You may wonder, ‘what muscles do deadlifts work?’ Or maybe you’re thinking about building a bigger deadlift or targeting certain muscle groups over others while deadlifting. So an understanding of the deadlift muscles and their roles is important.
So, what are the main deadlift muscles worked? The first half of the movement, where you bring the barbell from the floor to knees, primarily targets the quad muscles. The second half of the movement to bring the bar from the knees to a standing position (lockout) primarily builds muscle mass in the low and mid back, glutes, and hamstrings.
But deadlift variations targeting the lower or upper half range of motion will engage those muscle groups more or less. Furthermore, by reading on, you’ll learn:
- What does a deadlift work, and what are the main deadlift target muscles?
- How do the main muscles work in a deadlift, and what are they responsible for in the movement?
- Which of the deadlift muscles are worked in specific deadlift variations?
- How do you identify weak deadlift muscle groups, and what can you do about them?
- Muscles Worked While Deadlift (Basic Anatomy & Bio-Mechanics)
- Identifying Weak Muscles In The Deadlift
- Muscles Used in Different Variations Of The Deadlift
This article is part of a series on the muscles used in the powerlifting movements. You can check out the other articles on Muscles Used in the Bench Press and Muscles Used in the Squat.
Understanding the Deadlift: Muscles Worked, Anatomy, & Biomechanics
The deadlift is considered a compound exercise because it works several muscle groups in the lower and upper body. The muscles worked in the deadlift are the:
- Adductor Magnus (Inner Thigh)
- Abdominals & Obliques
Certain muscle groups are more engaged than others based on which variation of the deadlift you’re doing. We’ll explain this later, but first, let’s break down the muscles involved in the deadlift and their role.
The quad muscles extend the knee in the bottom half range of motion. This is why some lifters use the cue to ‘push the floor away’- extend the knee and engage the quad muscles. If you find your quads getting overly sore from deadlifts, check out my article on Quad Soreness After Deadlifting to problem-solve why that might be the case.
You might be interested in an article I wrote on Are Deadlifts Back Or Legs and what day you should consider putting deadlifts on when it comes to powerlifting training.
The glutes are used to extend the hips. This is an important function in the lockout of the deadlift to bring the hips closer to the barbell. As the lifter starts the deadlift, the hips are behind the barbell. As they stand up, the hips need to come forward. This is where the glutes are most active and where you will gain the most muscle mass in the glutes.
If your glutes get overly sore in the deadlift, check out my article on Glute Soreness After Deadlifts.
Want to improve your deadlift technique?
Adductor Magnus (Inner Thigh)
The adductor magnus muscle of the inner thigh also has a role in hip extension. It performs a similar function to the glutes, which allows the hips to extend fully during the lockout as the lifter returns to a standing position.
The hamstring has two roles in the deadlift.
First, they support the glutes in hip extension during the lockout. As the knees straighten, the hamstrings are engaged more to bring the hips to the bar. However, the glutes are still the prime mover, and the hamstrings only contract a small amount.
In our later discussion on the stiff-leg deadlift, you’ll find out how to engage the hamstrings more based on how straight or bent your knees become.
Second, the hamstrings act as a stabilizing muscle to support the knee joint. When the lifter has their knees bent in the start position and pulls the weight off the floor, the tension of the hamstrings helps stabilize the knee joint by countering the forces of the quads to extend the leg.
If you find your hamstrings getting sore from deadlifting, check out my article on Hamstrings Sore After Deadlifts: Is This Good or Bad?
The erectors are the muscles that run along the outside of your spine. They have two roles in the deadlift.
First, the erectors help prevent the spine from rounding. In other words, they keep the back flexed and extended. This is an important position to maintain under load, as any rounding of the mid-back will lead to greater shear forces at the level of the spine.
Second, the erectors have a role in back extension, which allows the spine to move from a horizontal to an upright position. If a lifter starts with their back more horizontal to the floor, they will use more erector muscles to extend the back to an upright position as they lock the weight out.
To learn about the most optimal back angle while deadlifting, read my article on the best back angle for deadlifts. Based on your specific leverages, you might have a back angle that’s more suited to you.
The lats are another one of the major muscles involved in a deadlift. The lat muscles help keep the bar on the body throughout the lift.
As a technical principle in the deadlift, it’s important to maintain contact between the bar and the body. If the bar drifts off the body, you are more likely to lose your balance forward and fight the forces that allow you to stay upright.
Furthermore, if the bar comes off your body, your hip extensor muscles (glutes, inner thighs, and hamstrings) need to work much harder to bring the hips toward the bar in the lockout.
For these reasons, the lats are important for maintaining an effective position throughout the deadlift.
The traps help support the shoulder position in the deadlift — especially the low and mid traps that run along the scapula (shoulder blade).
The shoulders in the deadlift should be in a neutral position with a slight depression (pulling your shoulders down to the floor).
The rhomboids are the muscles of the upper inner back and lower neck. They keep the proper shoulder position while deadlifting.
The rhomboids perform a similar function to the traps, which allows the shoulders to look upright and ‘not rounded’ in the lockout position.
Abdominals & Obliques
The front and side abdominal muscles help stabilize and maintain the spine’s position.
