Weight lifting exercises are one of the best muscle and strength-building moves around. One of the most popular and effective moves in weight lifting is the deadlift.
The deadlift is a great way to build a toned and muscular physique. During this exercise, you lift the barbell from the ground to the level of your thighs using mainly your leg and lower back muscles. The other large muscle groups are used to stabilize the movement. This helps in training your overall body and building muscle mass.
The deadlift is performed using a bar with weighted plates or dumbbells. The deadlift is one of the most favorite exercises of powerlifters. Adding this exercise to your workout plan will boost your endurance and functional fitness. If performed correctly, this move will strengthen your overall muscles and joints. There are a lot of deadlift variations, which gives you a variety of options to choose the right version that works for you.
The deadlift is a compound exercise, which means it uses multiple groups at once. This makes your workout more efficient than isolation exercises, as you’re training many muscles in just one move. The deadlift is known to be a very important move for building strength and endurance according to fitness experts. This exercise is very close to a full-body workout since you’re challenging your strength through the whole posterior chain.
This amazing move also hits your core muscles. While pulling weights off the ground, your abdominal muscles play a key role in supporting your back and stabilizing the movement. Doing deadlifts regularly improves your stability and balance. Some variations of the deadlift, like the single-leg and offset load deadlift, put extra tension on your core to keep your torso fixed and challenge your core. The deadlift is one of the three major core exercises in any strength training workout, along with other weight lifting exercises like the bench press and barbell squats.
Apart from being a weightlifting compound lift, it also helps in releasing growth hormones in your body. This develops your bone density and muscle hypertrophy.
Benefits Of Doing Deadlift
Here are the 10 best benefits of adding deadlifts to your workout program.
1. Reduces Lower Back Pain
Strengthening your lower back muscles is important, not only for lifting weights but for doing daily activities more effectively. There are a lot of people who experience lower back pain in everyday life due to bad posture, being overweight, and sitting for too long behind a desk. Adding deadlifts to your workout routine will keep your lower back strong and prevent pain and injuries. Deadlift prevents back injuries by developing strength in the muscles around your tendons and ligaments.
While doing deadlifts, It’s crucial to keep your back straight throughout the movement. Arching your back is a common mistake in deadlift which can cause injuries to your lower back. Please consult a healthcare professional before doing deadlifts as a treatment for your lower back pain.
2. Activates Your Hip Flexors
Powerlifting exercises like deadlifts are some of the best exercises for strengthening your glutes (hips). Your hips include the gluteus maximus and minimus muscles which are commonly trained in workout programs due to their athletic functionality. Studies have shown that deadlifts are better than squats when it comes to training your hip muscles.
Deadlifts strengthen your lower body muscles which improve your endurance. The activation of both your glutes and hamstrings in deadlifts will also increase your strength and muscle size.
3. Improves Your Grip Strength
Deadlifts are known for their ability to develop great amounts of grip strength. Deadlift challenges your grip strength as you hold the weighted barbell throughout the movement. When you perform a weight lifting exercise like the deadlift, your hand is the only part connected to the weight of the bar. Your forearm muscles are engaged as you lift the weight to keep the bar stable, preventing it from falling out of your hands. As you do this procedure your grip strength increases gradually. You can use a pair of lifting straps if you don’t want to focus on your grip strength and make the exercise easier.
Studies have shown that grip strength is a great way to identify health issues in older adults. Developing your grip strength helps in doing other exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, weight lifting, powerlifting, and other sports activities that require grip strength. While deadlifts aren’t specifically performed to improve your grip strength, As you’ll do this exercise regularly you’ll notice that your grip strength will enhance over time. Improving your grip strength is very important as to lift heavier weights you need a strong grip.
4. Promotes Weight Loss And Metabolism
Weight loss is a common goal of many strength training exercises. Losing excess fat from your body requires you to burn more calories than you consume which is known as a calorie deficit. Mostly every weight loss program combines resistance training with a healthy diet to reduce calorie intake and promote weight loss. Increasing the muscle mass in your body will help you burn more calories at rest throughout the day. Deadlift activates many muscle groups in your body which boosts your metabolism and releases many essential hormones. This way you’ll burn more calories and build a stronger physique.
Adding this move to your workout will also help in achieving your aesthetic goals and overcome muscle imbalance in your body.
5. Deadlift Is An Efficient Full Body Workout
The deadlift is one of the most effective full-body strength and endurance training exercises. The main focus of this move is on your posterior chain, the muscles which lie on the back of your body. A lot of people leave these muscles undertrained but by adding deadlifts to your workout routine you can build strength, promote good posture and reduce the risk of injuries. The deadlift is the only exercise that trains the muscles in both your lower and upper body. There are very few exercises that offer this benefit.
