Whether you’re on the search for learning new variations of deadlifts or you’re wanting to bring your workout game to a new level, this article is for you.
Many athletes use block pull deadlifts as an accessory for building top-end strength. And amongst amazing benefits and reduced stability requirements, block deadlifts are a great intermediate exercise to add to your routine for a multitude of reasons we’re here to explain to you today.
We’re also going to go in-depth on how to avoid the risk of injury, training advice, and standard techniques you need to know to get the best outcome during your workout.
First Off, What Are Block Deadlifts?
The easiest way to explain the block pull deadlift is to imagine lifting as you would for a regular deadlift, but instead of the barbell resting on the floor, its weights are on a block elevating it off the ground. Also known as the “block pull” or “elevated deadlift,” it’s one of the most common exercises to assist in building a wide range of strength.
With a block pull deadlift, you’re more likely to lift between 10-30% more weight than a regular deadlift. That percentage will change depending on the level of your blocks, but we’ll go more into that later.
You can do an almost identical movement called the rack pull, which shares the same function and mechanics except you’re performing the exercise on the safety racks inside a squat cage, barbell rack, or squat rack. It’s always advised to try both and switch them up occasionally to get the best results.
Muscles Used During A Block Deadlift:
The primary muscle used during a block pull deadlift is the glutes. However, from the starting level to knee height the quads will be challenged the most while from the knee height to the top position you’ll be using the most out of your gluteus muscles (the muscles used for the hip extension).
The muscles in the lower and middle back like the trapezius and the erector spinae are also being used, but primarily in a synergistic capacity during that type of movement pattern.
How Does The Block Deadlift Differ From A Regular Deadlift?
Range of Motion
One of the main differences between a block deadlift and a standard deadlift is the range of motion. Since you’re not going as far down as you would if you were pulling from the ground it alters the function and activates muscles more than its counterpart. Conventional deadlifts generally activate the whole body with its entire range of motion while the block deadlift focuses on specific muscular hypertrophy using a partial range that you won’t get with a lot of other deadlift variations.
Time Under Tension
Since there is a limited range of motion, that means the time under tension will decrease resulting in less fatigue and muscle exertion and instead recruit more fast-twitch muscle fibers.
Reduced Stability Requirements
Along with reduced muscle fatigue from a decreased time under tension, the block deadlift requires less stability than a conventional deadlift because you’re not bending as low as you would for the standard deadlift. Nonetheless, this is also what helps with muscle fatigue since stability muscles like the deltoids, calves, and core musculature are less activated than a regular deadlift.
Lower Chance Of Injury And Joint Stress
Due to the lack of range in motion, a decreased time under tension, and reduced stability requirements, the block pull deadlift is considered a low-intensity exercise. This means less pressure on the joints and a lower chance of injuring yourself and specifically your lower spinal column.
How To Perform The Block Deadlift
Start by stacking weights or get access to blocks on either side of you that match the length of your barbell. Now place the barbell with your weights on top of the blocks. This is where you’ll have to do some trial and error to find what works best. The bar position does depend on your vertical shin angle. Meaning, it should sit somewhere from your mid-shin to just below your knee and you’ll want to have it where you need the most improvement. So if you struggle with the mid-shin length, but not in between the mid-shin and knee then make your starting position the harder option for maximal strength.
Once the position is correct, the initial movement is the same as you would a conventional deadlift and lift, making sure to brace as you would normally with the weight you’re lifting in mind. On your way up, think “glutes to bar” and lockout your top position by pushing your hips forward and squeezing your glutes and quads as much as possible. Once in the lockout portion, lower the barbell back down so it rests back down on your blocks, and then do it all over again until your set is finished.
Your shoulders should be directly in line with your barbell, giving you a slight forward torso lean when you’re going lifting or lowering the barbell. Remember that even with this reduced range you’ll need to be very vigilant in positioning and follow proper technique as you would a conventional deadlift exercise.
What are the Benefits of the Block Deadlift?
An Increase In Weight And Reps
If you can achieve the proper block deadlift technique, you can see many great benefits. The first one is the ability to perform more repetitions and an increase in weight compared to the standard barbell deadlift and other variations. It also focuses on a specific muscle group instead of the full body so if you’re needing specific activation for the glutes this is one of the best options.
They Showcase Your Weakness
You might not think this is a benefit, but if you vary the height of your block deadlifts you’ll see where you need the most help. By doing this you can find where your body needs the most improvement and then perform sets, slowly increasing as you build muscle for maximal strength.
They’re Easy To Do
This is considered an intermediate exercise because it’s a “simple” motion to complete, though it does have quite a few technical parts. If you’re struggling with the lockout portion of your barbell deadlifts then it’s often recommended to do block deadlifts at a lower weight to help build muscle memory. You are going to do this to get the correct feel of the deadlift movement.
Common Mistakes of the Block Pull Deadlift
Hips Too Low
If your hips are too low you’ll notice things like your hip shooting up to fast just when or before the barbell even leaves the ground. This can result in poor posture and stability and back issues so make sure to raise those hips to avoid injury.
Hands Too Close Or Too Far Apart
Your hands should be placed as you do a regular barbell deadlift, though sometimes it does require a bit of adjusting when lifting from a new level. Make sure to not have your hands inside your legs or so close that your knees bow inward. There should be some light contact with your arm and the outside of your knee during movement, but that is as close or far about as it should be.
Lifting Too High
And we don’t mean during the hip hinge. We mean your starting position. Yes, you can technically lift with the deadlift bar leveled above your knees, but to get the best glute activation keep it between your mid-shin and lower knee.
What Are Block Pull Deadlifts Really For?
Exercise variations like the block deadlift are there to point out your weaknesses. If you normally struggle with the lock-out portion of your deadlifts then likely your glutes and mid to lower back are the weaker muscle groups. By adding blocks under your barbell to adjust the weight, it will work those specific weaker areas to give you a well-rounded workout.
How Much Weight Should I Use For Block Pull Deadlifts?
Starting off we’ll always recommend a lighter weight. Once you get the feel for the technique and the movement, you’ll quickly realize that your maximal weight is likely much more than your standard barbell weight. As mentioned before, you’ll be able to lift 10-30% more weight, but be careful when going with a heavier weight as it can cause injury. However, number wise 300 lbs is the recommended weight to lift for novice lifters. A professional lifter can range well over 600 lbs.