Learn > Deadlift Technique > Do Deadlifts Thicken Your Waist? (No, Here’s Why)

Do Deadlifts Thicken Your Waist? (No, Here’s Why)

A narrow waist has become the present day idea and you may be able to get one with our help. 

But, the question is do deadlifts thicken the waist or is it purely genetic? 

I believe the narrow waist notion all started in the classic 1970s fitness and Bodybuilding scene. Stars like Frank Zane promoted the small waist as the gold standard for aesthetics.

In fact, many actually went against the idea of deadlifting. Moreover, the deadlift was believed to somehow thicken the waist. 

To answer the question, we have discussed;

  • “Do Deadlifts Thicken Your Waist?” 
  • “Why Do A Lot Of High Level Powerlifters Have Thick Waists Then?”
  • “What Influences Waist Thickness?” 
  • “How To Make The Waist Appear Smaller?” 

Do Deadlifts Thicken Your Waist? 

The short answer is NOPE! not at all. Could the waist get thicker during your lifting journey? Possibly, here’s why. 

Many lifters opt for a bulking type of diet. While observing such diets you are essentially eating a lot of food, which drives a caloric surplus (more calories than your body needs).

Do deadlifts thicken your waist?

Although you may get stronger from the extra size and energy, it is highly likely that the waist would get thicker from fat mass (1).

A lot of lifters assume that exercises like the deadlift have made their waist thicker from growing the abdominal and core. The fact of the matter is that these muscles do not really grow significantly. For this reason, I am prepared to say that this is NOT the case. 

Read more about Doing Deadlifts Every Day

Why Do a Lot of High Level Powerlifters Have Thick Waists Then? 

A lot of the time, gym goers do not take  research into account. They tend to rely on anecdotes and then start pointing fingers at high level powerlifters with thick waists.  

I believe it is actually the other way round. To deadlift unprecedentedly heavy weights, you need a large frame that can pack on lots of muscle. A large frame means large hips and thereby a thicker waist. You won’t see a lion swinging on vines. 

Furthermore, powerlifting is not really judged on aesthetics. So some powerlifters tend to carry some body fat around the midsection to hit their weight classes. 

Many powerlifters only get into powerlifting because of all of the compliments they get about their overall frame size. They have the “big guy” mind set. 

This is not to say that all powerlifters have a thick waist. There are many other genetic variables that make good powerlifters. 

What Influences Waist Thickness? 

You kind of got a little idea of what may cause waist thickness, but let’s discuss this in more detail.

Hip Bone Width 

The size of your hip joint is entirely genetic. These bones do not grow significantly after adulthood. So if you genetically have larger hip bones, chances are that your waist would appear thicker (2)

Body Fat Percentage & Distribution 

Those who have a higher body fat percentage say 25-30%, chances are that the waist would be thicker

It makes sense right? Hence why waist thickness measurements are used as a variable to determine risk of weight related illnesses (3)

Some individuals genetically tend to hold more fat internally and around the waist. This can be regardless of being at “normal” body fat percentage.  

Growth of Internal Organs 

Have you ever seen a Bodybuilders with that stomach popping out? This has unofficially been coined as “palumboism”, “bubble gut”, “Bodybuilders Belly”, and “Muscle belly”. 

This was first made famous by amatuer Bodybuilder Dave Polumbo, hence the name “palumboism”. Dave was the first bodybuilder to present the round thick gut in the 90s. We know this because Dave was always open about his PEDs and HGH use. 

This waist thickness is thought to be the growth of organs like the stomach and  intestines. This is commonly the result of drug abuse of HGH and insulin. 

This gut issue is reversible by eliminating HGH and insulin. Fortunately, most of you should not have to worry about organ growth. At the very least, just take this as a warning

How to Make the Waist Appear Smaller? 

Even if you have poor waist genetics, all is not lost. There are ways in which you can make/keep your waist smaller or at least appear smaller. 

Lose Body Fat

In my opinion, an ideal body fat percentage is between 12-16%. So, simply lose body fat and you should notice the waist getting thinner. If you knew how to lose weight you would? Great! We can help you. 

So the idea is to drive a caloric deficit. A caloric deficit is giving yourself enough daily calories that would promote weight loss (4)

Ideally, you would need to consult with a fitness or health care professional who can help put together a personalized plan based on your metabolism.  

