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December 29, 2022
When deadlift benefits are mentioned, getting jacked is likely the first thought that comes to mind. And while that in itself is more than reason enough to pick up the nearest barbell, there are plenty of other great benefits you likely haven't even heard of.
Deadlifts are a compound exercise often viewed solely as a lift that helps you pick up heavy things. But they do so much more than that! This article will discuss the many health benefits you get by adding the deadlift to your regular training program.
The deadlift, a compound exercise that simultaneously trains multiple muscle groups, consists of picking an object from off the ground through hip extension.
When viewing the exercises used by the vast majority of lifters, people can generally lift the most weight with the deadlift.
The ability to lift heavy weights during this exercise leads to several benefits of deadlifts.
This leads us to...
Let's get right into it. Here are the top benefits of the deadlift, several of which you've likely never heard of! From improving back pain to increasing your core strength, there is no shortage of amazing deadlifting benefits.
No other exercise will build true total body strength in the lower and upper body in the same manner as deadlifts.
When you think of the mechanics of the deadlift as well as the muscle groups used, and then consider that an average person can load the most weight with a deadlift, you'll begin to see its potential for functional strength.
And because the deadlift starts with a concentric contraction (we have a great article that discusses the differences between eccentric and concentric contractions), your body must work to overcome a stopping force.
We love other compound moves like the bench press and bent-over row, but they're not going to work your entire body in the same way! The conclusion here? The deadlift is great for improving total body strength1.
We bet that when you first asked "what are the benefits of doing deadlifts?", strengthening your bones wasn't the first thing that came to mind.
Interestingly, our bones can grow very much like our muscles. When stress is placed on a bone, microfractures occur. When you follow proper nutrition practices, these micro-cracks are repaired and filled in, resulting in a thicker, stronger bone.
For this to occur, you need to place sufficient stress on the bones with load-bearing exercises. And deadlifts happen to be one such load-bearing exercise that places enough stress on your bones for this process to occur.
Keeping deadlifts in your workout split will help build strong bones and mitigate the development of osteoporosis. Lift heavy when you're young to prepare your body for when you're old!
A hip hinge is crucial to a whole host of activities, including other exercises and movements like jumping.
As the conventional barbell deadlift is the most prominent hip hinge you can do, included on the list of benefits of doing deadlifts is improving athletic performance.
The deadlift is able to improve athletic performance in a variety of different sports due to improving the quality of the lower body's neuromuscular system. In other words, performing deadlifts trains the muscles to work better together.
This includes things like muscle synchronization, increased firing rate, and improved muscle recruitment.
As a result, the muscles responsible for lower body performance are able to produce higher amounts of force faster. Deadlifts, along with deadlift variations such as the sumo deadlift, can:
And so on. Mind you, this is in addition to strength. The deadlift teaches the body to produce very high levels of force in a very short time. This is then transferred to athletic performance.
Another surprising, yet awesome, benefits of deadlift? Deadlifts and their variations can be used to build an impressive back, especially when mixed with other pulling exercises.
For beginners, the conventional deadlift alone will help build an impressive back.
However, it will get to the point where you need deadlift variations, like the elevated deadlift, to continue building muscle. The elevated deadlift can be raised to put a greater emphasis on the back, especially the traps.
Still, the conventional deadlift builds a massive amount of muscular strength in the back and core muscles. As a result, the strength you build will translate to lifting heavier weights when performing other back exercises.
The deadlift exercise tends to build a wide back, which is any lifter's dream.
Assuming you follow the basic guidelines of not using any sort of strap until you can lift at least 1.5 times your body weight (more on this below!), another of our deadlifting benefits is that you're going to build some serious grip strength.
Anyone with a big deadlift will have equally powerful hand grip strength due to the relationship between the two.
Who would have thought that one of the benefits of the deadlift was core stability and strength?
But if you walk into the gym, we guarantee the guy with the biggest deadlift has the strongest core. That's because if you try to deadlift but don't have an incredibly strong core, your torso will topple over.
Most people associate core strengthening exercises with doing crunches and other moves involving flexion and extension of the spine. In reality, the core's primary function is to contract and stiffen the torso to prevent movement.
