How to Build a Bigger Deadlift with No Weights

​The best exercise to build a bigger deadlift… is the deadlift. The Law of Specificity tells us so.

But that doesn’t mean it’s the only way to build a bigger deadlift.

And there’s a small group of exercises that have a huge amount of science behind them – exercises that can have a huge impact on your ability to lift heavy. Exercise that can help you build an incredibly strong posterior chain (the muscles of the back lower half of your body – the hamstrings, gluteals and lower back).

And they require no equipment, which is great news if you’re worrying about losing strength during COVID-19 gym closures. If you’re more worried about losing fitness, read this.

These exercises are the ‘Nordic Hamstring Lower’ family.

There are four members of this family which we prescribe to our clients who would benefit from more posterior chain strength. But before we get into the exercises themselves, let’s first explore the science of eccentric training, and the benefits not only for your deadlift, but also for general strength, performance and health.

Muscle Contraction Types:

When you lift weights, there are two main types of contractions your muscles can do. There are ‘concentric’ or ‘shortening’ contractions, where you are lifting a weight, and there are ‘eccentric’ or ‘lengthening’ contractions, where you a lower a weight.

Do a bicep curl. Now lower the weight slowly, fighting gravity as you do. That’s an eccentric contraction. Do a squat, but do the lowering part really slowly. That’s a slow eccentric, and working hard in the eccentric portion of a lift can make you really strong.

Benefits of Eccentric Training:

Eccentric training has wide reaching benefits to your health and body composition – with the benefits even broader than standard resistance training – so you may actually get more benefits than your usual exercise program.

The research is virtually unanimous in heaping praise on ‘eccentric’ training (sometimes called ‘negatives’). This style of training shows strength gains in excess of 10% over traditional methods, and results in great hypertrophy (muscle growth).

Not only are we able to generate more force after eccentric training, but we are also able to generate it over a greater variance in muscle lengths. Effectively, what this does is to make us stronger over a greater range of motion, increasing our muscles’ torque generating ability. Therefore, less sticking points in your deadlift, and less failures on heavy lifts.

Not only is eccentric training superior to regular strength training, but the use of accentuated eccentric loading delivers superior results to strength, power and hypertrophy (muscle size) over any other eccentric training method studied. Accentuated eccentric loading is a form of eccentric training where the load lowered is more than the load lifted. This adds positive stress on the body in the phase of the lift that will give us the most benefit.

Eccentric training has wide reaching benefits to your health and body composition – with the benefits even broader than standard resistance training.

Eccentric training results in stronger connective tissue (ligaments and tendons) and increased flexibility by changing the mechanics of a muscle (increasing the sarcomeres in series).

These changes in the mechanics and organisation of muscle fibres, also mean eccentric training is a great rehabilitation tool – not only to help promote the repair and recovery of soft tissue (particularly tendon) injury, but also to reduce the risk of future injury.

The Nordic Hamstring Lowers:

So this brings us to the four exercises we would recommend from the Nordic Hamstring Lower family.

Each of these is powerful in its’ ability to develop a strong posterior chain, even without added resistance. The four exercises are:

  • Nordic Hamstring Lower with Hip Angle Fixed.
  • Nordic Hamstring Lower with Knee Angle Fixed.
  • Single Leg Nordic Hamstring Lower with Hip Angle Fixed.
  • Single Leg Nordic Hamstring Lower with Knee Angle Fixed.
Dan Williams

Dan Williams


Dan Williams is the Director of Range of Motion and leads a team of Exercise Physiologists, Sports Scientists, Physiotherapists and Coaches. He has a Bachelor of Science (Exercise and Health Science) and a Postgraduate Bachelor of Exercise Rehabilitation Science from The University of Western Australia, with minors in Biomechanics and Sport Psychology.

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