The Deadlift Workout: Form, Execution, Variations, and Benefits

The deadlift is unarguably one of the most effective resistance training or compound workout. It works on several muscles at once, such as the hamstring, glutes, quads, adductors, back, core, and the numerous synergist muscles in the upper body. In this article, I’m going to share all about the deadlift workout, such as its proper form, how to do it with step-by-step instructions, the different types, and variations with their benefits as well as the deadlift alternatives.

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced gym-goers, knowing the proper form of the deadlift is necessary for a safe and efficient workout. It is one of the greatest workouts that work of almost every muscle of the posterior chain.

I love to perform a different variation of the deadlift because the deadlifts increase my overall body strength, boost my stamina and endurance power, and improve my grip strength.

Deadlifts are advanced level training that requires proper techniques and great strength. Many people fear doing deadlifts because of injuries. However, deadlifts done in a proper technique can increase the overall strength of the body.

Why is the deadlift called “deadlift”?

It is called a deadlift because we lift a dead weight from the ground using a barbell or dumbbell. According to some sources, the deadlift originated in the 6th century somewhere in Greece, however, there was no official name at that time. The deadlift term mainly originated after 1990 and the first person who lift 1008 lbs deadlift was Andy Bolton. And the current world record of deadlift (1108.2 lbs) was lifted by Eddie Hall in 2016.


The Deadlift Form

According to an article published by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), here are some important tips related to the deadlift form that you must implement while performing the deadlift exercise.

  1. For lifting the weight, slightly bend your knees, and push your hips back (but do not arch your back).
  2. Your eyes need to be looking slightly upward because it allows your back to stay in a neutral position throughout the movement. Doing so also allows your hips and leg extensors to work at the same time.
  3. Keep the barbell close to your body during the entire movement because it allows your legs to generate more power while lifting. Additionally, holding the bar away from the body increases the risk of injury.
  4. Before lifting the bar, take a deep breath.
  5. Keep your core tight during the whole lift.
  6. Your muscles of the back, especially the lats need to fully activate at the time of lifting the bar.
  7. Try to push your knees apart as it can help your glutes remain active during the entire lift.

When it comes to the deadlift, form is everything. Doing deadlift with proper form is essential for safe and effective workout.

Whether you are a beginner or an intermediate, if you perform deadlift with incorrect form, you’ll likely to get injured, especially with back injuries or pain. That is why, it is essential to know the correct deadlift form and technique.

So, the above points I shared will help you perform deadlift workout with precise form.


Deadlift Workout Execution: How To Deadlift (Conventional)

  • Place a bar on the floor along with your desired weight.
  • Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart and shin close to the bar.
  • Slightly bend your knees and push your hips back just enough to reach and grab the bar.
  • Hold the bar firmly with both hands with a hook grip. And make sure the width between your hands is adjusted so that the arms stay just outside the knees.
  • Keep your arms straight with your palms are facing you. And your hands must be equally far from the ends of the barbell. That’s the set-up.
  • Take a long breath, keep your abdominal muscles tight, and pushing through your legs, lift the bar with your full strength. And remember activating your lats first.
  • Keeping your spine in a neutral position, raise your hips and shoulders at the same time and range.
  • If you are a beginner or If you want to lift more weight so better use a belt because the belt can protect your back and waist from injuries.
  • Perform as many reps and sets as you can.

The conventional deadlift targets all the responsible lower body muscles. It engages all the muscles at once which provides many benefits from improving body postures and grip strength to increasing whole-body lifting strength. The deadlift also acts as a fat burner as it burns more calories than any other compound exercise and may reduce body fat without losing actual muscles.


Different Types and Variations of the Deadlift Workout

1. Romanian Deadlift

Difficulty: Intermediate

Equipment Needed: Barbell, Weight plates, Gym Belt

Muscles Worked: Back, Gluteus Maximus, Hamstrings and Adductors

Focus: Extension of hips and the knee from the posterior muscles

How to do a Romanian Deadlift or RDL

Romanian Deadlift
  • Hold a barbell along with your desired weight in front of your thighs with an overhand grip, hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, and palms facing the body.
  • Maintain a slight bend in the knees and keep your feet hip-width apart.
  • Keep your chest up, slightly lower your shoulder blades down toward the back, and maintain a neutral spine position. That’s your starting position.
  • Brace your core, inhale and start lowering the weight as low as possible toward the floor with a slight bend in your knees. Do not bend or round your back during the entire movement.
  • Hold for a sec, then pushing through your heels, press the hips forward, and slowly lift the weight to the starting position. That’s one rep!
  • Perform as many reps and sets as you can.
  • Squeeze your glutes and hamstrings until you completely stand up.
  • Keep your back straight and the barbell close to the body throughout the movement.

Benefits of Romanian Deadlift

The Romanian deadlifts enhance muscle strength especially of the lower body, erector spine, and core. It also improves body posture, grip strength as well as prevents injuries caused by lower back stress. The RDL also teaches the proper movement of standing hip flexion and extension which is crucial for performing squat safely and effectively.