Deadlift targets your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, traps, and also activates your chest muscles. The primary muscles engaged during this move are your lower back, and upper back since these muscles support your torso as you lift weights from the floor. Your biceps are used as they support your arms while lifting the barbell from the ground.
6. Builds Core Strength
Training your abdominal muscles is an important aspect of most fitness programs. Your core supports your torso and provides stability during movements so that you can use maximum muscle strength and lift heavier weights. While various resistance training exercises target your core, studies have suggested that full-body exercises like deadlifts are an effective way to engage and strengthen the muscles that support your spine. These muscles include your external obliques, rectus abdominal, and transverse abdominal muscles.
While doing deadlifts, most of the tension relies on your abs to stabilize the movement and lift the weighted barbell from the ground. Keeping your core engaged for long periods will make it stronger for doing other strength exercises like push-ups, plank, bench press, overhead press, squats, etc. Having a strong core also helps in doing daily activities more easily and boosts your athletic performance.
7. Improves Your Balance And Posture
The deadlift works on your stability and improves your posture by keeping your spine straight and aligned with your posterior chain. Training the muscles in your posterior chain helps in reducing back pain issues and gives you a confident posture. Having an improper posture can cause muscle imbalance and tightness, which increases the risk of injuries. According to research, doing deadlifts regularly helps in training all the muscles that keep your body stable while doing other exercises.
The deadlift requires a proper form therefore your shoulders and core should be braced and back straight throughout the movement. Improving your posture and balance is very important as it can lead to several health problems in the future.
How To Perform Deadlift
1. Start this exercise by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and positioned in a slightly outward direction. Ensure your feet are under the bar and away from your leg. Grab the bar in an overhand grip with your hands slightly wider than your knees. Keep your feet flat on the ground.
2. Lower your body in a squat position by bending your knees. Keep your back straight and chest up to keep your torso stable and prevent it from hunching forward. Your head should remain in a neutral position throughout the movement to keep your neck stable. Now, brace your core to maintain your form.
3. Lift the barbell off the ground by pushing in through your feet. Breathe in as you lift the barbell. As you raise the barbell, straighten your knees before raising your hips back up to a standing position. Pull your shoulders back without bending backward.
4. Hold the position at the top. Squeeze your glutes and focus on your lower back without arching it. Lower the bar back to the ground in a reverse motion. Breathe out as you lower the bar. After the first repetition don’t go into a deep squat position in the following repetitions. Always keep your hips above your knees. This is one repetition of the deadlift exercise.
5. Do 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions and keep increasing the reps as you perform this move to challenge your strength.
1. Always Keep The Bar Closer To Your Shins
During deadlifts, the barbell needs to travel the shortest distance possible to perform the exercise correctly and train your muscles properly. This is done by keeping the barbell at the center of your feet and close to your shin bone (The bone in front of your lower leg). The most common mistake that people do is that they place the barbell at their forefoot than at the middle of their feet. When doing with the correct form, your shin bone will be only a few inches away from the bar.
The reason behind this is, the further the barbell is from your body the harder it will be to lift it from the ground. This is why powerlifters wear high socks to prevent any Injury caused while lifting the barbell.
2. Work On Your Grip Strength
In deadlifts, It doesn’t matter how strong your back and legs are, you won’t be able to lift heavy weights if your hands can’t hold the barbell properly. You require a strong grip strength to keep the bar stable. To strengthen your grip, try doing some grip exercises and using chalk for better hold. The stronger your grip strength, the easier it will be to lift weights with good balance. Your body knows if it’s hard to hold onto a bar with heavy weights. This results in your brain limiting the muscles involved in the exercise making the lift impossible.
If your grip strength is a limiting factor for doing deadlifts or any other powerlifting exercise you can use lifting straps. This is a great way to examine whether it’s your grip or total strength.
3. Try Using A Weight Lifting Belt
While doing deadlifts, You can easily increase around 10 kilograms or 20 pounds of weight by simply wearing a weight lifting belt. The main purpose of a belt in a weight lifting exercise is to help you lift heavy with both safety and stability. Breathing against the belt with your core will help increase the intra-abdominal pressure, which keeps your core stable and helps in lifting heavy weights. Before using a belt for your deadlifts, try training beltless for at least 4-6 months till you master the form.