In general, you would need to eat less calories from food. You could favor food types that could keep you fuller and take more calories to digest (i.e., dietary protein and fiber). 

You may also want to ramp up the amount of calories you burn from exercise and daily activities. 

Cardio exercise specifically has shown to get rid of visceral fat independent from calories. In fact, visceral fat is the dangerous fat that gets wrapped around the the organs inside the belly. Losing this type of fat can give the appearance of a thinner waist and gut. 

My favorite exercise to burn calories and body fat is the StepMaster. It works the muscles of the legs and burns hundreds of calories. During weight loss phases, I do 15-20 minutes of StepMaster per day, burning ~200-300 extra calories each day. 

Grow the Shoulder Muscles

Sometimes the way the waist looks is just an illusion. You read that correctly! It is an illusion (2)

Imagine that your shoulders are significantly larger in ratios compared to the width of the waist. The waist would look smaller right? If this is something you desire, you could focus on specific strength training lifts. 

Even though collar bone and rib cage length does not change, you may be able to grow the muscles (2)

Ideally, we would be looking at making the shoulder wider. So the type of exercises that you may want to include are: 

  • Dumbbell shoulder press 
  • Barbell overhead press
  • Dumbbell shoulder flys 
  • Wide grip barbell upright rows
  • Dumbbell upright row

For muscle growth, I typically recommend working at an intensity of ~70-85%. This would put you in the ballpark of 6-12 reps. When it comes to the number of sets I like to go for 3-6 sets per exercise. 

Learn more about 5 Reasons for Deadlift Shoulder Pain

Improve Intra Abdominal Control 

Improving intra abdominal control! In my personal experience it works. In fact, strengthening the intra abdominal muscles can allow you to control the waist in a.k.a the “vacuum”. 

Without a doubt this makes the waist appear a lot smaller. Hence why it is often used in Bodybuilding (5) see if you can pick it out. 

Do NOT Take HGH & Insulin

My Rule #1: stay away from illegal drugs like HGH, insulin. In my opinion, these drugs are unsafe, especially without being administered by a health care professional. 

Not only that, drugs like HGH and insulin are risky for that not so pretty looking bubble gut. 

Final Thoughts

So let’s conclude that it’s a wife’s tail! Do deadlifts thicken your waist?

The deadlifts do NOT thicken the waist. 

You might see high level powerlifters with a thick waist. This is genetic and possibly helped them to get to a high level. 

Waist size is largely influenced by the genetics of fat distribution and hip bone size. 

However, there are ways to make the waist smaller or at least appear smaller. You could;

  • Lose body fat 
  • Grow the shoulder muscles 
  • Improve Intra abdominal control 
  • Do NOT take HGH and Insulin

Frequently Asked Questions 

How can I achieve a smaller waist measure?

Lose body fat around the midsection with diet and exercise.

Can deadlifts take away fat around the stomach?

Maybe! Deadlift can help burn calories which in turn can drive a caloric deficit, followed by weight loss.

Is there any way to change my waist genetics?

I don’t recommend it, but I have heard of cases where people have gone through fat reduction and hip surgery.

What influences waist thickness the most?

Without a doubt, hip joint size. This is purely genetic.


  1. Despres, J., &., Lemieux, I. “Abdominal obesity and metabolic syndrome” Nature. 2006; 444(7121): 881–887
  1. Team 3DMJ (2012) “Bodybuilding genetics?” Available at: https://youtu.be/RkFN_u5niCM (Accessed 22/02/2023)
  1. British Heart Foundation (2023). “Why your waist size matters” Available at: https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/medical/measuring-your-waist#:~:text=What%20should% (Accessed 22/02/2023) 
  1. Stressed, B., Spreitzer, A., Haber, P. “Fat loss depends on energy deficit only, independently of the method for weight loss” Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism. 2007 51 (5): 428–432
  1. OSGFitness (2022) “Classic Physique Beef” Available at: https://youtube.com/shorts/a0kYlyV5EWE?feature=share (Accessed 22/02/2023) 

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Wasim Kagzi

Hi! I’m Wasim Kagzi and this is where my team and I write and research about everything fitness. On MuscleLead we share all the helpful tips, techniques, and advice we've learned over the years. Personally, I've been lifting for more than 10 years and hope to eventually become a Certified Personal Trainer. My goal is to compete in weightlifting and train to be the strongest version of myself.

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