Monday, October 1, 2018

Benefits of the Deadlift: Power, Muscle, and Performance

Considered the king of exercises by many fitness experts, the deadlift is a compound movement capable of helping you achieve a variety of fitness goals involving strength, power, and muscle mass. 

There’s a good chance you’ve heard this before as every fitness-related website and magazine seems to say the same things about the deadlift. Is there justification in what they say about the deadlift? Is it really as incredible of an exercise as it’s made out to be?

Let’s take a closer look at the deadlift to see if it can help you achieve your fitness goals and whether it’s worthy to be called the king.

What is the Deadlift?

On paper, the deadlift is pretty straight forward: it’s an exercise performed with a barbell that begins from the ground and ends in a lockout of the hip flexors. In reality, the deadlift is anything but simple.

This multiple muscle activator exercise requires cooperation from major muscle groups, joints, and connective tissue in order to move the barbell from the ground properly. It can be performed without weights; however, for the real benefits of strength, power, and muscle, which I’ll talk more about below, you need to add in the extra weight. 

What Muscles Do Deadlifts Work?

As mentioned above, the deadlift is a compound exercise, which means that it activates several muscle groups – primary and secondary movers – at the same time:

·      Hamstrings
·      Quadriceps
·      Back
·      Calves
·      Glutes
·      Hip flexors
·      Abdominals
·      Biceps
·      Forearms

One of the most unique aspects of the deadlift is that there are different types, which will emphasize some muscle groups more than others.

Other Types of Deadlifts

Alternate Grip Deadlift

·      A traditional deadlift but instead of a two-overhand grip, you use an over / under hand grip

Hex Bar Deadlift

·      Uses a Hex Bar
·      Better for generating maximum power
·      Safer on the lower back and knees

Sumo Deadlift

·      Wide stance
·      Focuses more on the quadriceps and hip abductors

Romanian Deadlift

·      Almost exclusively focuses on the hamstrings
·      Safer than the traditional deadlift but not great for building power

Benefits of the Deadlift

Spikes Metabolism
·      Since you’re working several major muscle groups simultaneously, you are sending your metabolic rate through the roof. The best part is that you don’t need a lot of weight to trigger this benefit. Simply moving through a deadlift with a barbell may be more than enough to challenge your body and increase metabolism. This has obvious benefits for weight loss and cutting season.

Increases Growth Hormone Production
·      If you’re a guy over the age of 30 and you’re looking for a way to naturally increase your testosterone, it’s time to start doing deadlifts. The deadlift exercise has been shown to promote the production and release of growth hormone in the body, namely testosterone for men.

Builds Power
·      The deadlift is one of the best movements to develop raw power. As a hip hinging movement, the deadlift demands that your glutes and hip flexors play a major role. Properly performing a deadlift will dramatically increase the amount of force you can generate from the ground. This translates into huge gains in strength and overall power.

Develops Muscle Mass
·      One of the most popular benefits of deadlifts is its incredible ability to help you build serious muscle mass. The exercise itself is ideal for achieving muscle hypertrophy as it involves the legs and back. What’s more, the increase in growth hormone may also help you build muscle as testosterone, in particular, is a very anabolic hormone. This means that it promotes overall growth. In other words, deadlifts will support muscle building for all of your other workouts.

How to Properly Perform a Deadlift

This is extremely important as the deadlift can quickly lead to strain or injury when not performed correctly. Since it activates several muscle groups at the same time, if you have improper form, you can increase your risk for over compensation. When one muscle group takes over for another during an exercise, you’re asking for trouble.

There are three phases when performing a deadlift: the set-up, the driving force, and the lock-out. Here’s how to master the proper form of a deadlift:

Setup the Deadlift
·      Approach a barbell so that your shins are on or near the bar. Make sure your feet are shoulder-width apart.
·      Keep the chest up as you drop the hips towards the floor.
·      Tighten the core, pinch the shoulder blades together, and grab the barbell.
·      Keep the back straight and check your knee placement before starting. Make sure they aren’t hanging over the bar.

Driving Force

·      Simultaneously push through the heels, drive the hips forward, and keep the back straight.
·      This is the hip hinge I mentioned earlier and this is where you generate the most power. 
·      Keep your core tightened throughout the movement.

Lockout the Deadlift

·      Drive and engage your hips forward with a completely straight back.
·      Tighten your glutes and hold this position.
·      Slowly, reverse the movement, keeping your back straight and return to the starting position.

How to Incorporate the Deadlift in Your Workout

It will depend upon your personal fitness goals but the deadlift can be incorporated into one of the following types of workouts:

·      Leg day
·      Full body workout
·      Power-focused workout
·      The top three workout (deadlift, squat, bench)
·      Isolation workout

Best Deadlifting Workout

When I perform deadlifts, I prefer to use a hex bar deadlift while utilizing a lifting methodology called decline and incline pyramid sets. If you want to vastly improve your power, strength, and muscle, try this workout:


·      10 minutes of cardiovascular exercise
·      5 minutes of total body stretching
·      Examples: Stepper or bicycle


Deadlift Workout:

Hex Bar Deadlift: 
·      15 repetitions using 65% of your one repetition maximum (for the amount of weight)
·      12 repetitions using 70% of your one repetition maximum
·      10 repetitions using 75% of your one repetition maximum
·      8 repetitions using 80% of your one repetition maximum
·      6 repetitions using 85% of your one repetition maximum
·      4 repetitions using 90% of your one repetition maximum

Traditional Deadlift
·      4 repetitions using 90% of your one repetition maximum
·      6 repetitions using 85% of your one repetition maximum
·      8 repetitions using 80% of your one repetition maximum

Sumo Deadlift
·      15 repetitions using 65% of your one repetition maximum
·      12 repetitions using 70% of your one repetition maximum
·      10 repetitions using 75% of your one repetition maximum


What is your favorite deadlift? Have you been using the deadlift for a while? What results have you noticed? Tell me in the comments below!


Michael B. Zweifel, Andrew D. Vigotsky, Bret Contreras, Wycliffe W. Njororai Simiyu. Effects of 6-week squat, deadlift, or hip thrust training program on speed, power, agility, and strength in experienced lifters: A pilot study. Journal of Trainology 2017;6:13-17.

Berglund, L, Aasa, B, Hellqvist, J, Michaelson, J, and Aasa, U. Which patients with low back pain benefit from deadlift training? The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 29(7): 1803- 1811, 2015.

Swinton, PA, Stewart, A, Agouris, I, Keogh, JWL, and Lloyd, R. A biomechanical analysis of straight and hexagonal barbell deadlifts using submaximal loads. J Strength Cond Res 25(7): 2000-2009, 2011.

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