The deadlift is often referred to as the king of all exercises, and for good reason. Deadlifts are one of the biggest bang for the buck exercises in the books. They work your entire body, and you can load them super heavy!
As a result, they’re great for building strength, packing on muscle, and burning a lot of calories. In a way, they really are almost a one-stop-shop lift.
The deadlift isn’t just for bodybuilders and hardcore gym-goers either. Deadlifts are a great way to improve your posture, leg strength, and grip strength all in one.
Having a strong deadlift can translate to your everyday life in a major way. But, what are all the specific benefits of deadlifting? Keep reading and you’ll find out everything you need to know.
What is a Deadlift?
A traditional deadlift is when you step up to a loaded barbell, grab it with both hands, and pick it up. Clearly, that’s quite a bit oversimplified, but that is precisely what a deadlift is!
With a deeper look, you'll see that deadlifts require strength and coordination throughout your entire body.
This makes the deadlift one of the single greatest tests of strength and power. To go into more detail … you first need to set up for a deadlift by putting a loaded barbell on the floor in front of you.
Walk up to the barbell until the bar is touching your shins. Place your feet forward and roughly shoulder-width apart. Hinge forward at your hips to grab the bar outside of your knees while keeping your head, neck, and back straight. Bring your knees over the bar slightly and pull yourself into a shallow squat.
Breathe in deep, brace your core, and pull your shoulders down and back. Now, push through your feet while pulling the weight off the ground, sending your hips forward.
Exhale as you reach a full standing position and squeeze your glutes at the top. Then, slowly reverse the movement to bring the bar along your body, back to the ground. That’s one rep!
9 Benefits of Deadlifts
So let’s talk about these benefits. What is it that makes deadlifts so beneficial? Here are 9 of the biggest benefits of deadlifts that make them well worth the effort that goes into them.
1. Deadlifts Can Strengthen Your Posture and Core
Having strong postural muscles is one of the biggest benefits of the deadlift. Poor posture can lead to a whole slew of issues that affect our activities of daily living.
Deadlifts train your entire posterior chain, which is oftentimes neglected by our more sedentary lifestyles. These are the muscles on the back of your body like your upper back, traps, low back, glutes, and hamstrings.
If these muscles don’t get the attention they need, it can lead to postural imbalances. This is when a lot of people may experience neck pain, back pain, and even digestive distress. Not fun at all!
2. Deadlifts Can Burn a Lot of Calories
One of the biggest benefits of deadlifts is how great it can be for fat loss. The deadlift is a multi-joint exercise that requires a large amount of effort.
They actually work virtually every major muscle group in your body. Because of this, you will be using up quite a bit of calories.
On top of that, the deadlift is a great way to pack on some muscle mass. This can help support increased long-term fat loss because the more muscle you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate (1, 2).
3. Deadlifts Are Great For Full Body Strength
As I’ve said above, the deadlift is a great way to challenge your entire body, making it a great way to build total body strength.
Deadlifts are awesome when it comes to building a strong look, and a strong body. Once again, the deadlift will hit almost every major muscle group in your upper AND lower body … which is a huge plus.
4. Deadlifts Are Easily Accessible
When it comes to simplicity and ease of access, it’s hard to beat the deadlift. Barbells, sandbags, kettlebells, dumbbells … the list goes on and on.
What I'm saying is, as long as you have a heavy object, you can deadlift. As humans, deadlifts are actually a super important and functional everyday movement. Just think about anytime you have to pick something up from the ground … that’s a deadlift too!
So whether you have a gym membership or not, you can very likely deadlift something somewhere!
5. Deadlifts Can Help Reduce Low Back Pain
Low back pain is very common among both athletes and the general population. While deadlifts can be a trigger for many individuals ... for some, deadlifting can help to alleviate lower back pain when performed with proper form (3). Strengthening your lower back may just be what you need to put an end to the pain cycle.
Well, that’s exactly what deadlifts can help with. It’s also great for helping to build up your entire core.
*If you experience lower back pain, I always recommend consulting a health care professional before adding in any exercise.
6. Deadlifts Can Help You Pack on Muscle
As with any big compound lift, one huge benefit of deadlifts is packing on muscle. The deadlift is one of the best ways to load your glutes, hamstrings, and lats with heavy weight.
This makes the deadlift a great way to apply high levels of tension to those large muscle groups. When it comes to building muscle, you have to break it down first in order for it to grow back bigger and stronger!
7. Deadlifts Can Help You Grow those Glutes
Deadlifts are one of the best ways to target the muscles that extend your hips (4, 5). This also includes the gluteus maximus. So, if you’re working to build some bigger, stronger glutes … start picking up some heavy weight!
Plus, you’re going to build the lifestyle habits it takes to maintain and build upon your results long-term. If that’s not worth it, I don’t know what is.
