Deadlift Benefits

Top 6 Deadlift Benefits for Enhanced Strength

The deadlift is argued to be one of the most difficult movements to perform. However, as a certified strength and conditioning coach, I do believe that the deadlift has to be one of the most important and crucial movements in any program. The problem comes from the deadlift’s reputation, though. People believe that lifting heavy weight off the ground could be harmful and dangerous. Although this is true, this is only true in the context of performing the deadlift without good form and technique. With proper form, coaching and technique used, there are a ton of benefits to putting the deadlift in your program that make it worth the risk for success.

Whether it’s building more muscle mass, strength, or improving your ability to lift weight off the floor during your daily routine, the deadlift proves to be an important movement in more ways than one. The deadlift targets muscle groups like the lower back, glutes, hamstrings, and the core, all of which are pivotal muscle groups for improving your postural strength for preventing injury. That alone makes it an important movement for lifters to engage in as it can build muscle mass, strength, and prevent future injury. To effectively do this, though, it requires athletes to perform with proper form and technique, which will be highlighted throughout this article.

In this article, we will continue to talk about the benefits of the deadlift, the muscles trained during the deadlift, the potential limitations to the deadlift and variations of the deadlift to consider for programming success. The classic deadlift seems to be focal point of most deadlifting discussion, however, we will highlight some of the other variations of the deadlift that can serve different populations such as the RDL, trap bar, and sumo deadlift. All of which will be a discussion in this article, and more.

Understanding the Deadlift Exercise

The deadlift is a fundamental compound movement that involves lifting a barbell from the ground and standing with it. It is a unique exercise because it is a single-phased movement, meaning it does not involve any lengthening phase you would see with the squat or bench. The lengthening phase, also known as the eccentric phase, is the stretch of the muscle before it shortens. When you squat or bench, you bring the weight downward which lengthens the muscle and builds elastic energy. Once this elastic energy has been implemented, it can help assist with the shortening phase of the movement, which is the concentric phase.

When discussing the eccentric and concentric phases, we are essentially discussing the “stretch-shortening cycle” which is a big benefit within strength training. Unfortunately, the deadlift is a single-phased movement that acts just as it sounds, lifting dead weight. So with this lift, you gain no benefit from the stretch-shortening cycle, which makes this movement very hard to master.

Understanding the complex nature of the deadlift is only the beginning. Having to lift a motionless bar off the floor requires a specific technique, as it is crucial to avoid any kind of injury.

Technique and Muscles Used

To execute a deadlift, start with the barbell over the middle of your feet. Bend at the hips and knees to lower your body while keeping your back straight. Grip the barbell with hands shoulder-width apart, and as you lift, push through your heels, straightening your hips and knees simultaneously. Maintain a neutral spine throughout the lift, with the chest up and shoulders back. Finish the lift by fully extending your hips and standing tall.

The deadlift engages several major muscle groups, making it an excellent full-body exercise. Below, we will discuss the following muscle groups:

  • Trapezius Muscles
  • Erector Spinae
  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Quadriceps
  • Core

Trapezius Muscles

The trapezius muscles, particularly the upper trapezius, stabilize the shoulders and upper back during the conventional deadlift. They help maintain scapular retraction, which is important for a secure grip on the barbell and for preventing the shoulders from rounding forward. Strong trapezius muscles are essential for maintaining proper upper body posture during the lift.

Erector Spinae

These muscles run along the spine and are responsible for spinal support and stability during the deadlift. They help maintain a neutral spine to prevent injury and provide a solid foundation for the lift.


The hamstrings are heavily involved in the deadlift, particularly during the hip extension phase. They assist in straightening the hips and play a crucial role in generating power to lift the weight from the ground.


The gluteal muscles, including the gluteus maximus, are responsible for powerful hip thrusting. They work in conjunction with the hamstrings to propel the hips forward and bring the barbell to a standing position.


The quadriceps, located at the front of the thighs, are engaged during the deadlift for knee extension. They contribute to the initial lift from the ground, working with other muscle groups to move the weight upward.

