Modern 2D and 3D seismic data from gravity-driven thrust belts in deep submarine settings provide unparalleled images of fold-thrust structures. Cursory examination of these data suggests simple concentric deformation and a narrow range of structural styles. However, regional restorations combined with outcrop analogues suggest that distributed strain and large-scale volume loss (lateral compaction)during deformation are important. These deformations accommodate layer-parallel shortening that may serve to pre-condition thrusting. Evaluating the partitioning between localized thrusting, related folding and distributed strain is examined using examples from deepwater Niger delta, offshore Namibia and outcrop analogues from the French Alps and New Zealand.