8. Deadlifts Can Help Improve Athletic Power
The ability to hinge and create power through your hips is a direct indicator of power output and athletic development. This applies to things like sprinting, jumping and even changing directions.
Deadlifts are a great exercise for those looking to improve coordination, strength, and power through the entire body. They will improve everything from acceleration to jump height, power, and agility (6,7,8).
9. Deadlifts Have a Wide Variety of Variations
I could list a couple dozen different deadlift variations off the top of my head. Clearly, this can be a big benefit for someone who needs an alternative to conventional deadlifts.
Let’s take a quick look at four of the most common variations…
Romanian Deadlifts (RDL)
Romanian Deadlifts, or RDL’s for short, have a shorter range of motion. This variation also places more of a focus on your glutes and hamstrings, keeping constant tension in these muscles. So, if you’re looking for a good glute/hamstring exercise, you may just want to try it out!
This variation is a bit different when it comes to the set up. Your feet will be wider than a conventional deadlift, with your toes pointed outward. You will grip the bar at shoulder width, and inside your knees this time. This places more of a load on your quads and glutes, while also limiting the load on your lower back.
Trap Bar (Hex Bar) Deadlift
The trap bar is a special bar that allows you to stand in the center of a hexagon-shaped bar. This lets you move in a more natural way, making the deadlift less technically demanding. Because of this, it can help relieve strain on your lower back. The design of the bar is what makes it easier to keep your chest and shoulders tall, relieving this strain. Having an upright torso will also spread more of the load throughout your quads, glutes, and hamstrings.
Single-leg deadlifts are another great variation for building an equal amount of strength on either side of your body. You can also perform them with a dumbbell, barbell, bands, kettlebells, and even cables. This is one of my personal favorites because of the extra benefits for stabilization strength.
On top of these variations, you’ll also find variations that use different types of equipment. Most variations, however, stem from these 4 core movements.
Don’t be afraid to try different deadlift variations to find out which works best for you! Heck, you could even use multiple types of the deadlift to challenge your body in different ways.
Precautions to Deadlifting
Deadlifts have a ton of benefits, but like most exercises, they can lead to injury. This can generally happen when your form is off, or you increase the weight too fast.
That’s why I recommend starting with lighter weight to get comfortable with the movement.
As you can see, there are quite a few benefits to deadlifting. I’m a big fan, and I definitely recommend that you add some to your routine, if you haven’t already.
Now, at the same time, I understand that they aren’t for everyone. The good news is, you don’t need to deadlift to earn the results you’re after.
So … what kind of results are you looking for? Are you looking to build strength? Are you looking to gain muscle? Are you looking to lose body fat? Be healthier? Maybe you’re looking to do a combination of all of these things.
Whatever your goals may be, just know that we’re happy to help in any way we can.
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1. Aristizabal, J., Freidenreich, D., Volk, B. et al. Effect of resistance training on resting metabolic rate and its estimation by a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry metabolic map.Eur J Clin Nutr 69, 831–836 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/ejcn.2014.216
2. Westcott, W. L. (2012). Resistance Training is Medicine. Current Sports Medicine Reports, 11(4), 209–216. https://doi.org/10.1249/jsr.0b013e31825dabb8
3. Berglund, L., Aasa, B., Hellqvist, J., Michaelson, P., & Aasa, U. (2015). Which Patients With Low Back Pain Benefit From Deadlift Training? Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 29(7), 1803–1811. https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0000000000000837
4. Andersen, V., Fimland, M. S., Mo, D., Iversen, V., Vederhus, T., Hellebø, L., Nordaune, K., & Saeterbakken, A. H. (2017). Electromyographic Comparison of Barbell Deadlift, Hex Bar Deadlift, and Hip Thrust Exercises: A Cross-Over Study. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 32(3), 587–593. https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0000000000001826
5. Choe, K. S., Coburn, J. W., Costa, P. B., & Pamukoff, D. N. (2021). Hip and Knee Kinetics During a Back Squat and Deadlift. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 35(5), 1364–1371. https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0000000000002908
6. Nigro, F., & Bartolomei, S. (2020). A Comparison Between the Squat and the Deadlift for Lower Body Strength and Power Training. Journal of Human Kinetics, 73(1), 145–152. https://doi.org/10.2478/hukin-2019-0139
7. Morán-Navarro, R., Martínez-Cava, A., Escribano-Peñas, P., & Courel-Ibáñez, J. (2020). Load-velocity relationship of the deadlift exercise. European Journal of Sport Science, 21(5), 678–684. https://doi.org/10.1080/17461391.2020.1785017
8. Delvecchio, L. (2018). The Deadlift Part 1. Journal of Yoga and Physiotherapy, 5(5). https://juniperpublishers.com/jyp/pdf/JYP.MS.ID.555674.pdf