What are the different types of deadlifts and what muscles do each work?

I’m using a program and it calls for a deadlift on one day with a Romanian deadlift on another. But following the conventional deadlift is a front squat. The muscle groups feel too similar so I’ve been using a sumo deadlift instead, but I’m simply making an assumption that this is the best movement. With that in mind, I’m curious specifically what these three deadlifts work and what other variations there may be.

  • 1
    Sumo deadlift is much closer to a front squat than a conventional deadlift is.
    – Thomas Markov
    Commented Nov 5, 2022 at 17:59
  • @ThomasMarkov how so? Wouldn’t sumo deadlift target inner thigh and front squat and conv. deadlift wouldn’t?
    – Piper
    Commented Nov 5, 2022 at 18:48
  • 2
    Conventional deadlift is primarily a hip hinge, using the hip extensors (glutes, hamstrings), with very little knee extension (quadriceps) used at all. On the other hand, the quadriceps are one of the primary movers in the sumo deadlift. It’s this quadricep dominance that makes sumo more similar to the front squat.
    – Thomas Markov
    Commented Nov 5, 2022 at 18:55

1 Answer 1


There are so many variations of a dead lift, thus it would be a lengthy discussion to nail all of them and also to include their specific muscle targets. Most usually are hitting the same muscles:

  • Gluteals - Due to Hip Extension
  • Hamstrings - Due to Hip Extension
  • Quadriceps- Due to Knee Extension
  • Spinal Erectors - Due to Isometric Lumbar extension
  • Lats - Due to Stabilization
  • Traps - Due to Stabilization
  • Levator Scapulae -Due to Stabilization


  • Conventional
  • Sumo
  • Trap Bar (Hex Bar)
  • Romanian
  • Stiff Leg
  • Many Strongman variations like Axle bar

Almost all of these will involve the muscles mentioned with differences in their focus. Sumo/Conventional will be the two traditional styles with Sumo hitting more Quadriceps and Conventional working the Glutes and Hams more due to the former working knee extension more and the later doing hip extension.

Trap bar has gotten a bad rep, but it also an amazing movement that asks a lot from hip extension as well as the others.

Romanian is a variation that is good for maintaining the isometric Spincal erectors are we're maintaining constant tension, as well as for the stabilization muscles.

Stiff leg is usually used for a hamstring dominant exercise as you're trying to push your hips back and feel the strong pull on your hamstrings. You should be trying to remove quadriceps involvement as much as possible by not moving the knees in this motion.

You can really changes these all up by throwing in more variations by using:

  • Bands
  • Chains
  • Deficits
  • Elevated
  • Pauses
  • Tempos

There's also some other more novelty dead lifts such as:

  • Dorains
  • Jeffersons
  • Suitcase

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