The hormonal response to certain exercises like the deadlift and back squat have long been the reason why they are lauded as the most important lifts. When doing exercises like these it is true that your body releases important hormones like Testosterone, Growth Hormone, Insulin Growth Factor-1, as well as adrenaline.
However, the deadlift is not the reason behind the release of these chemicals.
The EFFORT makes the difference.
Research looking at the amount of hormones like Testosterone and Growth Hormone (two of the most important for building muscle) shows that any full body exertion releases these hormones. Movements like the deadlift provide an easy way to push athletes to maximal exertion and measure the result. However, there are many ways to create maximal full body exertion in a program and many have less chance of injury. For instance you could simply perform an isometric deadlift. A safer version of the lift and one that makes it easier to train specific weak areas in your posterior chain.
You can even create full body exertion while improving your range of motion. Performing PAILS and RAILS exercises requires you to radiate tension throughout your body. Try out this overhead drill while making sure during the resistance aspect you squeeze every muscle in your body to direct pressure into the obstacle. This type of effort elicits the same hormonal response as the deadlift when performed correctly.
Don’t feel bound to certain lifts when adding full compound exercises to your program. It is valuable to include maximal effort into your sessions so that important hormones are released, but this can be done in a multiple of ways including isometrics.