T Nation

How to Deadlift Without Arms?


I just love heavy deads. Unfortunately, I also got my right rotator cuff blown apart in an accident wholly unrelated to lifting. Prognosis is simple: shoulder surgery. This means that I will not be able to pick up much of anything for 4 months and then it will take another several months before I can actually have much load through arm. I do not know for sure how long this will take to get itself sorted out, but pessimism is better.

Nothing works like deads except doing deads, but I figure that there has to be some way I can at least retain posterior chain strength and mass. Much as I hate to say it, I might be stuck with machines (though nothing that loads the shoulders, like a leg press). Maybe go crazy with accessory exercises like hamstring curls, single-leg variations? All of these target glutes and hammies but I can't find anything that would hammer the erector spinae group.

Suggestions? Thanks in advance!

-- jj


One handed Deadlifts?

Maybe Zerchers with a Harness
Hip Belt Squats

About the best I got.


Maybe very heavy weighted hip raises and some lower back stability and strength work, plus usual hamstring exercises (hamstring curls, GHR, etc.). You could also try belt squats, apparently they are quite good, and even strongman-style "hip lifts" if you have the equipment.

Might be a bit impractical though... !

Good luck with the shoulder


I had my left shoulder rebuilt 13 months ago. I couldn't lift crap for awhile either. It's really no big deal. Use that time constructively. Follow the adage, "train what is trainable". Don't be a mook and ruin that shoulder. 4-5 months is nothing in the scale of the rest of your life (hopefully) commit to it and get healed up. The deadlift can wait and you'll come back better. the alternative is being a dip shit and becoming the guy who "used to lift weights".

I used my EFS Yoke & Spider bars. they let me squat / Good morning without my arm. Even still I was very limited in weight at first because of the pressure pushing my shoulder downwards. A SSB is invaluable for folks with bum shoulders.


Reverse Hyper extension's.


Safey squat bar out of safeties set up to about your deadlift stance.

Westside did these quite a bit and I've heard some of their guys say it was the best thing they were doing.

It sure would mimick the deadlift path.


Go on Ben Bruno's youtube channel and you'll find all sorts of wild posterior chain exercises


This sounded badass so I tried finding a youtube video of it. In the process I came across Vogelpohl taking it to the next level:


Badass video.

I agree that finding a way to squat that mimicks deadlifts/RDLs could be helpful. Good mornings as well.

Maybe loading a dip belt and standing on some boxes while doing a deadlift motion?


45 degree hyper extensions. Do very high reps or put a dip belt around your neck to increase the difficulty.


I'm disappointed that Vogelpohl didn't even put chains on the bar!! But seriously, that's badass!


Hold something you can attach to the bar in your teeth.