoint of their rep and battle to lock out their…