While the erectors’ job is to extend the spine, the front and side of the abs prevent hyperextension (i.e., extending too far back). If the spine extends too far back, the erectors may disengage.
As a result, the front and sides of the abdominal muscles maintain the tension potential of the erectors.
Identifying Weak Muscles In The Deadlift
Now you can answer ‘what does a deadlift workout?’ and you know how each of the muscles a deadlift works are targeted effectively. It’s time to discuss how to identify your weak deadlift muscles.
Technique deficiencies often occur because of a weak muscle group or an imbalance between muscle groups. While muscular weaknesses are not the only cause for technique deficiencies, it’s certainly an area to understand and possibly address.
Technique deficiencies in the deadlift could be an entirely separate article, but I’ll broadly address weak muscles based on the ‘bottom’ and ‘top’ end range of motion.
Struggling To Get The Weight Off The Floor
The bottom half of the deadlift should extend the knees and maintain your torso relative to the floor.
To accomplish this, your leg muscles (specifically the quads) will produce force to initiate knee extension and bring the barbell off the floor. Your back position will be maintained by having your erectors engaged and your lats actively keeping the bar on your body.
If you have weak quads, you’ll struggle to get the weight off the ground because your knees cannot extend properly. However, instead of being unable to break contact with the floor, your body will generally compensate for weak quads and try to lift the weight by involving your hip and back extensor muscles more.
This will look like your hips shooting up in your start position, often before the bar leaves the ground, bringing your torso angle more horizontal to the floor. This is your body’s way of leveraging your glutes, hamstrings, and low/mid-back more and compensating for weak quads.
If you don’t struggle with getting the weight off the ground, and you can maintain your hip height in the start position as the weight lifts from the floor, your quads are doing their job properly.
The erectors are often forgotten about when considering the question, ‘what does deadlifting workout?’. If you have weak erectors, you’ll struggle to maintain integrity through your spine.
As you pull the weight off the floor, this will look like your back rounding in the start position. While back rounding can occur at any time throughout the range of motion, it typically occurs in the bottom range when the back is more horizontal to the floor. When the back is more horizontal to the floor, your erectors must work harder to assume an upright position.
With that said, your spine has a natural curvature. You’ll notice on the spine anatomy diagram that the mid-back has a slightly curved posture, which may look like the back is rounding.
This curvature is normal and should be maintained while deadlifting. What you’re trying to avoid is any more rounding than what is natural, which will be obvious if your back position starts to change while under load.
If you have weak lats, you’ll find it difficult to keep the bar on you throughout the lift.
The lats’ role is to prevent the barbell from coming off your body and pulling you forward. If the bar drifts away from your body during the bottom half range of motion, you will most certainly fail the deadlift at the knees because you’ll be fighting lateral forces.
A lot of powerlifters use the cue ‘flex your arm pit’ to engage their lats while in the start position.
Struggling To Lock The Weight Out
What happens in the start position largely affects the top half of the deadlift.
If you have muscular weaknesses in the bottom half that cause you to be out of position at the knees, you’ll struggle to lock the weight out. This is not due to any deficiency in the lockout — it’s because you’re not efficient in the first half of the movement.
With that said, the lock-out of the deadlift will be initiated by hip extension and to a lesser extent, back extension. The muscles responsible for hip extension are the glutes, and the muscles responsible for back extension are the low and mid-back.
The goal of the lockout is to bring your hips to the barbell and assume an erect position with your back and shoulders. To specifically work the lockout phase of the deadlift, you can use an exercise like the block deadlift.
Glute & Adductor Magnus Weakness
Your glutes and adductor magnus may be weak if you fail to bring your hips to the barbell in the lockout position.
If you track your hip position when the barbell goes from the floor to the knee, it should look like a straight line. Once the barbell is at the knees, the hips should travel horizontally in the direction of the barbell.
You might have a weakness with your glutes and adductor magnus if you can get the barbell to your knee or just above your knees, but your hips simply won’t transition to the horizontal range of motion. This is because your glutes bring your hips forward to the barbell.
Just like if you notice that your back is rounding in the start position, the same thing can happen at lock-out. This would mean that your erectors are weak.
However, your erectors may also be weak if you notice that your hips and knees are locked, but you can’t assume an upright posture with your back angle. This will be evident at the final end range where you’re within a few inches of locking the weight out.
The major reason your erectors are weak in the lockout is that you use them too much in the start position. This is especially true if your back angle is too horizontal in the start position.
While you can certainly pull using this back angle, your back will be tired when you get to your lockout and may start to round or fail to assume an upright position.
Trap & Rhomboid Weakness
At the final stages of the deadlift, you need to pull your shoulders back into an erect position. This is especially true if you’re a competitive powerlifter because it’s part of the movement standard that the judges will look for.
If you fail to pull your shoulders back, your trap and thomboid muscles may weaken.
You’ll know this happens if your upper back starts to round and pull forward at the final stages of the lockout.
Muscles Used in Different Variations Of The Deadlift
The answer to ‘what muscles are used in a deadlift?’ is similar for every exercise variation. Each variation of the deadlift will recruit more or less of the same muscles discussed above.
