You’re looking for an exercise to help you take your workout to the next level and get the body you’ve always wanted.
However, you are still deciding whether deadlifts are the right exercise to do so.
I have great news! Deadlifts are one of the most powerful exercises for total body conditioning, leading to more strength, muscle mass, power, calorie burn, and reduced risk of injury. Yet, these benefits only scratch the surface when it comes to the advantages of deadlifts.
Without exaggeration, consistently incorporating deadlifts into your workout routine for a few weeks will bring incredible changes and results!
In this article, I will share the benefits of regular deadlifting and how It can transform your body. We will also go through what deadlifts are and how best to do them to maximize your results!
What Is a Deadlift?
Deadlifts are a powerful compound exercise that targets the posterior chain muscles, including the glutes, hamstrings, lower back (erector spinae/spinal stabilizers), and calves.
It’s often called the “king of exercises” in the strength training world due to its numerous benefits.
This hip-dominant exercise involves lifting the weight from a “dead start” position from the ground to standing.
How To Do Deadlifts Correctly?
- Start by placing your feet hip to shoulder-width apart and position the barbell over the centre of your feet.
- When lowering your hips, your shin should start touching the bar. Make sure this shin-to-barbell contact remains while in this position.
- Turn your knees slightly outward (in line with the toes) towards the elbows. This will help activate your hips/glutes muscles. It can also help reduce that ‘pinging’ feeling on the hips if you are dealing with it.
- Maintaining a flat foot position (tripod feet).
- Lower your hips to slightly below shoulder height, and position the bar directly underneath the posterior part of your shoulders.
- Imagine bending the barbell in half to activate your lats and set your shoulders in a safe and strong position.
- Keep your core braced and maintain a neutral spine and head position throughout the exercise. Engage your glutes, hamstrings, quads, back muscles, and core effectively.
- Before initiating the lift, take a deep breath into your belly using diaphragmatic breathing. This will create intra-abdominal pressure and increase the stability of your spine.
- Lift the weight off the floor by imagining kicking the ground away from you (like a leg press) and pushing your hips forward until you reach a standing position.
How Do Deadlifts Change Your Body? Before & After
1. It Targets Many Different Muscle Groups
This is one reason you can lift more weight while performing deadlifts than any other exercise. While I have already mentioned a few muscle groups above, there are several others that you’ll also work when performing deadlifts and can help you transform your body, including:
Upper Back and Traps
The rhomboids are responsible for retracting and depressing the shoulder blades, making them the vital muscles to maintain good form. While the traps, particularly the lower traps, stabilize the scapula, stopping it from rotating.
These are so important as these allow for proper force transfer from the legs through the hips to the barbell so that you can lift more and safer! This will allow you for consistent training and get you working towards your desired strength and physique.
Lats (The big back muscle)
The Latissimus Dorsi helps to keep the bar close to the body throughout the deadlift. This can also help reduce unnecessary load/force on the lower back, making the lift safer and more efficient. The lats also help to stabilize the shoulders and prevent them from rounding forward.
Training the lats will give men that V-shape looks; in women, developed lats will give the illusion of a slimmer waistline, an hourglass figure.
The Forearm Muscles
The forearm flexors play a crucial role in the deadlift exercise by maintaining grip strength and wrist stability, allowing for the safe and efficient lifting of heavier weights.
Deadlifts can help to tone, strengthen and shape your bottom, giving it a more defined, sculpted, and rounded look. While visual appearance may be your number one goal, the glutes have other essential roles while deadlifting. Stronger glutes can aid maximal force production, allowing you to lift heavier weights with proper form. They are also very important hip/pelvis stabilizers.
Spinal Stabilizers and Deep Core Muscles
These include the Erector Spinae, transverse abdominus, and multifidus. These muscles are responsible for proper spinal alignment and stabilization, protecting them from rounding.
Hamstrings, Quads, and Calves also have an essential role while deadlifting safely and lifting more weight. Developing these muscles will increase strength, muscle mass, and athleticism, which I’ll mention in more detail below.
