The ultimate guide to deadlifting

The ultimate guide to deadlifting


Deadlifts are fundamental in any strength training program due to the myriad of benefits they offer. This compound exercise recruits multiple muscle groups and helps to improve core strength, coordination, and overall body strength.

In this article, we will provide an in-depth guide on how to perform deadlifts with proper form to maximize their benefits and minimize the risk of injury.

The Benefits of Deadlifts

Deadlifts engage various muscle groups, including:

  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Trapezius
  • Core muscles
  • Back
  • Hips

The intensity of this exercise stimulates muscle growth, enhances coordination, and promotes better spinal alignment. Performing deadlifts regularly can improve your posture, boost lipolysis (i.e., fat burning), and reduce the risk of injury in daily activities. Moreover, deadlifts can help you develop mental toughness and discipline, as they require focus and determination to execute with proper form.

Determining the Right Number of Repetitions

There is no universal answer to the number of repetitions you should perform when deadlifting, as it depends on your fitness level and the amount of weight you are lifting.

Beginners should focus on maintaining proper form and start with 1–6 deadlifts per set, eventually working up to 3–5 sets. On the other hand, advanced athletes using heavy weights should perform 5–8 repetitions per set for up to 5 sets.

For those who want to focus on building strength, it is essential to progressively increase the weight lifted over time. You can achieve this by gradually adding more weight to the barbell or by increasing the number of repetitions or sets performed.

Performing a Deadlift with Proper Form

To perform a deadlift correctly, follow these steps:

  1. Stand behind a standard 45-pound barbell with your feet shoulder-width apart (almost touching the bar).
  2. Keep your chest lifted and sink back into your hips while maintaining a straight back.
  3. Bend over and grip the barbell, with both hands facing down (or one palm down and the other up).
  4. Press your feet into the floor and sink your hips back.
  5. Maintain spinal alignment and push your hips forward into a standing position.
  6. Finish standing with your shoulders back, knees slightly knocked out, and legs straight.
  7. Hold the bar with straight arms.
  8. Return to the initial position by keeping a straight back, bending your knees, pushing your hips back, and squatting down until the bar touches the floor.
  9. Repeat the exercise.

It is crucial to maintain proper form throughout the deadlift to prevent injuries and ensure that the targeted muscle groups are engaged. If you are unsure of your form or require guidance, consult a personal trainer or fitness professional for assistance.

Deadlift Variations

Aside from conventional deadlifts, there are several variations that target different muscle groups:

Romanian Deadlift

This variation strengthens the posterior chain muscles (e.g., hamstrings, gluteus maximus) and targets core muscles and the lower body. It is especially useful for individuals with weak cores, chronic back pain, and lower-body musculoskeletal issues.

Kettlebell Swing

This variation focuses on explosive movements driven by the legs rather than the shoulders, propelling the kettlebell to the height of your shoulders or chest. It also improves leg strength and power while engaging the core muscles and building cardiovascular endurance.

Pistol Squat on Bosu

This exercise challenges balance and stability while working the muscles of the lower body. It will help you with single-leg strength, coordination, and flexibility, making it an excellent addition to your fitness routine.

Sumo Deadlift

This variation features a wider stance and a closer grip on the barbell, targeting the glutes, hamstrings, and inner thigh muscles to a greater extent than the conventional deadlift. The sumo deadlift can be particularly beneficial for individuals with limited hip mobility or those looking to emphasize lower body development.

Trap Bar Deadlift

The trap bar deadlift uses a specialized trap bar that allows for a more neutral grip and places less stress on the lower back. The trap bar deadlift can be an excellent alternative for individuals with lower back issues or those who prefer a more comfortable grip position.

Incorporating these variations into your strength training routine can help to target different muscle groups, address weaknesses, and prevent boredom or plateaus in your fitness progress.

Warm-up and Stretching

Before performing deadlifts, it is crucial to warm up your muscles and joints with dynamic stretches and light cardio exercises. A proper warm-up can help to increase blood flow, improve mobility, and reduce the risk of injury during the workout.

Examples of dynamic stretches and warm-up exercises include:

  • Leg swings
  • Hip circles
  • Bodyweight squats

After completing your deadlift workout, be sure to cool down and stretch the muscles you've worked. Static stretching can aid in muscle recovery, reduce soreness, and improve flexibility. Target the hamstrings, glutes, lower back, and hips with stretches like the seated hamstring stretch, pigeon pose, and the supine figure-4 stretch.

Safety Considerations

When performing deadlifts or any other strength training exercise, it is crucial to prioritize safety.

Here are some tips to help you stay safe while deadlifting:

  • Always use proper form and technique.
  • Warm up and stretch before and after your workout.
  • Start with a weight that is appropriate for your fitness level.
  • Progressively increase weight, repetitions, or sets as you become stronger.
  • Listen to your body and don't push yourself beyond your limits.

If you experience pain or discomfort, stop the exercise and consult a fitness professional or healthcare provider.

Takeaway message

Deadlifts are an essential compound exercise that should be included in any strength training routine. By performing deadlifts with proper form and incorporating variations, you can maximize their benefits and improve your overall fitness and strength.

Additionally, don’t forget about warming up and stretching. They are vital components of a successful deadlift workout, as they help to prevent injury.

Remember to check out our fitness journals which will help you measure your personal records to see how far you have come in your deadlifting journey.

Back to blog