Deadlifting is one of, if not the most, important compound exercise an athlete or individual can perform. Bodybuilders use the deadlift to aid in building size and muscle definition, powerlifters aim to set records, and athletes can use the deadlift to build power and endurance in the legs and back.
Any athlete who can properly perform the deadlift can use it to their advantage. After one has mastered the basic form they can move on to various alternative deadlifts of which there are many. Deadlifting recreates movements that can be used in real life, can help build grip strength, and like most compound exercises can help improve posture.
Which Muscles Does The Deadlift Mainly Use?
When performed correctly, deadlifting primarily works the muscles in the quadriceps and hamstrings as well as a multitude of muscles in the lower back. The lift also works the abdominals, biceps, triceps, trapezius, and deltoids.
The sheer number of muscles worked by the deadlift makes it a staple in both beginner and advanced lifters. The number of variants on the traditional deadlift make it versatile no matter what you are training for.
Proper Deadlift Form
When deadlifts are performed incorrectly they can be detrimental and cause serious injury. From pulled hamstring muscles to lower back muscle and spinal injury, the form is key to health in any exercise. When first performing deadlifts you should use a lightweight and focus on the aspects of proper form. Using a mirror can help you to see any inconsistencies.
For more advanced lifters a weight belt is advised at a high weight to help support the back and spine. For the beginner it is not advised as overuse of a weight belt can lead to a weakening of the lower back and abdominals.
Image courtesy of t-nation.com
Correct Form Breakdown
- Set up the bar with appropriate weight
- Stand with your legs about shoulder width apart, feet angled slightly outward
- Deadlifts are most commonly performed using an alternate grip, meaning one hand is pronated and the other is supinated. The rough bumps on the bar is called knurling and it aids in grip. Line your hands up slightly outside your legs, about shoulder width or slightly wider.
- Bring the bar to about an inch away from the shins, keeping your back straight, lower your butt, and straighten your back
- Inhale and slowly exhale evenly throughout the upward motion.
- With a straight back, begin to pull upward and retract the scapulas, keeping the bar in a straight, vertical path. Lift using the hamstring muscles.
- As you lift, your knees and hips should straighten simultaneously
Always stretch prior to training, especially when performing such a demanding exercise as this.
It is not recommended to arch your back and push your hips forward at the top of the lift: you should straighten but not arch and thrust.
Breathing is another key step, especially at a higher weight. Proper breathing mechanics will help while improper mechanics can ruin a lift.
Never forget to keep your back straight, if you round or arch your back you run the risk of spinal injuries. Never lift using your lower back as doing so can lead to similar injuries.
If you feel any pain in the lower back, either discontinue the exercise or lower the weight. Overloading the bar is a novice mistake.
Deadlifts are easier to perform using Olympic style plates because they are typically larger making the bar sit higher off the ground.
Full List of Muscles Worked
Quadriceps (Rectus Femoris, Vastus Medialis, Vastus Lateralis, Vastus Intermedius) Sartorius, Gracilis
Hamstrings (Biceps Femoris, Semitendinosus, Semimembranosus)
Gluteus Maximus & Minimus
Multitude of back muscles including Latissimus Dorsi, Trapezius, Deltoid, and Erector Spinae,
Gastrocnemius (Medial and Lateral)
The deadlift should be a staple of any strength program, from post-rehabilitation strengthening to shattering world record lifts of over 1000 pounds. All athletes can benefit from deadlifting and all of its variants.
Due to the complex nature of the exercise, the form is far more important than weight as a beginner – this cannot be stressed enough. Once the form is mastered you can begin adding weight.
There are numerous health benefits to deadlifting, regardless of age. The number of muscles worked when the lift is done properly make it invaluable to any athlete or individual.