During this time you will develop strong back muscles and better muscle coordination. Using a belt after this time is beneficial for challenging your strength by lifting more. Only use the belt for lifting the heaviest weight you can with only one rep also called one rep max. You don’t need to wear it for your whole workout session.
4. Don’t Squat The Weight While Lifting
One of the biggest mistakes while doing deadlift is when the lifters try to squat the weight up instead of pulling it using their upper body. The more you bend your knees the further the bar has to travel. The bar can also drift away from the centerline which puts stress on your knees. This is the reason why a squat should never be done during deadlift as it can cause severe injuries. Always keep your hips back and don’t bend your knees too much, just enough to reach the bar and hold it with a tight grip.
While lifting the barbell, always look at your form to check whether your hips are above your knees or not. If you keep doing this exercise regularly you’ll eventually master the form and start training your muscles more efficiently.
5. Try Doing This Exercise Barefoot
You may have seen powerlifters and bodybuilders performing deadlift barefoot while training at a gym. Even famous bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger can be seen doing barefoot deadlifts in his training videos from the past. The biggest advantage to deadlifting barefoot is that you’ll be lifting an overall shorter range of motion. Placing your foot directly flat on the ground gives you better balance while lifting heavy weights. You’ll also feel better weight distribution and activate the posterior chain muscles more effectively.
But if you’re a competitive powerlifter then it’s against the rules of the sport to compete without shoes therefore you’re required to wear any sort of sole during the competition. Additionally, some gyms don’t allow you to deadlift barefoot due to safety reasons.
Variations Of Deadlift
1. Romanian Deadlift
The Romanian deadlift is a variation of the standard deadlift exercise that focuses more on your hamstrings and glutes, therefore, improving your endurance, strength, and flexibility. Unlike other quadriceps (front thighs) training exercises like the standard deadlift and leg press, the Romanian deadlift work on the joints that are responsible for the movement of your hips and knees. Romanian deadlifts are performed in a stiff leg position with a small bend in your knees to emphasize more on your hamstrings.
With this move, you don’t require heavy weights to make it more effective. If it’s your first time doing this exercise then the best way is to use a conventional gym barbell. You can also use free weights when doing Romanian deadlifts at home. Adding this exercise to your workout plan will target both the abdominal and lower body muscles in a single move.
How To Do Romanian Deadlift
1. Start this exercise by standing straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and a slight bend in your knees. Place the barbell in the middle of your feet close to your shin bone.
2. Lower your body by moving your hips back, keeping your back straight as you reach toward the ground. Now hold the barbell with both hands shoulder-width apart. Pull your shoulders back and don’t lift them throughout the movement.
3. Activate your core, glutes, and hamstrings. Push through your feet into the ground to lift off the barbell. Raise the barbell to your quadriceps (upper thighs) and hold the position. Squeeze your hamstrings and glutes at the top. Breathe in as you lift the barbell.
4. Lower the barbell between your knees and toes. Your thighs should be parallel to the ground while keeping your feet flat. Breathe out as you lower the barbell. This is one repetition of the Romanian deadlift. Repeat the same steps for 3 sets of 12-15 repetitions.
2. Trap Bar Deadlift
The trap bar deadlift is a full-body lift that can be performed to enhance your performance for various sports activities. People commonly do this exercise to build their pulling strength and improve their overall health. Beginners perform trap bar deadlifts to train their muscles for more difficult exercises like the traditional deadlifts. This move is beneficial for both powerlifters and bodybuilders to gain extra muscle mass and achieve amazing pulling mechanics.
Trap bar deadlifts are more stable and can be performed with more weights than the normal deadlifts due to the use of a hexagon-shaped bar. This is the reason why trap bar deadlifts are also called hex bar deadlifts. Using a hex bar is safer than a barbell as it’s unlikely to hit your shin bone, therefore, preventing injuries. Trap bar deadlifts are also well balanced due to better grip and large surface area.
How To Do Trap Bar Deadlift
1. Start this move by placing the hex bar on the ground with desired weights. Stand in the middle of the trap bar with your feet shoulder-width apart. With your back straight and feet flat, lower your body to grab the handles of the bar.
2. Move your hips back, lift your chest and pull your shoulders. Keep your neck fixed and look in front. Brace your core and activate your lower body muscles. Lift the bar off the ground by keeping your body stable and back straight. Breathe in as you raise the barbell.
3. Stop the move when the bar reaches your upper thighs, straightening your hips. Squeeze your glutes at the top. Now, lower your body back to the starting position in a reverse motion. Breathe out as you lower the bar back to the ground.