2. Become Stronger and Leaner
Many bodybuilders, strong men, and athletes put their remarkable progress down to deadlifts.
David Robson said:
“While it is true that the squat does rank as one of the best size builders (and on this basis alone should be included in everyone’s program), the deadlift, in my opinion, builds the upper and lower body like no other movement.”
As mentioned, deadlifts work for multiple muscle groups at once, requiring more effort from the Central Nervous System to tell muscles when, how quickly, and how powerfully to lift the weight off the ground.
This increased stress on your nervous system forces your body to adapt by building more robust and resilient muscles.
3. You Burn More Calories, Fat and Lose Weight
Regular deadlifting can help reduce body fat and improve overall body composition. That’s because of the high energy expenditure; you burn many calories during deadlifting. Also, the increased muscle mass and strength gained through deadlifts can lead to a higher resting metabolic rate, which means you burn more calories even while watching TV (afterburn effect).
4. Deadlifting Releases Anabolic Hormones
These hormones, such as human growth hormone and testosterone, help to repair damaged muscles after exercise and stimulate the growth of new and bigger tissues.
5. Improves Posture
We have previously discussed spinal stabilizers, back muscles, and glutes. By doing deadlifts, you strengthen these ‘postural’ muscles that can help maintain a more upright posture, reduce the likelihood of slouching, and correct postural imbalances developed through poor posture, long hours of sitting, and a sedentary lifestyle.
6. Increases Bone Density
Your body naturally removes old bones and builds new ones. However, as we age, we lose bone faster, increasing the risk of fractures, breaks, osteoporosis, and other bone-affected conditions ( more common in women than men).
A study by the National Library Of Medicine showed the benefits of resistance training to bone health. This means deadlifting can stimulate the process of bone remodelling and help increase bone density! So keep in mind deadlifting is ageless!
7. Reduces the Risk of Injuries
By focusing on proper form, optimal technique, and maintaining muscle tension on every rep, you can build resilience to injuries in and outside the weight room.
I highlighted proper form, as many blame their pain on deadlifts. However, you can indeed feel the benefits of safe and regular deadlifting due to improved overall strength, bone density, and stability.
8. Increased Athletic Performance
As a result of strong post-chain muscles, you increase explosive power and endurance, which can help you with sports that involve jumping, sprinting, and even direction changing.
9. It’s Highly Functional
Deadlifts mimic movements that we do daily, like carrying shopping, picking up things from the ground, and manual labour (repetitive activity at work). Therefore deadlifting regularly can assist in daily movements.
Tips to Maximize Building Muscle With Deadlifts
Now we know many different ways how deadlift changes your body. However, without proper caution and guidance, it can also be quite taxing on your central nervous system, leaving you frustrated and overly fatigued!
To avoid these adverse effects of deadlifting and get the most out of its benefits is essential to follow these tips:
Use Correct Technique:
Using incorrect lifting techniques can put unnecessary stress on your body, particularly on your spinal discs. Over time can result in pain and injuries such as lower back and hip pain.
These injuries can hinder your training progress and stop you from exercising altogether.
So to be safe, follow my correct deadlifting tips above, complete a proper warm-up before exercise (RAMP warm-up), and cool-down static stretch post-exercise.
I also add that incorrect technique/bad form can also reduce the efficiency of your lifts, decreasing the amount of weight you can lift and the potential gains you can achieve from your training.
Powerlifter Mehdi once said:
“Proper deadlift form increases effectiveness. Moving the bar in a vertical line shortens the distance the weight travels from floor to top. This increases how much you deadlift. You’ll get stronger and build more muscle if you deadlift with proper form.”
Deload Weekly and Recover Between Workouts
To ensure a safe and effective training program, I recommended reducing the weight you lift after every three weeks. This means you progressively increase your deadlift weight for three weeks and then reduce it in the fourth week. This will increase your performance and help you manage your training load.
Also, getting sufficient rest and recovery time between workouts (2 days) and deadlift sets(1-2 minutes) is essential to allow the body to recover and avoid burnout.
