How Can You Make Dumbbell Deadlifts Harder?

dumbbell deadlift
September 6, 2023 0 Comments

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In this article I will be answering the question “how can you make dumbbell deadlifts harder?”. Most people associate the deadlift with the barbell deadlift.

However, you can also utilise dumbbells to do the same exercise. The dumbbell deadlift is not as effective but it has its place. 

This article will explore ways you can increase the difficulty of dumbbell deadlifts so that you can make the most of this exercise. 

How Can You Make Dumbbell Deadlifts Harder?

There are various ways that you can make dumbbell deadlifts harder. The most obvious way is to use heavier dumbbells.

The heavier you go on the dumbbell deadlift, the more difficult the exercise will be. You should increase the weights over time in line with your strength gains.

Another way is to do deficit dumbbell deadlifts. By standing on a 25kg weight plate and performing dumbbell deadlifts from this position, you will make the exercise harder.

The initial phase of the deadlift will become more difficult when you are doing deficits. You can also experiment with different tempos on the dumbbell deadlift. This will increase time under tension and add difficulty.

Paused dumbbell deadlifts are another option to consider, you can pause the deadlift as you get the weights off the floor. Then continue the rest of the movement after the pause.

Another ingenious idea to make dumbbell deadlifts harder, is to perform a dumbbell row after you lockout the deadlift. Doing a dumbbell row after every deadlift will significantly increase fatigue and improve conditioning as well.
dumbbell deadlift

Increase The Weight

The most simple way of increasing the difficulty of dumbbell deadlifts is by increasing the weight. Simply put, use heavier dumbbells!

This is obvious, however most gyms don’t have dumbbells heavier than 50kg. You will typically only see heavier dumbbells than this in more hardcore bodybuilding or strength gyms.

If you train at home and have olympic dumbbell handles, you can go very heavy by adjusting the weight yourself. The barbell deadlift is a better exercise in terms of the sheer load you can put on the bar.

The dumbbell deadlift can be utilised as a secondary movement and you can go for slightly higher reps. I would recommend using the dumbbell deadlift to improve your conditioning.

Deficit Deadlifts

Deficit dumbbell deadlifts will make the exercise harder. This is a good way of making the start of the movement more difficult. 

You won’t be able to handle as much weight on deficits as you can with normal dumbbell deadlifts. If you are training at a gym where the dumbbells don’t go too heavy, you can utilise deficits for higher rep sets to fatigue your muscles.

When I used to train deadlifts every week, I would incorporate deficit deadlifts into the mix every now and then for a change of pace. It will also provide unique muscle stimulation.

Previously on this site I have discussed whether snatch grip deadlifts are better.

deficit db deadlift

Incorporate Pauses And Tempos

Tempo training is something I have talked about a lot on this site. Many bodybuilders use different tempos when training to put the muscle under tension for longer.

Tempo training is a great way of making muscles grow. If you do dumbbell deadlifts with a three second tempo, you will count 1-2-3 as you deadlift the weight up.

This will prolong the range of motion for longer and you will be placing your muscles under more tension. Another great way of making dumbbell deadlifts harder is by adding a pause in.

You can pause the movement for a second or two after you get the dumbbells just off the floor, then carry on with the rest of the movement as normal after the pause.

Pause deadlifts are tough and certainly harder than traditional deadlifts. This is true when it comes to barbells and dumbbells. Paused dumbbell deadlifts could even be harder as the dumbbells will be moving more – this will recruit your stabiliser muscles more heavily.

Combining Dumbbell Deadlifts And Rows

One clever way of making you fatigue fast on sets of dumbbell deadlifts is as follows. Perform a dumbbell row after you lock out a dumbbell deadlift.

By doing a row at the end of every deadlift rep you will make your set of dumbbell deadlifts a lot harder. Not only will you be engaging more muscle mass, you will be using more energy.

This way you can get the benefits of both rows and deadlifts in a single set. It is akin to people who perform a shrug at the end of every deadlift rep. They can add extra fatigue in this way and induce more growth in their traps.

I am against this as I feel that heavy deadlifts will already work your traps hard as it is. I would prefer to do sets of shrugs separately so that I can concentrate fully when doing them.

Doing Dumbbell Deadlifts Properly

The mechanics of the dumbbell deadlift is different to that of the barbell version. With the barbell deadlift, the bar is straight in front of you.

You would get your midfoot in line with the bar and without moving the bar you would get into position. The bar should be very close to you when you are pulling.

On the dumbbell deadlift, mechanically it would not be effective to try to dumbbell deadlift in the same manner as a barbell deadlift.

It would make more sense to angle the dumbbells out slightly in the manner that Scott Herman demonstrates. The dumbbells should be in front of you but angled out.

This will also allow you room to perform the dumbbell deadlift. You don’t want your knees to get in the way of the dumbbells. 

Final Thoughts

How can you make dumbbell deadlifts harder? There are many ways of doing this. You can increase weight, do deficit deadlifts, introduce pauses and tempos, etc.

You can also even combine resistance bands with dumbbells to make the dumbbell deadlift harder. You can hook the bands around the dumbbell handles and then stand on the band as you perform dumbbell deadlifts.

If you have any comments on the dumbbell deadlift please leave them below. As always, stay safe and enjoy your training!

>> Do Deadlifts Build Bigger Traps Than Shrugs?

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