4. This is one repetition of the trap bar deadlift. Do 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions.
3. Single-Leg Deadlift
Single-leg deadlift is a dynamic variation of the standard deadlift exercise. As the name suggests, during this exercise you lift the bar while balancing only on one leg. This variation targets all the major muscle groups in your lower body, core, and back. Incorporating this exercise into your workout plan will challenge your balance and improve your stability. Doing single-leg deadlifts with lighter weights helps in toning your muscles which gives you an aesthetic look.
You can also add this exercise to a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) program to burn some extra calories. Performing single-leg deadlift with no weights and as a finisher to the traditional deadlift will give your muscles a huge pump. Try combining this move with other unilateral exercises for an extreme full-body workout.
How To Do Single Leg Deadlift
1. Begin this exercise by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and feet flat on the ground. Hold a barbell, kettlebell, or two dumbbells in your hands. Pull your shoulders back and keep them relaxed. Keep your neck stable and gaze in front of you.
2. Lean forward using your hips while keeping your torso fixed. Shift your weight on one leg while extending your other leg behind you.
3. Brace your core and activate your glutes. Lift your extended leg fully from the ground as you lean your body forward. Keep your arms fully extended while holding the weight. Don’t lock the knee of your standing leg as it can cause stress in your joints. Breathe in as you lean forward.
4. Now, hold the position and slowly return your extended leg to the start along with your upper body. Breathe out as you lift the weight and raise your upper body. Repeat the same steps with your other leg. This is one repetition of the single-leg deadlift. Do 3 sets of 7-12 repetitions.
4. Dumbbell Deadlift
Dumbbell deadlift is a variation of the standard deadlift exercise that is performed especially for developing hypertrophy. Muscle building or hypertrophy is achieved by putting your muscles under stress for long periods. This results in better muscle growth in your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, core, and back. Hypertrophy requires some fitness experience or guidance from a coach to recover your muscles. Putting too much stress on your muscles can cause injuries.
Doing deadlifts with a set of dumbbells than a barbell challenges your grip strength. A strong grip is recommended for doing any exercise in the gym. Studies have shown that adding unilateral dumbbell exercises in your workout plan helps in training each side of your body independently which increases your strength and muscle mass. Incorporating dumbbells with exercises like deadlifts also allows for a greater range of motion.
How To Do Dumbbell Deadlift
1. Start this exercise by standing tall and holding a pair of dumbbells with an overhand grip. Pull your shoulders back and chest up. Keep the dumbbells in front of you.
2. Activate your abdominal muscles and lower the dumbbells towards your shins. Slowly bend your upper body and knees at the hips with a controlled motion. Keep the dumbbells close to your body throughout the movement. Breathe in as you bring the dumbbells down.
3. Hold the position when the dumbbells are at your shins. Don’t arch your back while bringing the weights down. Now return to the start by pushing in the ground through your feet in a reverse motion. Squeeze your hamstrings and glutes at the top. Breathe out as you raise your body.
4. This is one repetition of the dumbbell deadlift. Do 3-4 sets of 10-15 repetitions.
5. Kettlebell Deadlift
Kettlebell deadlift is a resistance training exercise that uses a kettlebell instead of a barbell for doing deadlifts. It’s one of the best moves to be performed at your home due to the compactness of a kettlebell. This amazing variation of the standard deadlift targets all the muscles of your posterior chain. Kettlebell deadlift is a more balanced exercise as the distance between your hands is minimum. Among other deadlift variations, this exercise targets your shoulders and core the most.
Doing this exercise regularly will improve your agility and muscle coordination. Whether you’re a beginner or a powerlifter, this exercise builds strength and endurance for everyone. Even your everyday activities which incorporate movements like running, walking, and jumping are enhanced with this exercise. Kettlebell deadlift also offers a better range of motion as the movement is not limited by external weights.
How To Do Kettlebell Deadlift
1. Begin this move by standing with your back straight. Push your hips back and bend your knees to lower your body. Keep your shoulders relaxed and chest lifted. Now, Grab the handles of the kettlebell.
2. With your thighs parallel to the ground, brace your core and lift your body. Keep your feet flat throughout the movement. Breathe in as you raise your body. Your elbows should be extended during this exercise to maintain constant tension on your back muscles.
3. Squeeze your glutes and hamstrings at the top. Don’t lean backward while raising your body. Return the kettlebell to the start by lowering your body in a reverse motion. Breathe out as you bring the weight down.
4. This is one repetition of the kettlebell deadlift. Do 3&4 sets of 12-15 repetitions.