Try Deadlift Variations and Modifications
You can pick your deadlift variation based on the following:
Muscle Groups to Target
For example: Sumo Deadlifts put more emphasis on your legs and quads, while conventional deadlifts work your back, glutes, and hamstrings more.
For instance, if you’re experiencing shoulder pain and aiming to improve your athletic performance, trap bar deadlifts may be a better option than conventional deadlifts. This is because your shoulders may already be experiencing wear and tear from your sport, and the trap bar allows for a more neutral grip and position, potentially alleviating some of the stress on your shoulder joints.
Anatomy and Your Current Mobility Level
If you’re having difficulty achieving proper depth, start with a box (an elevated platform) and perform partial deadlifts. Alternatively, trap bar deadlifts with higher hip positioning can allow you to adjust your torso angle and optimize your technique and work within your individual full range of motion.
It’s important to note that everyone’s range of motion may differ, so emphasizing “YOUR” full range of motion is key.
Progressive overload means increasing the weight, frequency (how often), and the number of reps and sets in your weight routine to further challenge your body. This is essential to avoid hitting a plateau in your progress, as your body is so clever to adapt to a certain stimulus and exercise.
Combining progressive overload with a well-planned recovery (and deload) will further stimulate muscle growth and increase your performance.
Work The Eccentric Movement, Not Only Concentric
Working on the eccentric (lowering phase) part of your deadlift can recruit more muscle fibres and increase muscle activation.
Controlled (eccentric) movement can teach your muscles to better engage and keep them under tension for longer leading to muscle growth, improved strength, better technique and reduced risk of injury.
Sample Training Plan
Considering deadlift variations, tempo, progressive overload, deload, reps, sets, rest.
Day 1: Heavy Deadlifts (Conventional style or Trap Bar, depending on your goal)
Week 1: Start with 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps. You can have 1-3 minutes rest between sets.
Week 2: Progress to 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps. 2-3 minutes rest between sets.
Week 3: 4-5 sets of 5 reps, working up to a 5-rep max with 2 reps in reserve (how many additional reps you could do). 3-4 minutes rest between sets.
Week 4: Deload week with lighter weight and fewer sets. 2-3 minutes rest between sets.
Notes for Day 1: For all four weeks, aim to increase the weight each week as long as you can perform the sets and reps with proper form and technique. This session’s aim is strength.
Day 2: Deadlift Alternatives with Higher Reps
Bent over row or squat focused day, so squats heavy, deadlifts lighter as it isn’t the primary movement.
Week 1: 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps of partial (rack-pull) deadlifts with a moderate weight. 1-2 minutes rest between sets.
Week 2: 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps of pause deadlifts with a moderate-heavy weight. 1-2 minutes rest between sets.
Week 3: 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps of tempo deadlifts (3-4 seconds eccentric, 1-2 seconds concentric) with a heavy weight. 2-3 minutes rest between sets.
Week 4: Deload week with lighter weights (with 2-3 reps in reserve).1-2 minutes rest between sets
Notes: for Day2: For all four weeks focus on controlled tempo, such as 2-3 seconds on the eccentric (lowering) phase. This workout’s aim is on volume and tempo, and lower weights rather than heavier weights like Day 1.
Overall, aim to deadlift twice a week, with at least one rest to two rest days in between sessions to allow for adequate recovery. Make sure to prioritize proper warm-up and cool-down to reduce the risk of injuries.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! Deadlifts can help you firm and tone various muscle groups on your body. Especially as a beginner you will be able to see gains and feel confident with more progression.
Expect at least 3 months of consistent deadlifts to see results on the scale and the barbell. You should slowly progressively overload and learn technique before going up in weight. With a proper diet, you will be able to see results.
Deadlifts are a compound exercise that targets many muscle groups. Compound exercises can stimulate various anabolic hormones and build muscle. With good nutrition, you can see muscle and strength gains quickly as a beginner.
So deadlifts overall are a go to exercise for many athletes and lifters alike. Deadlifts can change your body in many positive ways. Following a proper plan like the on above can progressively overload your muscles to grow stronger and bigger.
Deadlifts before and after a few weeks can change your body to get you into a proper lifting routine.