Core Muscles

The core muscles, including the rectus abdominis (front of the abdomen) and obliques (side of the abdomen), play a critical role in stabilizing the spine. They help prevent excessive rounding or arching of the lower back, ensuring proper form and reducing the risk of injury.

Benefits of Deadlifts for Athletes


When it comes to the benefits of the deadlift, there are very few substitutes that can replace the impact a deadlift can have in any program. What’s nice about the deadlift is that it is simple in form, especially when it comes to the classic conventional deadlifting stance. The deadlift holds the power to provide the following benefits:

  • Increase muscle growth
  • Improve grip strength
  • Increased bone density
  • Increased resting metabolic rate
  • Postural strength
  • Enhance athleticism and performance

Increase Muscle Growth

When executed correctly, the deadlift engages a wide range of muscle groups, including the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, traps, and more. This level of activation results in significant muscle growth and enhanced strength. As you incorporate deadlifts into your training routine, you will begin to notice growth in both muscle density and strength.

Improve Grip Strength

The more you deadlift, the more you train your grip strength. Some individuals might not strive to have a strong grip, but being able to hold onto heavier loads is an essential part of strength training. You don’t want to be the person who constantly walks around the gym with straps because they can’t handle simple amounts of weight, right? Improved grip strength extends beyond the weight room too, benefiting your everyday activities and enhancing your overall physical prowess.

Increased bone density

Deadlifting significantly contributes to increased bone density. Engaging in resistance activities, such as deadlifts, stimulates bone formation and enhances mineral content. This is particularly crucial for individuals at risk of osteoporosis or those aiming to maintain bone health as they age. By subjecting the bones to controlled stress through deadlifting, this exercise helps improve bone structure, reduce the risk of fractures, and promote overall skeletal system strength.

Increased resting metabolic rate

One notable benefit of incorporating deadlifting into a fitness routine is the positive impact it has on your resting metabolic rate (RMR). Deadlifts, as a form of strength training, build lean muscle mass. Since muscle tissue requires more energy at rest than fat tissue, an increase in muscle mass from deadlifting leads to a higher RMR. This implies that individuals engaging in deadlifts not only burn calories during exercise but also continue to burn more calories at rest. This is huge for those looking at resistance training for size, strength, and body composition.

Postural strength

Deadlifting plays a pivotal role in developing and maintaining postural strength. Deadlift exercises that target core muscles, such as the abdomen and lower back, contribute to a stable and well-supported spine. By promoting muscle balance and coordination, deadlifting helps individuals maintain proper posture, reducing the risk of musculoskeletal issues and enhancing overall body alignment.

Enhance Athleticism and Performance

Executing the deadlift exercise showcases a functional movement that is identical to many skills for athletic performance. This exercise mirrors many skills such as jumping, sprinting, and quickly changing directions. This means the deadlift should translate to improved performance in various sports, whether it's football, basketball, or track and field. The strength and coordination gained through deadlifting make you a stronger and more potent athlete.


Incorporating deadlifts can also help be a catalyst to a strong hormonal response. This includes the release of growth hormone and testosterone, both of which promote muscle growth, recovery, and overall well-being. This response amplifies your fitness gains, fostering greater muscle development which also alters your metabolic rate for being a calorie-expending machine.

Long-Term Effects of Deadlifts on the Body

As you have read throughout this article, the idea of deadlifting has many benefits to our population as long as we train properly and with good form. This isn’t just opinion, though, as there is growing evidence that supports these findings.

The positive benefits of deadlifting are increases in bone density, muscle mass, and resting metabolic rate (1,2,3). If your resting metabolic rate (BMR) increases, this means you expend more calories at rest which could have a positive effect on your body composition and health (1,2,3).

Deadlifts, if done with proper form, can also decrease back pain as this lift challenges the postural muscles needed to have a stronger back. Research has also shown that long-term lifting with deadlifts and squats not only promotes an increase of bone density in younger populations, but it may also help maintain that increase well into the later stages of life (1,4,5).


These are just a few benefits that have been scientifically proven through research. There is plenty more scientific research that can explain the benefits of deadlifting, but overall it has been understood that the deadlift is a pivotal exercise used to increase muscular size, and strength, and provide a proactive approach to preventing future injuries due to posture and imbalances.

