The deadlift is a popular weightlifting movement that involves lifting weight from the ground. Deadlift benefits are numerous, ranging from improved athletic performance to muscle growth and increased strength. Once you learn proper deadlifting form, you can add it to your training plan and reap the rewards.
Deadlifting can improve your vertical jump, prevent back pain and burn calories.
Proper Deadlift Technique
There are a few deadlift variations. The barbell deadlift is popular, but you can use a hex bar or a kettlebell as an alternative. There are two major variations of the barbell deadlift: wide stance and narrow stance.
- For both variations, you start with a barbell on the floor.
- Put weight plates on the bar. Bumper plates are the best kind to use since they're a standard height. With the plates on, the bar should be a few inches above the floor.
- Walk up to the bar so that your shins are almost touching.
- For a narrow stance deadlift, stand with your feet under your hips. For the wide stance, stand with your feet outside your shoulders. Point your toes out slightly.
- Stick your hips back and bend forward to grab the bar with both hands. If you're using a narrow stance, your arms go outside your legs to grip the bar. With a narrow stance, you should grip the bar directly under your shoulders.
- Sink your hips down, flatten your back and pull the bar off the ground until you're standing straight up.
- Lower it back down to the ground under control with your back flat.
Make sure the bar comes to a complete stop on the ground after each repetition. The weight should come to a dead stop, which is where the name "deadlift" comes from.
A common mistake is to bounce the weight off the ground for the next repetition instead of setting the bar down completely. This can make the exercise less challenging and rob you of some of the benefits of the deadlift exercise.
Read more: Deadlift Machine vs. Deadlift Barbell
Deadlifts Work Multiple Muscles
The deadlift works your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, abdominal muscles and lower back muscles. It also uses back muscles like the latissimus dorsi, commonly known as the lats. This exercise also engages your forearm muscles since you have to hold onto the bar to prevent it from slipping out of your hands.
There are many joints and muscles working at the same time during the deadlift, which is why it's called a compound movement. Since there are many muscles incorporated in the deadlift, you can lift more weight than many other exercises. That makes the deadlift ideal for building muscle and strength.
Compound movements like the deadlift can make your workout more efficient. Instead of doing a separate exercise for your legs and back, you can do the deadlift and work them all at the same time. That gives you extra time in your workout to train other muscles.
Deadlift Benefits for Sports
Athletes and weekend warriors alike can benefit from the deadlift. Since it strengthens so many muscles, particularly the leg muscles, it's useful for things like jumping. Even though jumping is an explosive movement and the deadlift is a slower weightlifting movement, you can use it to improve your vertical jump.
A January 2015 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed that deadlifting twice per week for 10 weeks could increase vertical jump. The researchers have found that it made the hamstrings and quadriceps muscles more powerful.
A different study published in 2017 in the International Journal of Kinesiology & Sports Science showed that explosive deadlifts helped improve regular deadlift strength and jump height. Explosive deadlifts are lighter, faster deadlifts meant to build explosiveness. In the study, this exercise was compared to the kettlebell swing.
Kettlebell swings are performed by swinging a weighted kettlebell between the legs and out in front of the body. They're an explosive movement that uses your hip muscles, much like a deadlift. This study shows that you don't even need to use heavy weights to get the vertical jump improvement from deadlifting.
Different variations of the deadlift have different benefits. The hex bar deadlift works different muscles than the barbell deadlift, for example. A May 2016 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed that the hex bar deadlift works the quadriceps muscles more than the barbell deadlift. On the other hand, the barbell variation used more hamstring and lower back muscles.
A different study published in September 2017 in Sports found that most people could lift heavier weights with the hex bar deadlift. The repetitions were also faster than when using the barbell deadlift. The increased speed might be better for athletes who are trying to be more explosive.
Read more: Deadlifts for a Bigger Butt
Health Benefits of Deadlifting
Since the deadlift involves picking a weight up from the ground, you might be concerned about your lower back. You start the deadlift from a bent-over position and, if you're not careful, you can strain your back while lifting. That's why it's important to have a professional watch you deadlift when you start learning the movement. They can check your form to make sure it's safe.
If you've already suffered a back injury, the deadlift can actually help you in the recovery process. All deadlift variations involve the lower back muscles. Strengthening these muscles can help prevent future back problems.
A greater range of motion is one of the most important deadlift benefits. This exercise gets you comfortable with picking objects up from the ground, moving around, bending over and so on. However, not everyone can safely perform the deadlift while recovering from back pain. If your lower back isn't strong enough, using the deadlift can do more harm than good.
If you're trying to lose weight, the deadlift is an important addition to your program. According to a May/June 2016 article from ACSM's Health and Fitness Journal, the deadlift burns more calories than a handful of other exercises.
The only other exercise that burns more calories is the barbell back squat. Both exercises use many muscle groups in both the lower and upper body. Doing exercises that burn more calories can boost your total calorie expenditure, which can help you lose weight over time.
- ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal: "What Are the Best Weight Room Exercises for Increasing Energy Expenditure?"
- Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: "Which Patients With Low Back Pain Benefit From Deadlift Training?"
- Sports: "Effect of a Hexagonal Barbell on the Mechanical Demand of Deadlift Performance"
- The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: "An Examination of Muscle Activation and Power Characteristics While Performing the Deadlift Exercise With Straight and Hexagonal Barbells"
- International Journal of Kinesiology & Sports Science"
- The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: "Barbell Deadlift Training Increases the Rate of Torque Development and Vertical Jump Performance in Novices"
- MOJ Yoga & Physical Therapy: "The Health and Performance Benefits of the Squat, Deadlift and Bench Press"
- The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: "A Biomechanical Analysis of the Effects of Bouncing the Barbell in the Conventional Deadlift."
- ACE Fitness: "Technique Series: How to Deadlift"