This is the final installment in my Top 5 series on the Big Three lifts.

In the last two, I covered the Squat and the Bench Press, and this one is about arguably my favorite and best lift, the deadlift.

Back in the day I had a pretty good pull, 710 with just a belt. Now, not so much but I still love it. The Deadlift for me is the most mental and the most satisfying lift of the three contested lifts.

It’s you, the bar and no stretch reflex. It takes speed, strength, balls and an assload of mental focus and toughness. It’s easy to bail on a heavy pull, it takes balls to finish one.

When you do, it is AWEWSOME.

OK, enough about that, let’s go over my Top 5 Assistance/Accessory Exercises for the Deadlift.

As I said before, these are in no particular order and my opinion may change in the future. It has not changed much over the years. I think I have always gravitated to these. I also think I have coached and programmed a few pretty good pullers over the years, so before you poo-poo these, have an open mind.

Narrowing it down to 5 is always tough but I am giving it a shot here for you.

Top 5 Assistance/Accessory Exercises for the Deadlift

1. Paused Front Squat:

You might be thinking “Seriously Murph”, but think about this. The Front Squat requires a tremendous amount of strength in the quads, lower back, upper back and hamstrings. It also requires an upright posture.

So how does that carry over to the deadlift?

Simple: you use all of these in the deadlift right? You need a bullet proof lower back. It stabilizes the deadlift and the Front Squat. You need really strong quads to lock out a deadlift. You never really hear about quads in the deadlift, but when you are approaching lockout you need to be straightening your legs fast. You want to use all of the muscles in your legs right?

Don’t forget the quads!

Adding the pause in helps to eliminate the Stretch Shortening Cycle (SSC) or the stretch reflex. The deadlift has no real stretch reflex so I rest my case.

I also said you need a strong upper back. Try doing a heavy front squat if your upper back is weak.

You won’t move to much weight.

I like to wave the length of the pause over a few weeks starting with a 1/1000 count and building up to a 3/1000 count.
2. Opposite Deadlifts:

WTF is an Opposite Deadlift?

Easy answer, if you pull conventional it is a Sumo, if you deadlift Sumo, it’s conventional.

Working your opposite pull makes you stronger.

3. Block Pulls:

dc_blocks, Top 5 Assistance/Accessory Exercises for the Deadlift

I love block pulls from different heights. You can work a range where you are weak or overload a range you are strong. They are very versatile. If you don’t have blocks, rack pulls work too.

Oh, and by the way, Opposite Block Pulls are great too. If you pull Sumo, do conventional Block Pulls sometimes and vice versa.

4. Hatfield Back Raise:

Hatfield Murph Beard 2015, Top 5 Assistance/Accessory Exercises for the Deadlift

Dr. Squat sporting his "Murph" beard circa 2015.


Dr. Squat, Fred Hatfield taught me this years ago and he credits his 1000 pound squat to this and a few other key lifts. It also carries over to the deadlift.

This exercise works the spinal erectors directly and it HAMMERS them. Adding these in on the regular will make your spinal erectors like two cobras running down your back.

The beauty of these is that they are actually really safe. Your lower back is fully supported while doing them and there is very little damaging shear force on your spine. You can also load these heavy.

Load a barbell and hold it at arm’s length and then work your butt off.

Watch the video to see how to do them.

5. Glute/Ham Raise

elitefts-glute-ham-raise, Top 5 Assistance/Accessory Exercises for the Deadlift

I was pretty conflicted on my last choice and had to eliminate a few really great exercises to get the Top 5 done.

The Glute/Ham raise builds STRONG(er) hamstrings and you need STRONG(er) hamstrings for a huge pull.

Watch the video to see how to do them.

There you have my Top 5 Assistance/Accessory Exercises for the Deadlift.

Add these in to your programming and watch your pull go up.


I’ve been squatting. Yep, I said that last week. I’ve also been doing a ton of mobility for my hip.

I do a lot of banded hip distractions, Bretzels and other nerdy stuff to get mobile and it seems to be working.

I started an Intensity wave on the Squat last week with the Yoke Bar. I am using a ton of chain and have added bands to the front ala Clint Darden to increase the dumping effect.

Darden Clint GM SS 1, Top 5 Assistance/Accessory Exercises for the Deadlift

The funny thing about the bands in the front pulling you forward here is that I used to do this all the time years ago and had our group do them. People yelled at me and told me they were useless. I totally disagree.

I didn’t stop because I was mocked. As a matter of fact if getting mocked bothered me I would not be friends with Vincent, Dave and Rhodes.

Over time you filter exercise in and out and these went away when I stopped training Westside style. I am not training Westside style now, but they found their way back in. (Note the correct use of “their”).

I hit 2 plates on the Yoke Bar with 8 chains and mini-bands for my work sets this week. The weight was manageable and I am using hip pain for my RPE. So far, so good.

That’s all for this week.

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Vincere vel mori

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