Different Deadlift Variations and Their Impact on the Body

The deadlift is commonly discussed through the classic conventional stance. However, there are many variations of the deadlift worth discussing that help work the human anatomy differently. Below, we will highlight the following variations of the deadlift, while comparing and contrasting the muscle groups used to train each:

  • Conventional Deadlift
  • Stiff-Leg Deadlift
  • Romanian Deadlift (RDL)


Conventional Deadlift:

The conventional deadlift is a full-body exercise that primarily engages the erector spinae, trapezius muscles, glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and core muscles. These muscles work together to lift the weight from the ground into a lockout position. The trapezius and lats stabilize the upper back and shoulders during the lift. Of the three variations we will discuss, this is the most well-rounded of them, recruiting a wide range of muscle groups for overall strength and power development for any athlete.

Stiff-Leg Deadlift:

The stiff-leg deadlift primarily targets the hamstrings, glutes, and erector spinae. It also involves the core muscles to maintain stability and control the lift. Unlike the conventional deadlift, the stiff-leg deadlift minimizes the bending of the knees and emphasizes the hip joint for movement. As you hear it in the name, though, the legs need to be stiff, which is different from an RDL. The RDL allows the knees to slightly bend so you recruit hamstrings and glutes. However, the stiff leg seems to be dominant with the erectors as of the movement occurs at the hip joint and recruits the lower back mostly

Romanian Deadlift:

The Romanian deadlift (RDL) primarily works the hamstrings, glutes, and erector spinae, similar to the stiff-leg deadlift. However, the RDL allows the lifter to bend at the knees more than a stiff leg, which allows the hinge of the movement to favor glutes and hamstrings without overloading the lower back too much. The nice part of the RDL is that it allows the lifter to learn more about the hinge and how to recruit the hip joint more effectively for better athletic performance, whether it's in the weight room or in a traditional sport.



The Relationship Between Deadlifts and Lower Back Pain

Before we elaborate more on the benefits of the deadlift, we need to acknowledge the current relationship between the deadlift and lower back pain. While the deadlift is highly effective for building overall strength, it can pose a risk of back pain and injury. This, though, stems from when the deadlift is performed with incorrect form. It’s not as simple as putting a  on and hoping that will solve your problems. THe deadlift requires just a little more effort, which we will be discussing below.

When individuals execute deadlifts with poor technique, such as rounding the lower back or neglecting to brace the core, it can subject the lumbar spine to excessive stress. When the deadlift is done correctly, there are a multitude of benefits that make it arguably worth the risk of potential injury. As long as you embrace the safe and optimal form, the deadlift can improve your program to be more effective at building a bigger and stronger physique for a dominating performance.

Preventing Injury through the Deadlift

One of the key benefits of performing the deadlift, especially with the correct technique, is that the deadlift can target and strengthen the muscles of the posterior chain. This includes the erector spinae, hamstrings, and glutes. These muscles play a pivotal role in providing support to the spine, and as they become stronger through proper deadlifting, they not only help improve posture but protect the back from injury. A well-balanced posterior chain contributes to an overall more stable and resilient spine.

Properly executed deadlifts can be instrumental in building a "bulletproof" back by enhancing spinal stability and reducing the risk of back pain during exercise or daily activities. But to reap these benefits and minimize the risk of injury, it is essential to learn how to master the correct technique of the deadlift while progressively increasing the load over time.

Addressing Concerns and Injury Risks Associated with Deadlifts

The deadlift is an incredibly effective exercise, but only if proper form and technique is recruited. It's essential to be aware of the potential risks and factors that can lead to back injuries, particularly in the lower back. Below we will discuss some of the big concerns there are with the deadlift so you are aware and can become more diligent with training and preparing for a successful deadlift.

Spinal Flexion and Lumbar Issue:

One of the primary concerns with deadlifts is the risk of spinal flexion. Spinal flexion occurs when your lower back rounds, leading to an excessive arch in your lumbar spine. This can be problematic during heavy deadlifts as spinal flexion places excessive stress on the lumbar spine, which can lead to injuries such as herniated discs and strains.