During the deadlift, the entire core, especially the back and obliques, must resist a very heavy force trying to pull the torso over. If you can deadlift twice your body weight, you can rest assured your torso is strong enough to handle any stress put on it.
As an added bonus, research has found that strengthening your core can improve your athleticism, and since deadlifts can also increase your athletic performance, you'll be jumping and running like a complete boss2.
Let's start by saying that we don't believe weight loss should be your primary goal when lifting weights. This should be controlled with your diet and following plans like the 80 20 rule diet and counting macros.
That said, a deadlift benefit, and in general, barbell resistance training definitely compliments a healthy diet and plays a pivotal role in a fit physique and any goal you have to lose weight. Lifting weight will help maintain muscle mass, burn more calories, and improve body composition.
Weight loss is big on the list of deadlift benefits due to the number of muscle groups it trains. The more muscle mass being stressed means more calories burned.
Further, using heavier weights with compound exercises does a better job of preserving any loss of muscle that can potentially occur when you're dieting. If losing weight is one of your goals, implementing the conventional barbell deadlift helps your body burn body fat and improve body composition.
One of the most interesting deadlifts benefits is that they can exponentially decrease your injury risk, as long as you're using proper form and programming it correctly.
Deadlifts, deadlift variations like the sumo deadlift, and other hip hinge exercises have been found to actually improve recovery time after back injuries and reduce the risk of injury, so long as you use the appropriate weights3.
Looking for another benefit of deadlifts? It trains an assortment of muscles in both the upper and lower body.
Flexion and extension occur in the joints of the lower body, and deadlifts also require some intense isometric contractions in the upper body.
Here are the major muscle groups that the deadlift trains.
The deadlift targets the posterior chain, a group of three different muscle groups, including the gluteal muscles, hamstrings, and erector spinae.
These muscle groups are responsible for hip extension, also known as hip hinge, which is a primary movement pattern in the human body.
Located on the front of the upper thigh, the quadriceps are the body's main leg extensors.
During the deadlift, the quadriceps are crucial at the beginning of the lift, as you pull the load off the ground. This is why you'll often hear the cue: "Push the ground away."
The upper body gets an intense workout, especially the upper back and traps. The deadlift is a great trapezius exercise as they are the primary muscle responsible for maintaining scapula control and keeping your shoulders pulled back.
This is an essential function because if your shoulders fall forward, so does the rest of your torso.
All of your core muscles are heavily involved in deadlifts. The core's main function is to support the spine and provide rigidness to prevent movement.
This protects the spine and organs from injury. In the deadlift, your core muscles must prevent the barbell's weight from causing your body to topple over.
To receive the benefits of deadlifting, you have to perform them correctly, which is why we're now going to go over the proper technique for the deadlift.
As the deadlift is a bit more complex than other exercises, we've broken the steps for proper form into four parts.
Setting up for any lift is crucial, but for the deadlift, it's vital. Primarily because you're committed once you're set up and pick the load off the ground, even if it's just a hair.
After you load the barbell with your desired weight, walk up to the bar. To get the best foot width, jump up and let yourself naturally land.
Trust us, your body knows your strongest position. Next, place your feet under the bar, so it's over midfoot.
Grab the bar outside your legs, sinking your hips. Be sure to hit the following cues:
Be sure your body is tight, and brace your core. Begin the lift by driving your feet down slowly. Do not yank the bar off the ground.
Once you feel the bar "catch" or have no more bend, push down with your feet with more force to pull the barbell up.
During this first pull, you are only using your legs. Your upper body should remain at the same angle as the ground. This lasts until the bar is at your knees.
Always ensure the barbell just grazes your body. Your goal is to pull the bar up in a straight line.
Once the bar reaches your knees, begin extending your hips and drive them forward. Again, the barbell should be on your body. Keep your shoulders pulled back.
Pull all the way and lockout. Do not overextend the top of the movement. Stop at full extension. Also, do not shrug the barbell.
Throughout the movement, keep your arms fully extended. Do not flex your elbows. Think of your arms as straps to attach your body to the bar.
