The deadlift is one of the most popular exercises among people who are serious about strength training. But, like with other exercises, a proper deadlift technique is important to get the most out of your workout routine and avoid injuries.
You might be wondering how deadlifts change your body. The short answer is deadlift training can be transformational– whether you do a sumo deadlift, a Romanian deadlift, a single leg deadlift, or any other deadlift variations.
In this article, I will outline the key benefits of the deadlift exercise. I’ll also talk about which parts of the body this exercise will help you build muscle. Last but not least, I’ll describe the correct deadlift form so that you don’t injure yourself while performing deadlifts.
What Is A Deadlift?
A deadlift is one of the most popular compound exercises because it works several different muscle groups and shows results.
To perform a deadlift:
- You take a barbell.
- Add as much weight as you wish.
- Then lift the barbell from the ground to hip level.
The correct deadlift starting position is to lean forward at the hips, keep your feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent, and bring your torso parallel to the floor.
When you lift, your torso comes back in line with your body. More on the ideal deadlift technique below.
You can perform a deadlift using dumbbells, kettlebells, a barbell, or a trap bar.
The two most common deadlift variations are conventional deadlifts and sumo deadlifts. These are done using a barbell, and they recruit the maximum number of muscles.
But whatever style you choose, a deadlift will have a positive effect on your strength training.
Pick any deadlift variation but make sure you lift heavy enough to make the effort meaningful.
What Muscles Does Deadlift Work?
As mentioned above, the deadlift is a compound functional exercise. It works on several upper body and lower body muscles, including the following:
- Inner thigh muscles (adductor magnus)
- Gluteus maximus
- Rectus abdominis (abs)
- Lower back, mid back, and upper back
- Spinal erectors
- Latissimus dorsi (lats)
- Trapezius (traps), and
- Levator scapulae (shoulders)
As you can see, this great exercise recruits all the major muscle groups in the body. It is a full-body exercise and should be a critical component of your strength training to develop strong core muscles, build muscular strength, and promote weight loss.
How Deadlifts Change Your Body
1. Deadlifts Increase Muscle Mass
Deadlifts promote muscle growth because they involve heavyweights and a compound movement that engages many muscle groups.
If you include deadlifts in your fitness program and do them correctly, you’ll gain more lean muscle mass in your legs, back, arms, and shoulders. You will also develop better core strength.
Bigger muscles and core stability will translate into more power and endurance and better sports performance.
2. Deadlifts Improve Muscular Strength
One of the key benefits of deadlifts is that they increase overall strength in the whole body.
Deadlifts are a compound movement, and they use multiple muscle groups. You get more results for your efforts during strength training if you do deadlifts.
The effects of deadlifts are evidence-based, with several case studies supporting its benefits on strength training.
They help you build more strength in key muscles like the quads, glutes, and abs, develop core strength, improve hip stability and mobility, enhance grip strength, and give your body more definition.
3. Deadlifts Correct Muscle Imbalances
Most of us have muscle imbalances, and consequently, poor posture. For instance, in many people, the quads are the dominant muscles in the legs, and the hamstrings are weak.
This can negatively affect the entire body, including a weak core, underdeveloped glutes, hunched shoulders, and lower back pain.
Deadlifts can correct these muscle imbalances and give you a better posture.
This compound exercise also has a low back pain benefit. It strengthens the muscles involved in spinal support (erector spinae), thus giving you stronger muscles around the lumbar spine and making you less prone to back pain and other back issues.
4. Deadlifts Help You Burn More Calories
Deadlifts engage many large muscle groups in a single compound movement. This means the body has to work harder to perform the movement, causing you to burn more calories and body fat.
The body burns fat during training, but the benefits of deadlifts extend beyond your resistance training session.
Lifting weights and incorporating deadlifts into your training plan speeds up your basal metabolic rate (BMR) - this is the amount of energy you spend at rest. Meaning, you continue burning calories long after your deadlifts work is done.
5. Deadlifts Activate Your Hip Extensors
A deadlift, when done with the proper technique, can train your hip extensors with a single exercise.
The hip extensors include your hamstrings and gluteus maximus. These muscles not only have a functional but also an aesthetic appeal.