Knowing the proper form of Romanian deadlift reduces the risk of injury while lifting heavy objects in day-to-day activities.

To know more about the RDL, check out a great piece of an article published by the American Council of Exercises (ACE).

Related: Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift: How To, Muscles Worked, Benefits And Alternatives


2. Sumo Deadlift

Difficulty: Intermediate

Equipment Needed: Barbell, Weight plates, Dumbbell (if you perform DB Sumo Deadlift)

Muscles Worked: Gluteus Maximus, Hamstrings Quadriceps and Adductors

Focus: Strengthening the quads, glutes, hamstrings, and other muscles of the posterior chain as well as build strength and muscle mass.

How to do a Sumo Deadlift

Sumo Deadlift
  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and turn your feet slightly out to the sides.
  • Externally rotating your hips and Hold a barbell along with your desired weight in front of your thighs with an overhand grip, palms facing the body.
  • Brace your core and start lowering the weight (your elbows between the knees) toward the floor by bending your knees.
  • Hold for a second or two and then return to the starting position.
  • Keep your back straight during the movement.
  • Perform as many reps and sets as you can.

Benefits of Sumo Deadlift

The sumo deadlift highly effective for hips and glutes. It improves overall body stability and body postures. The sumo deadlift put less stress on the erector spine that prevents you from any injuries. Not only this, but it is also great for core muscles strength and stability. The sumo deadlift is another great variation of the deadlift that can be used to increase overall lifting strength.

Related: Sumo Deadlift: Form, Execution, Benefits & More


3. Hex-Bar Or Trap Bar Deadlift

Difficulty: Beginner to Intermediate

Equipment Needed: Trap bar, Weight plates, Gym Belt

Muscles Worked: Back, Gluteus Maximus, Hamstrings

Focus: Increasing muscular gain, power and enhancing pulling and grip strength.

How to do a hex bar or trap bar deadlift

Trap Bar Deadlift
  • Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart. Push your hips back, bend your knees and lower yourself to grab the handles of the trap bar.
  • Keep your chest up and shoulder blades down so that you can lift the weight powerfully.
  • Raise your hips and shoulders at the same range while maintaining a straight back.
  • Take a long breath and lift the bar with full strength.
  • Hold for a couple of seconds then slowly lower the weight back on the floor. That’s one rep!
  • Perform as many reps and sets as you can.
  • Keep your core tight during the whole lift.

Benefits of hex bar or trap bar deadlift

The hex bar deadlift is comparatively easier and safer than any other form of the deadlift. It put less stress on the lower back which is important for people with back issues, Hence it is safer for the back and prevents any injuries. A trap bar deadlift is a versatile form of the deadlift that allows you to lift more weight and perform extras reps and sets.

Top 2 Trap Bars under 100 bucks for home as well as gym workout

  1. Everyday Essentials Olympic 2-Inch Hex Weight Lifting Trap Bar, 1000-Pound Capacity: Suitable for Home as well as Gym
  2. CAP Barbell Olympic Trap Bar, Hex Bar, Shrug Bar, Deadlift Bar for home and gym workout


4. Snatch Grip Deadlift Or Wide Grip Deadlift

Difficulty: Advanced

Equipment Needed: Barbell, Weight plates, Gym Belt

Muscles Worked: Traps, Hamstrings, and Upper Back

Focus: Engages the muscles of the traps, hamstrings, and the upper back.

How to do a Snatch Grip Deadlift

Snatch Grip Deadlift
  • Put the desired weight in the bar and place it on the floor.
  • Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart and shin close to the bar.
  • Slightly bend your knees and push your hips back just enough to reach and grab the bar.
  • Hold the bar firmly with both hands with a hook grip. And make sure your hands are a couple of inches wider than shoulder-width apart. That’s the set-up.
  • Inhale deeply, keep your core tight, and push your heels into the floor to lift the bar with your full strength.
  • Maintaining your spine in a neutral position, raise your hips and shoulders at the same time.
  • Perform as many reps and sets as you can.

Benefits of Snatch Grip Deadlift

The snatch grip deadlift targets different muscles at once like other variation of deadlift but it is a bit advanced and challenging movement. The wide grip deadlift targets your traps, upper back, hamstrings, and the glutes. A wider grip deadlift not only targets your lower body but also develop upper and lower back. Many powerlifters use this movement to increase their lifting capacity and they build stronger back and leg.


Related: An Ultimate Guide To The Dumbbell Leg Exercises


5. Stiffed Leg Deadlift/ Straight Leg Deadlift

Difficulty: Intermediate

Equipment Needed: Barbell, Weight plates, and Gym Belt

Muscles Worked: Hamstrings, Back, Gluteus Maximus, and Adductors

Focus: Build strength and muscular development in the posterior chain muscles such as hamstrings and glutes.

