Dumbbell Deadlift: Variations, Muscles Worked, benefits

Different variations of the dumbbell deadlift help you strengthen the entire lower body, improve postures and build muscle mass. You can do as many as six variations of deadlift with the help of dumbbells.

The dumbbell deadlifts are helpful for those who work out at home with limited equipment.

The deadlift is a compound movement that works on multiple muscles at once, such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, and lower back.

This article will show how to perform each dumbbell deadlift variation with proper technique and step-by-step instructions, muscles worked, and their benefits.

It will be pretty helpful for you if you work out at home because you can incorporate all types of deadlifts into your dumbbell workout program to build muscles and strength.

Muscles Worked During The Dumbbell Deadlift Exercises

Here’s a list of muscles worked during the different deadlift variations, according to a study.1 Electromyographic activity in deadlift exercise and its variants. A systematic review– PubMed Journal


The hamstring is the rear part of the thigh that runs down from the glutes to the knees. It comprises three different muscles – semitendinosus, semimembranosus, and biceps femoris.

Dumbbell Romanian deadlift and stiff leg deadlift are the primary variations that will help you strengthen your hams.

The hamstrings are prone to injury.2 Hamstrings – Wikipedia And that’s why reinforcing them will reduce the risk of injuries and help you do better in your sports.

Related: Dumbbell Hamstring Exercises


The glutes are one of the largest muscles of the lower body. It is made up of two sub muscles – gluteus medius and gluteus maximus.

The gluteus maximus is highly activated during the various deadlift exercises, such as dumbbell RDL, DB Stiff-legged, and Sumo deadlift.

The brawny glutes increase performance in running, lifting, and jumping. Moreover, doing glute strengthening exercises also decreases low back pain and the risk of injury.3 The effects of gluteus muscle strengthening exercise and lumbar stabilization exercise on lumbar muscle strength and balance in chronic low back pain patients – Journal of Physical Therapy Science


The quads are one of the primary muscles worked during the several variations of dumbbell deadlift exercises.

They are the muscles of your front thighs that run down from the hips to the knees.

Quadriceps are highly responsible for doing squats and deadlifts with heavier weights.

Dumbbell deadlifts will strengthen your quads and beef up muscle mass, and build muscular legs over time.

You can also save: Top 6 Dumbbell Quad Exercises


The back muscles also engaged as one of the primary muscles during the DB deadlift workouts.

Your lats activate when you lift the dumbbells off the floor.

Dumbbell Romanian and straight-legged deadlifts strengthen your lower back, reduce pain, and gradually improve posture.

Other than the above muscles, the deadlift and its variants also work on the core, hips, shoulders, and arms. However, they are not highly engaged and work as secondary muscles.

Techniques That’ll Help You Perform Deadlifts with Correct Form

Doing an exercise with proper form and technique produces better results and minimizes the risk of injuries.

Here are some techniques that’ll help you perform different types of deadlift exercises.

  1. Your head needs to be facing slightly upward in the conventional, sumo, stiff-legged, and suitcase deadlift. Because keeping your head barely upward better your position and increase hip drive.
  2. To lift the weight off the floor, push your feet into floor while keeping your core, thighs, glutes and hips engaged.
  3. Engage your lats muscles when you lift the off the floor as it will help you maintain upright posture and don’t let your shoulders down at the time of lifting.4 The Deadlift and Its Application to Overall Performance – National Strength and Conditioning Association
  4. Keep your arms straight throughout movement and dumbbells close to your body.
  5. Extend your hips forward while returning to the standing position.

Variations Of Dumbbell Deadlifts

You can do as many as six types of deadlift variations with only a pair of dumbbells.

Here’s a quick list for you.

  1. Conventional Dumbbell Deadlift
  2. Dumbbell Stiff-Legged Deadlift
  3. Dumbbell Sumo Deadlift
  4. DB Staggered Deadlift
  5. Dumbbell one-arm Deadlift
  6. Suitcase Deadlift

Let’s see how to do each deadlift variation with the step-by-step guide.