To eliminate the risk of spinal flexion, it's crucial to prioritize proper deadlift form, and using safety equipment such as a weightlifting belt. Techniques needed for a better deadlift include maintaining a neutral spine throughout the lift and trying to improve posture, especially during the starting position of the lift. Engaging the core muscles and bracing your spine is essential to prevent spinal flexion and protect your lower back. Using variations like the trap bar deadlift and the block pull are also helpful in keeping your spine upright, flat, and in a better position for success.

Vertical Compression of the Spine:

Another problem that could cause injury with the deadlift is the vertical compression of the spine. When lifting heavy weights, especially during a deadlift, the spine experiences significant compressive forces on the spine, making the vertebra push toward each other and potentially cause pain or discomfort. It could also cause long-term spinal issues if not managed properly.

To address the issue of vertical compression, it's essential to try to progressively overload the body over time. Meaning, don’t jump into heavy weights, make sure to build yourself into a heavy deadlift. Also, don't do heavy deadlifts all the time, try to alternate from heavy deadlifts to lighter deadlifts especially when the intensity of your lifting programming increases. Once you reach about 85-90% of your deadlift max, you can start alternating weeks to focus on heavy deadlifts, and lighter deadlifts around 55-70% of your one rep max.

Strengthening the Lower Back and Core:

To support the health of your lower back, it's crucial to incorporate core-strengthening exercises into your routine. The core exercises to do for a deadlift would be motionless, such as the elbow plank. A motionless core exercise replicates the lack of motion you want in your core during a deadlift. A strong core provides stability and protection for your lower back during deadlifts and other compound exercises.

While the deadlift can be an excellent exercise for strengthening the back, it also comes with potential risks. Understanding the concerns of spinal flexion and vertical compression while actively working on core strength can help address these issues and allow you to eventually leverage the many benefits of adding deadlifts into your workout.

Recommendations for Safe and Effective Deadlift Training

To be a great deadlifter, you need to be able to showcase great form. Great form for the deadlift would includes:

  • Flat back
  • Proper hip hinge
  • Long arms, vertical to the floor
  • Shoulders over the bar
  • Neutral head position
  • Core braced for impact

Although there are many cues to perfect, having ideal deadlifting form is a must. These characteristics above weave together to help build your starting position, laying the groundwork for a better deadlift.

But besides technique, it’s important to understand when you should deadlift, and how heavy you should deadlift. To understand more, this would rely on both the principles of progressive overload and periodization. These principles aren't just fancy gym jargon, they are your ticket to deadlifting glory!

The principle of progressive overload implies that you start off with a certain amount of weight, then gradually add to that amount of weight with time. For example, if you can deadlift 200 pounds for 6 reps this week, how about next week you try 210 pounds? Adding bits of weight each week can put you in a position to be stronger and stronger.

Periodization also follows in-line with progressive overload, but periodization is the big picture of training. If this month you are training 6 reps, then next month you might train sets of 5 reps, or 3 reps. Periodization also decides what variations of lifts you perform each block. This might mean that this month you could be doing deadlifts and front squats, but next month you might do high bar squats and pause deadlifts instead. Periodization is the game plan, and progressive overload is how intense you perform each week during that game plan to help you meet your goals by the end of your training cycle.




The debate on whether deadlifts are good or bad hinges primarily on proper form. As a certified strength and conditioning coach, I believe the deadlift is a physically challenging exercise, but for the benefit of the athlete. As long as proper form and technique is incorporated, there are few substitutes to the benefits that the deadlift brings to a program.

The deadlift is a compound exercise that engages multiple muscle groups, such as the hips, back, and legs. All these muscle groups make this exercise a metabolic monster to help the athlete gain benefits in size, strength, and maximum power output.

Acknowledging the risks of the deadlift are crucial, but in this article, we outlined a ton of content that should provide you with a bullet-proof plan on how to address the deadlift, train it, and incorporate optimal form to get the most benefits possible from this incredible exercise.


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