Stiffed legged deadlift is one of the form of the deadlift.
Stiffed legged deadlift
Pic Credit: Self / CC BY-SA
  • Hold a barbell along with desired weight in front of your thighs with an overhand grip, palms facing the body.
  • Start lowering the weight as low as possible toward the floor with keeping your back straight.
  • Hold for a couple of seconds, then slowly lift the weight to the starting position. That’s one rep!
  • Squeeze your glutes and hamstrings until you completely stand up.
  • Perform as many reps and sets as you can.

Benefits of Stiff-Legged Deadlift

The Stiff-Legged Deadlift is a highly effective exercise that works on various muscle groups at one time. It strengthens the upper and lowers back, deltoids, quads, hamstrings, and glutes. It also improves bad postures and enhances endurability. One of the main benefits of the stiff leg deadlift is; it equally works on the hips, quads, and hamstring. This provides you explosive power to your leg for jumping, leg press, and inclines running.

Also Read: 6 Dumbbell Deadlift Variations

6. The Rack Pull Deadlift

Difficulty: Beginner

Equipment Needed: Power rack, Weight plates, Gym Belt

Muscles Worked: Lower back muscles, Gluteus, Hamstrings, Upper back

Focus: While developing muscles it improves form and power for performing advanced variations of deadlift.

How to perform the rack pull deadlift

  • Start by setting up the height of your rack and then stand straight with your feet hip-width apart
  • Bend your knees and hips just enough to reach and grab onto the bar.
  • Grip the bar a bit wider than to your hip-width
  • Keep your arms extended and your back straight during the movement.
  • Squeeze your glutes and hamstrings until you completely stand up.
  • Your hand must be equally far from the ends of the barbell.
  • Raise your hips and shoulders at the same range while maintaining a straight back. That’s one rep!
  • Keep your core tight during the whole lift.
  • Perform as many reps and sets as you can.

The Rack pull deadlift benefits:

The major target muscles of the rack pull are your lower back however, this movement also works on your upper back, hamstrings, and glutes. The rack pull improves the grip strength that allows you to perform others form of the deadlift. If you’re a beginner then you can start deadlifting this movement because it is safer and easier than other types of deadlifts.


What are the alternatives to the Deadlift exercise and its Variations?

Above, you have seen the multiple variations of deadlifts that you can do at the gym. But, If you do not want to do a deadlift because you feel it’s tough or it makes you feel discomfort, then no worry. Because you can still try different deadlift alternatives. These alternatives may not be as effective as the real deadlifts but they can help you build strength and muscles.

Here are the 3 exercises you can do as alternatives of the deadlift workout.

1. Bulgarian Split Squat

  • Stand in the hip-width stance in front of a bench (2 feet away).
  • Place your rear feet on the bench and the front one firmly on the floor, maintain a 10-12 inches distance between them.
  • Keep your core engage, back flat, and lower your rear foot toward the ground as low as possible.
  • Hold for a moment, and then pushing your front foot heel into the floor return to the starting position.
  • Repeat as many times as you like.
  • You can use a dumbbell and barbell for resistance.
  • For more information and a specific guide, you can see this article on the Very Well Fit site.

2. Barbell Hip Thrust

  • Put your upper back on a flat bench with your knees bent and feet firmly planted on the floor. Keep your feet hip-width apart.
  • Bend your elbows and hold your arms on the bench with your fingertips on your head. This is your starting position.
  • Now, push into the floor with your heels to thrusts your hips until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
  • Squeeze your glutes at the top for a couple of seconds and then return to the starting position.
  • For resistance, you can use a barbell.

3. Cable Pull-Through

  • Anchor the rope to the cable pulley machine in the lower section.
  • Set the desired weight according to your strength.
  • Stand in the shoulder-width stance in front of the cable pulley machine (two feet away) with your face facing away.
  • Grab the rope firmly with your hands so your palms are facing each other.
  • Slightly bend your knees and push your hips back, and maintain a neutral spine posture.
  • Pull the weight upward until you feel a good contraction in your hamstring and gluteus.
  • Hold for a couple of seconds and then return to the starting position.
  • Repeat for the required number of repetitions.

Summary

If you’re a beginner so, the best deadlift you can start with is the rack pull and the trap or hex bar deadlift. Once you’re experienced in deadlifting you can move onto another type of deadlift such as Romanian and sumo which are most effective for overall strength.

For safety reasons, you can use a waist belt because a weight belt can help create tension through the muscles to stabilize the spine and may protect your back and lumbar spine from any unwanted injuries or pain when you lift more weight. However, you can perform the deadlift without a belt with lighter weights.

Sometimes it is normal to feel some back pain when you just started deadlifting. However if your lower back pain persists even after deadlifting many times, So it is recommended to stop doing it. If you find it difficult then learn more about the technique from your trainer and then perform.

Featured image: Arthur Hidden

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