1. Conventional Dumbbell Deadlift

The conventional or standard deadlift works on the legs and back and helps you build strength, mass, and endurance.

Dumbbell Deadlift Technique, Variations And Benefits

How to do a Conventional Deadlift with Dumbbells

  1. Place a pair of dumbbells on the floor in front of you.
  2. Stand upright in the hip-width stance. Keep your core tight, back straight, and chest up.
  3. Bend your knees and push your hips back to reach and grab the dumbbells with an overhand grip.
  4. Keep your arms straight with your palms are facing your body.
  5. Lift the dumbbells by puhsing your feet into the floor.
  6. Raise your hips and shoulders at the same range while maintaining a straight back.
  7. Your hips should slightly come forward while returning to the standing position.
  8. Hold for a moment and then return the weight to the start.
  9. Go for the second rep without leaving the dumbbells on the floor.
  10. Do as many reps as you can. Recommended reps x sets: 6-8 x 3.
  11. If you are a beginner or If you want to lift more weight, you can use a belt because it will protect your lower back from injuries.

Pro Tips

  • Keep your core tight during the whole lift.
  • Maintain a neutral spine position throughout the movement.
  • Make sure to look forward instead of looking down. Looking towards the floor will make your form poor.

2. Dumbbell Stiff-Legged Deadlift

The DB stiff-legged deadlift works on the hamstring and lower back. It increases your mobility, strength, and balance and reduces low back pain.

How to perform dumbbell stiff-leg deadlift

  1. Take two dumbbells and place them on the ground in front of you.
  2. Stand upright in the hip-width stance.
  3. Bend forward at your hips with a slight bend your knees.
  4. Bring your arms down to grab the dumbbells with an overhand grip.
  5. Pushing your feet into the floor, slowly raise your shoulders and upper body without bending your elbows.
  6. Extend your hips forward as you return to the standing position. There’s your one rep.
  7. If you want to perform more than one rep, do not leave the dumbbells on the ground. Keep holding the dumbbells in your arms and repeat for the desired number of times.
  8. Do as many reps you can. Recommended reps x sets: 6-8 x 3.

Important Instructions

  • Try to keep your leg as straight and stiff as possible throughout the entire movement.
  • Hold the dumbbells firmly and perform each rep in controlled fashion.

3. Dumbbell Sumo Deadlift

The sumo deadlift is another excellent variation of deadlift workouts you can do with dumbbells.

It works on the side part of your thighs which is skipped by the conventional deadlift.

So, if you want to build muscular legs, you can incorporate sumo deadlift into your dumbbell leg exercises.

How to do DB sumo Deadlift

  1. Place two dumbbells on the floor in a vertical position (between your legs).
  2. Stand upright with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart and toes pointing slightly out to the sides.
  3. Keep your core tight, back straight, and chest up.
  4. Slightly bend your knees and push your hips back to lower down (Your back should be straight and eyes looking forward as you go down).
  5. Grab the dumbbells with a neutral grip with your palms are facing each other.
  6. Brace your core, inhale and lift the dumbbell off the ground. And keep your elbows between your knees.
  7. Pressing your fit into the floor, stand back and extend your hips forward. There’s your one rep.
  8. Do as many reps as you can. Recommended reps x sets: 6-8 x 3.

4. Staggered Deadlift

If you want to challenge your strength and mobility, you can try split stance or staggered deadlift with a pair of dumbbells.

The staggered deadlift primarily works on hamstrings but also engages glutes and lower back.

It is a unilateral movement and allows you to train one leg at a time.

How to perform the dumbbell staggered deadlift

  1. Holding a pair of dumbbells with an underhand grip, stand upright in the split stance. Hold the maximum weight on your front foot.
  2. Keep your arms straight in front of you with your palms are facing in.
  3. Pushing your hips back, lower the weights until your torso is parallel to the floor.
  4. Pushing through your front foot heel, slowly get back to standing position. Keep the weights close to your body throughout the lift. That’s your one rep!
  5. Do as many reps as you can. Recommended reps x sets: 6-8 x 3.

