Deadlifts are one of my favorite lower-body exercises. There are a ton of benefits to doing them, and there are several different variations of deadlifts to keep your workout interesting and to keep you progressing and building muscle.

Reason 1: You work a lot of different muscles with one movement (called a compound or complex exercise). Deadlifts work your lower body (calves, quads, hamstrings, butt), and your upper body (arms, core, back, trapezius and shoulders).

Reason 2: You burn a lot of calories doing deadlifts because they work so many muscles and because you could potentially be lifting a lot of weight doing them. For example, I’ve done deadlifts using a 55 lb kettle bell.

Reason 3: Deadlifts can improve your posture since they strengthen your core and back muscles, and can help you prevent lower back pain and injury.

Reason 4: Deadlifts sculpt your entire core—your obliques, upper and lower rectus abdominus and transverse abdominus.

  • Rectus abdominus – Otherwise known as the six-pack or the abs, this muscle is right at the top-most layer of your ab muscles which is why doing lots of crunches and other exercises that work it can result in the definition of the muscle. Its job is to hold your organs in and flex your lumbar spine.
  • Obliques (internal and external) – The external obliques are the muscles that run down the sides of your abdomen and they spring into action every time you bend or twist your body. Internal obliques are located underneath the external obliques and sit above the transverse abdominus. Your obliques support the abdominal wall, assist in forced breathing and rotates and flexes your trunk with help from other muscles.
  • Transverse abdominus – This is the deepest of all your ab muscles and it does a complete wrap-around of your mid-section, pulling it in like a corset.

Reason 5: Deadlifts help you get a better ass, since they work the hamstrings and glutes.

Reason 6: Deadlifts improve total body strength, so you can lift heavier things much more easily. Have you ever lifted a heavy box or a 40-lb child? You’re deadlifting.

Reason 7: Deadlifts add a cardio component by raising your heart rate and improving your ability to transport and use oxygen during exercise (that’s an indicator of your level of cardiovascular fitness).

Reason 8: Deadlifts require limited equipment (all you need is a heavy dumb bell, barbell with weights or kettle bell) and are extremely safe when done with the correct form (see notes below on how to do a deadlift correctly).

How to do a deadlift

Before you attempt a deadlift, especially if you’re using a heavier weight, take the time to learn proper form so you prevent injury and see much better results.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart in front of a barbell, dumb bell or kettle bell.
  2. Squat down, sticking your butt back and bending your knees, gripping the barbell, the dumb bells or the handle of the kettle bell, so that your forearms touch the outside of your thighs.
  3. Tighten your core, stick out your butt, puff out your chest and keep your back straight throughout the entire movement. Do not arch your back here, because it puts unnecessary stress on it and can cause injury.
  4. Hold the bar, dumb bells or kettle bell with an overhand grip (palms facing in). Drive your heels into the ground and, using your legs and glutes, straighten your legs and stand up as you exhale (you’ll inhale on the way back down). At the top of the move, you’ll squeeze your shoulder blades together and squeeze your glutes together, holding that position for 1 second. But be sure not to arch your back.
  5. Slowly return the weight to the ground by bending at the knees and simultaneously leaning your torso forward. Keep your back straight during the descent. 
  6. Rest the weight on the ground for 1 second before you start the next lift. Adjust your grip if necessary. 

When you’re starting out, use a lighter weight and practice getting the form right. As you get stronger and you perfect your form, start adding weight.

Barbell DeadliftBarbell deadlift Kettle Bell DeadliftKettle bell deadlift

Other Varieties of Deadlifts

Sumo Deadlift Romanian Deadlift (stiff-legged) Single-leg Deadlift
Start with a very wide stance, about twice as wide as a barbell, dumb bell or kettle bell deadlift. Because of your leg position, more of the stress will be on your quads and inner thighs, and it takes the stress off of your lower back. Romanian deadlifts are great for building hamstrings and a perky butt.  The form is the same as regular deadlifts, except that you won’t bend your knees. Bend at the hips and slowly glide the barbell, dumb bells or kettle bells up your thighs—without squatting or lowering your butt—until the bar, bells or kettle bell is just below your knee caps. You’ll feel a big stretch in the back of your hamstring. Single-leg deadlifts are great for hamstrings and glutes, and they challenge your core since you’re balancing on one leg. Having to balance yourself will also increase the workload on your calves. Stand with feet together and hands just in front of thighs. Lift leg slightly so foot is just off floor. Lower torso forward and downward while raising lifted leg back behind. Keep your back straight and the knee of your supporting leg slightly bent. Keep your hip and knee of the leg you’re lifting extended throughout the movement. Once you feel the stretch or your hands reach the floor, return to starting position by raising your torso while lowering your lifted leg. Straighten the knee of your supporting leg as your torso becomes upright.
 Sumo_deadlift  Romanian deadlift  Single leg deadlift



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