Slowly lower the barbell down, once again keeping your arms straight and the barbell close to your body.
Similar to going over proper deadlift form, you won't reap all of the deadlift benefits if you don't use the correct grip. When deadlifting, you have three grip choices.
All of them have pros and cons, which we'll go through now.
Double overhand is the standard grip for the traditional deadlift. Its name says it all: You hold the bar using an overhand grip with both hands.
This is the grip everyone should begin with. You will reach a point where you will no longer be able to hold the bar anymore without it rolling out. At this point, most people begin using a mixed grip.
A mixed grip means you use one overhand and one underhand. Generally, the stronger hand will be overhand.
The mixed grip is significantly stronger than the double overhand grip because the underhand grip "locks" the bar in place and makes it harder to roll out.
However, because your arm is in a supinated position, it places the biceps in a vulnerable position.
While uncommon, you do increase the risk of popping your bicep. This is why you hear coaches emphasize keeping the arm extended.
This version of the double overhand grip uses straps to help with the grip. A piece of material connects to the wrist and is wrapped around the bar to hold it.
Not only does this significantly mitigate the grip issue, weights feel lighter as you can put all your energy into lifting the bar.
It's also a misconception that you won't strengthen your grip with straps. You'd have to wear straps on every lift for this to happen.
You still use your grip with the lifts, so it still receives stimulus.
Everyone should start with an overhand grip until it becomes an issue.
Next, switch to mixed until you can lift at least 1.5 times your body weight.
From here, start using straps on your max lifts only.
If the overall question is: "are deadlifts good for you?", the answer is a resounding yes! But despite the good deadlift results you can achieve, there are still a few things to be cautious of.
We're going to cover these so you have a better understanding of this popular and effective exercise.
Perhaps the biggest misconception is that the deadlift is bad for your back. While deadlifts are responsible for most injuries in the gym, your risk of injury is still incredibly small.
They're even smaller when you use the correct form and proper loading. The reality when asking "what are deadlifts good for?" is they are beneficial for the back and can actually help decrease back pain.
They help strengthen your back when an appropriate load is used, while the other (the one in which you risk injury) occurs at maximal loads. This is one of the reasons we suggest always using a smaller rep range with deadlifts (<6), as more reps mean more fatigue, increasing the risk of injury.
We rarely ever prescribe deadlifts higher than this, for this reason, meaning this shouldn't be the exercise you use for muscle hypertrophy. And remember, proper form is essential for all lifts but even more so for the deadlift.
It's important to note that for new lifters, deadlifts will definitely build muscle throughout the entire body. In fact, no other exercise will stimulate muscle growth to the extent that deadlifts do.
However, as you become more advanced, this will decrease. This is primarily because, at heavier loads, lifters perform deadlifts without an eccentric contraction. Either the eccentric is completely eliminated (drop), or it's performed with a controlled drop.
This is important as the eccentric contraction, which causes more muscle damage and produces greater metabolic damage, will increase muscle mass to a higher degree than the concentric.
Simply put, advanced lifters should use deadlifts to build strength and use other exercises to build muscle mass.
In addition to being packed with benefits, there is also a long list of deadlift variations to incorporate into your routine. Here's a look at some of our favorites.
While it is possible to perform deadlifts and squats on the same day, we prefer to break them up. For example, if you train your lower body twice a week, it could look something like this:
Also, don't program two similar deadlift variations on the same day. Below are groups of similar deadlifts that you shouldn't train together.
This means you should only select one exercise from group 1 and group 2 per workout session.
For loads, we don't like using high reps for the bigger deadlifts, which is group 1. But for group 2, lighter weights and higher reps are better.
Here's some additional programming information:
Deadlifts and their variations are perfect for any strength training program.
Whether you want to build muscle, gain strength, or improve your power, deadlifts will serve as the foundation for all of these.
And with amazing benefits such as improving your entire body strength, increasing athletic performance, and helping with weight loss, why wouldn't you want to do these regularly?
If you have one takeaway from this article, let it be this: Do Deadlifts!
Looking to benefit from deadlifts in the comfort of your own home? Check out our barbell buyer's guide!
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