Important Points

  • Squeeze your butt and quads as you return to the standing position.
  • Perform deadlifts for both legs individually.

5. Dumbbell one-arm Deadlift

You can perform a deadlift even with one dumbbell. You can incorporate it in your dumbbell workout program if you work out with your partner with a pair of dumbbells.

How to do dumbbell single-arm deadlift

  1. Stand upright in the hip-width stance with holding a dumbbell in your right hand with a neutral grip.
  2. Bend your knees and slightly push your hips back to lower the dumbbell toward the floor until your torso becomes parallel to the ground.
  3. Brace your core and push through your heel to stand up straight.
  4. Hold for a couple of seconds then reverse the movement and repeat the same steps for the second rep!
  5. Do three sets of five to six repetitions each.
  6. Maintain a neutral spine position during the entire movement.

6. Dumbbell Suitcase Deadlift

The suitcase deadlift is one of the common variations of dumbbell deadlifts. It works the same as the standard deadlift, so you can do any of the two depending on what suits you the most.

Here’s how to do the dumbbell suitcase deadlift

  1. Place a pair of dumbbells on the floor on either side of your feet.
  2. Stand upright with your feet close to each other.
  3. Brace your lower body and core and maintain flat back. That’s the start.
  4. Pushing your hips back, slight bend your knees to lower yourself.
  5. Grab the dumbbells with a neutral grip.
  6. Pressing your feet into the floor, stand up back and make sure your lower body is engaged while standing straight.
  7. Your hips should slightly come forward while returning to the standing position.
  8. When you completely stand up, hold for a couple of seconds then reverse the steps and lower the weights.
  9. Do as many reps as you can. Recommended reps x sets: 6-8 x 3.

Benefits of doing deadlifts with dumbbell

Dumbbell exercises are a part of free weight training.

Dumbbells allow a greater range of motion and enable you to modify workout movements.

Below we’ll see some of the crucial benefits of doing deadlifts with the dumbbells.

1. Range of Motion

When it comes to the range of motion, dumbbells are always the best workout equipment. Some deadlift variations such as the single-leg, suitcase, and staggered deadlift can easily be done with the dumbbells. But you may find difficulty performing these variations with the barbell.

2. Dumbbell gives you option to train one muscles at a time

Dumbbells are tiny equipment as well as they are not attached to anything. So with the help of them, you can train one arm or one leg deadlift more efficiently.

If you have one side weaker than the other, you can use dumbbells to work more on your poorer side and improve the balance.

3. Balance

Doing deadlift with the dumbbells develops your balance. Different types of dumbbell deadlifts like single leg deadlift and one-arm one-leg deadlift require stability, so doing them consistently will improve balance.

Dumbbell Deadlift vs Barbell Deadlift: Which is better?

Barbell deadlifts are better than dumbbell deadlifts.

Here’s why

  • A barbell allows you lift heavier weight than dumbbells (basically 25 to 30 per cent heavier).
  • Doing deadlifts with a barbell promote muscles growth more than dumbbells.
  • Barbell deadlifts increase more power and strength than dumbbells.

However, if you don’t have a barbell and weight plates or you work out at home with dumbbells only, then dumbbell deadlift and its variations would be an excellent option for training the entire lower and rear body.

Depending on what suits you the most, you can include some of the above deadlift variations in your dumbbell home workout routine.

How often should you deadlift?

You can dumbbell deadlifts every day if you like. There are several variations of dumbbell deadlift, so you can do them on different days.

However if you workout at the gym and lift pretty heavy, then you can limit your deadlift frequency once to twice a week.


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Murshid Akram
I'm an online personal trainer, fitness blogger, and fitness enthusiast. I love researching and writing about exercise and nutrition. I share science-based, practical, and logical information that can help you achieve your desired fitness goal.

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