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Reeves Deadlift

The Reeves Deadlift: Exercise guide, Benefits, and Tips

The Reeves deadlift is a DL variation that is very similar to the snatch grip deadlift. Both exercises have an extra-wide grip of the barbell. In the snatch grip DL, you are gripping the bar at its ends, but in the Reeves version, you are taking it even further and gripping the barbell from its plates. 

It places an extra load on your upper-body muscles and your traps and increases the range of motion of this exercise. Also, the fact that you are holding the barbell from its plates makes it a killer forearm and grip strength exercise. 

The lift is actually a true old-school exercise and gets its name from Steve Reeves, who was a famous American bodybuilder and actor. He was the first modern actor to play Hercules. But the exercise is also known as the pinch grip deadlift and the scapular deadlift.


This lift is a full-body exercise, just like the conventional DL. Now the main difference is that the Reeves deadlift focuses more on your upper back muscles and your gripping muscles. This lift works all the muscles in your posterior chain with the main effort going on your hamstrings, glutes, and traps, but it works your lats and other upper body muscles as well. 

Reeves deadlift muscles worked

Primary muscles worked:

  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Trapezius
  • Forearms
  • Hands

Secondary muscles worked:

  • Lower back (erector spinae)
  • Core muscles
  • Stabilizer muscles
  • Lats
  • Quads

Benefits of the Reeves deadlift

Increases grip strength. This exercise is an amazing grip strengthener. Because you are pinch gripping the barbell from its plates, this lift will make your forearms, hands, and fingers work like crazy to hold the bar while you lift the weight up.  

It’s a full-body movement. It will train your whole body, with the main effort going on your hands and posterior chain muscles. Thanks to the wide hand position, this exercise is especially good for your upper back muscles like your lats and traps. 

This DL variation targets more of your upper back muscles. Overall the Reeves deadlift works the same muscles, as its traditional counterpart. But because of the extra-wide grip, the focus shifts more on your upper back and trapezius muscles rather than your lower back. 

Increased range of motion compared to the conventional deadlift. Because you are griping the barbell from the plates, your hands are positioned much wider than in the conventional DL. Which means you are starting the lift from a lower position, making the overall range of motion longer. The increased range of motion helps you engage your back, hips, and hamstring muscles more, making them work harder.

It will improve your hip mobility. The Reeves deadlift will help improve your hip mobility thanks to its deeper starting position. Our hip mobility plays a large role in many functional everyday movements. Also, your hip mobility has an important role in performing the DL with proper form. So any improvement in this department will pay off in both your lifts and everyday life. 

It will help you improve your deadlift form. This dl variation will help you improve your regular deadlift form by increasing your hip mobility, improving your lifting posture, and by improving your floor liftoff. 

The Reeves deadlift is a great compound exercise with many benefits such as increasing your grip strength, improving your lifting posture, developing and strengthening your posterior chain muscles, and so on. Thanks to all of those things, you will gain a lot of functional and pulling strength, which will increase all your other related lifts and exercises.  

How to do the Reeves Deadlift

  1. Approach the bar and take a stance that is about shoulder width.
  2. The barbell should be over the middle part of your foot (about at the top of your shoelaces) 
  3. Push your hips back and hinge your body forward until it’s almost parallel to the ground. 
  4. Now, grip the barbell from its plates. Do this by using a pinch grip (grasp them by using only your fingers).
  5. Next, bend your knees until your shins are nearly touching the bar.
  6. Brace and engage your core muscles.
  7. Keep your back straight and your head in a neutral position. 
  8. Drop your hips and lift your chest up.
  9. Lift the bar using your legs. Drive through your feet, like you would be pushing the floor away.
  10. Fully extend your knees and hips. While doing so, make sure the bar travels in a straight line.
  11. Lock your hips.
  12. Lower the barbell back to the floor in a slow and controlled way.

Tips and recommendations

  1. While performing this exercise, keep your core braced and engaged.
  2. Make sure the bar always travels in a straight line.
  3. Lower the bar in a slow and controlled manner, to avoid injuring yourself. Or if you are using a weightlifting platform and bumper plates then consider dropping the weight. 
  4. You can only do the Reeves deadlift if you have the necessary wingspan to grasp the barbell from its plates. If you don’t have long enough arms, you can substitute the regular barbell for the trap bar, which is about 25% shorter. 
  5. If you want to make the exercise a little less about your grip strength, use iron grip stile plates instead. These kinds of weight plates usually have built-in handles or holes, which will make gripping the weight much easier. If you want to train your grip strength and forearms more, use bumper style plates with a pinch grip. 
  6. Use lighter weights while doing this lift. And increase the load gradually.
  7. If you want to add more than one set of large plates, you should add smaller plates in between them. It will give you enough room to grip the plates. 

Variations of the Reeves Deadlift.

Now, this lift doesn’t have to be performed like that always. There are a few ways to variate this great exercise to change its difficulty and the way it trains your body. 

The way you grip the weight!

Reeves deadlift grip

First is the way you grip the weight. In the Reeves Deadlift, the barbell is usually gripped from its plates with a pinch grip. This puts tremendous pressure on your hands, fingers, and forearms, making all your gripping muscles work like crazy. That is exactly why this DL modification is considered to be one of the best exercises to train your grip strength. 

But there is another way to approach this. You could use different kinds of weightlifting plates. For example, you could use iron grip style plates. These plates usually have holes or built-in handles you could use to grip the bar. This would make it a lot easier on your forearms and hands. Allowing you to focus a bit more on the weight you lift, and thus you would be able to target and work your upper body muscles harder. 

If you want to make it even more challenging and train your forearms more, you could try gripping multiple plates. For this, you would probably need weightlifting training bumpers or similar plates. 

Shrug at the end of the deadlift!

Reeves deadlift whit a shrug

Because of the extra-wide grip, the Reeves deadlift focuses more on your upper back and your traps compared to the regular DL. It’s actually a killer traps and upper back workout. A good way to take it to a whole new level is to add a shrug at the end of the lift. Perform this dl just as you would normally, but when you get to the upright position add a shrug to the mix. 

Trap bar Reeves Deadlift.

reeves deadlift trap bar

This lift can be also done by using a trap bar. The trap bar is a little shorter than the regular weightlifting bar. So the trap bar Reeves deadlift is a great alternative for those people who don’t have long enough arms to grasp a regular barbell from the plates. 

Also, the slightly narrower grip will allow you to use much more weight for this exercise. You will be stressing and working your upper back a little less, thanks to the narrower grip, but you can make up for it by adding weight (if your grip can take it). 

In conclusion

This deadlift variation is an interesting and very beneficial lift. Its one of the best grip strength training exercises and a beast of an upper back and traps lift. The Reeves deadlift is a great exercise for anybody who is looking to increase their functional strength and further develop their DL.

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