Squats and split squats are the most commonly performed exercises to train these muscles. However, research suggests that deadlifts may actually be superior compared to squats. Check this source for more information.
If you want to build an enviable physique, it’s a good idea to include both squats and deadlifts as part of a well-rounded fitness program.
6. Deadlifts Improve Athletic Performance
One of the benefits of deadlifts is that they help you develop lower body power. This exercise works on the same muscles you use for sporting movements like jumping and sprinting.
By doing traditional deadlifts or variations like a trap bar deadlift, stiff-legged deadlift, or posture deadlifts, you can generate muscle forces that will take your athletic performance to another level.
7. Deadlifts Release Anabolic Hormones
Since deadlifts work on multiple muscle groups, they lead to the release of anabolic hormones like testosterone and growth hormone.
This can have benefits such as increased strength, power, energy, and libido.
8. Deadlifts Build Endurance
If you increase your rep max (number of repetitions) and reduce the rest periods between reps while doing a standard deadlift, you can build cardiovascular endurance.
This may not be possible with the heaviest weight you can lift (and you shouldn’t try it because you’ll risk muscle damage), but you can do it with lighter weights without risking back injury.
9. Deadlifts Improve Grip Strength
A deadlift works to help you build a stronger grip because you’re lifting weights during the movement. This carries over into many other exercises that you do during your workouts.
Indeed, the strength of your grip is an indication of your overall health status. It is even used as a marker to identify older adults who are at risk of health issues.
10. Deadlifts Allow You To Lift Heavier Weights Without Risking Injury
Heavy deadlifts carry a lower risk of injury than other exercises like a leg press.
This is because this compound exercise does not involve raising the weight overhead. It means that in the event of a failed repetition, you can safely drop a heavier weight without risking injury.
This is in contrast to exercises like a bench press, where you cannot risk going too heavy because a failed rep could crush you.
Therefore, when done correctly, deadlifts can aid muscle growth by allowing you to add heavier weights to your training safely.
There are many benefits of deadlifts, including improving bone mineral density and reducing your risk of fractures. Yet more benefits include the fact that you only need basic gym equipment (a barbell and some plates) to perform this extremely beneficial compound movement.
How To Deadlift Properly?
Whether you’re a newbie wanting to build more muscle mass and starting with lighter weights, or you’re a seasoned powerlifter who does heavy deadlifts, you should learn to do it with the proper form.
A traditional deadlift is dead simple if only you know how.
The problem is that many people who are new to lifting don’t know the correct posture for this exercise. And many weightlifting experts have developed the wrong form early on and stayed with it.
Not to worry. I’ve got you covered. Here’s a step-by-step guide to performing deadlifts with great form.
There are three main steps to a deadlift:
- The setup
- The pull, and
- The lockout
- Start in the standing position in front of a barbell with your feet kept hip or shoulder-width apart. Your shins should rest against the bar with a slight bend at the knees.
- Push your glutes back and hinge forward from your hips, making sure your spine is extended.
- Grip the bar with an overhand grip. This is an alternate grip in which one hand is palm up and the other palm down. This mixed grip is safer as it prevents the bar from rolling away.
- Sink back into your hips and prepare to pull your back down, engaging your lats. This is necessary for stabilizing muscles in the low back.
- Plant your feet firmly into the ground, straighten your legs, and bring your chest up as you lift the weight.
- When standing up, pull your knees back and push your hips forward.
- Keep your spine straight, and your shoulders pulled back. Pause momentarily at the top of the movement before lowering the weight.
- Use your legs to counteract the pull of gravity and slowly push your hips back, ensuring that your spine and chest are lifted.
- Drop the weight, reset your hips, and repeat.
Here's me deadlifting a 195-lb barbell, featuring the Lacey Cut top in Cardinal.
Transform Your Body With Deadlifts
Deadlifts are often called the most efficient compound exercises for good reasons.
Making deadlifts a part of your routine can enhance the efficiency of your workouts and transform your body. Deadlifts can help take major muscle groups in your body to the next level.
You can use deadlifting to fine-tune your body composition with fat loss and achieve the physique of your dreams.