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Back Pain Center

Back Muscles Used During a Deadlift

author image Kevin Rail
I am very genuine and magnetic on camera, and have made numerous videos on my own for clients and other organizations that I'm affiliated with. I also have a degree in Sport Management, and multiple certifications to back up my validity. I've also been featured in three different exercise infomercials and had a speaking role in a National Lampoons movie.
Back Muscles Used During a Deadlift
A man is deadlifting with dumbbells. Photo Credit: LUNAMARINA/iStock/Getty Images

The deadlift is a strength-building exercise performed by powerlifters, football players and people looking to add size to their frames. What makes this a good addition to a workout is that it is a compound exercise. Compound exercises involve more than one joint movement, which recruits more than one muscle at a time. The back alone, particularly the lower back, sees a high amount of recruitment during deadlifts. The hamstrings and glutes are also activated. Always use proper form with the deadlift; consult a certified fitness professional if you're uncertain how to perform this exercise properly.

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Latissimus Dorsi

The latissimus dorsi is one of the largest muscles in the back. When well developed, the lats look like wings on your back. They start in the lower back and fan out to the sides just underneath the shoulder blades. During a deadlift, it is important to contract these muscles as you lift the bar off the floor and come to a standing position. A common error is made when a lifter forcefully uses his arm muscles during the lifting motion. This will take work away from your lats.


The rhomboids major and minor rest between the shoulder blades. You work these muscles when you pinch your shoulder blades together. During a deadlift, you are forced to draw your shoulders inward throughout the whole movement. This in turn prevents you from rounding your shoulders and it also helps you maintain good upper-body postural alignment. Any form of rowing exercise or pullups will also work the rhomboids.


The trapezius is a large muscle that sits at the top of the back. It actually starts right at the bottom of the skull and branches out over the collarbones and down toward the middle of the back. During a deadlift, you are forced to contract your traps to keep your shoulders back. Due to this muscle's size, exercises are often performed to target the upper, middle and lower fibers. You need to contract the entire muscle with a deadlift.

Erector Spinae

The erector spinae is a long band of muscle that starts at the base of the skull and runs down the spine to the lower back. You may also hear this muscle group referred to as the spinal erectors. The main function of the erector spinae is to extend the torso, which takes place when you bend upward during a deadlift. A stiff-leg deadlift places more emphasis on this muscle than the regular deadlift. This is performed by keeping your legs straight and bending only at the hips.

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