It’s important to understand how these variations change muscle activation, so you can target areas of development that will allow you to get stronger.
The variations I’ll discuss are the:
- Conventional Deadlift
- Sumo Deadlift
- Romanian Deadlift
- Stiff Leg Deadlift
- Trap Bar Deadlift
- Deficit Deadlift
Conventional Deadlift: Muscles Worked
The conventional deadlift muscles worked are the glutes, hamstrings, and spinal erectors. It is considered a hip-dominant movement because of its focus on the posterior chain muscles.
This is particularly true just off the floor to about knee height because the angle of the torso will be more horizontal to the floor (when compared with other variations such as sumo deadlifts).
You can read more about the differences between the conventional and sumo deadlift and which one you should be doing to maximize strength in my latest article.
Everyone should learn how to do the conventional deadlift with proper form before moving on to any other deadlift variation. The conventional deadlift is a staple exercise that allows you to learn how to pull weight from the floor effectively.
Sumo Deadlift: Muscles Worked
The sumo deadlift is considered a knee-dominant movement and will use more leg muscles (and the quads, in particular) compared with other variations of the deadlift. This is because the hips generally start closer to the barbell, and the torso is more upright.
A study by Escamilla et al. (2002), shows that the vastus medialis (inside of the quad), vastus lateralis (outside of the quad), and tibialis anterior (outside of calf) had greater muscular activation in sumo deadlifts.
Personally, I wouldn’t use the sumo deadlift as a variation to get more quad activation. Many people simply didn’t have the hip structure or mobility to effectively perform the sumo deadlift. Other exercises to target the quads may be more appropriate, such as the trap bar deadlift or front squats.
Lastly, because of the wide foot width of the sumo deadlift, you need strong external hip rotator muscles to keep your knees tracking over your knees properly. External hip rotation is primarily a function of your glute medius, the side part of your glutes.
Many lifters like to cue their feet to ‘spread the floor apart’ in the start position. This activates the glute medius and ensures the knees push out over their toes.
Related Article: Can You Just Do Deadlifts For Back? Yes, But It’s Not Ideal
Romanian Deadlift: Muscles Worked
By now, you can answer ‘what do deadlifts work?’, but if you want to emphasize your posterior chain, the Romanian deadlift is the best variation to try.
The Romanian deadlift will target the glute muscles more than any other deadlift variation, specifically the glute maximus, which are the muscles you sit on in a chair.
This is because you emphasize hip extension over knee extension.
You’ll start the Romanian deadlift by holding the barbell at lockout with an overhand grip. You’ll then crack the knees slightly and hinge forward at the hips while bringing the barbell to the floor.
The barbell will stay on your quads the entire time. You’ll stop when you get to the knees before returning to standing.
You won’t bend your knees any more than the initial crack at the top, emphasizing the hip extension movement to complete the exercise. I always cue my athletes to ‘squeeze’ their glutes at the top as hard as they can.
The Romanian deadlift has also shown to have strong muscular activation in the hamstrings.
McAllister et al. (2014) looked at the hamstrings’ involvement in the Romanian deadlift compared with other exercises that typically target the hamstrings, such as the leg curl, good morning, and glute-ham raise. They concluded that athletes who seek to maximize the involvement of the hamstring musculature should consider focusing on the Romanian deadlift because it had a greater effect.
With that said, the hamstrings would be more activated if the barbell comes off your thighs as you perform the movement, which some people deem okay during the Romanian deadlift. It could be that the researchers allowed the barbell to come off the athletes’ thighs, which would turn the exercise into a ‘stiff-leg deadlift’.
If you’re looking for an alternative to the Romanian deadlift, check out my article on the Best Romanian Deadlift Alternatives.
Stiff-Leg Deadlift: Muscles Worked
The stiff-leg deadlift targets the hamstrings more than any other deadlift variation.
Unlike the Romanian deadlift, where you stop at the knees, you perform the stiff-leg deadlift through a full range of motion until you feel a stretch in the hamstrings. Furthermore, the barbell should come off your quads as you lower the weight in the stiff-leg deadlift. Whether you start the stiff-leg deadlift on the floor or from a standing position doesn’t really matter.
When the knees are straight, the hamstrings contract much more to facilitate hip extension, which would otherwise be the glutes’ job.
One thing to remember when it comes to a powerlifting-style deadlift is that the eccentric range of motion is rarely trained. Once the lifter locks the weight out, they drop the weight to the floor before resetting their knee and hip position.
However, the stiff-leg deadlift is one of the few deadlift variations where the eccentric range of motion is fully trained, allowing the hamstring to act as a prime mover.
If you have poor hamstring flexibility, choose the Romanian deadlift over the stiff-leg deadlift. If you want to focus on your glutes more, keep the bar on your thighs. If you want to focus on your hamstrings more, let the bar drift off your thighs.
Trap Bar Deadlift: Muscles Worked
The trap bar deadlift targets the quads more than the back and hamstrings when compared with the conventional deadlift.
The trap bar and conventional deadlift are similar in their range of motion and stance. However, the trap bar deadlift uses a neutral grip (palms facing each other) on a specialty bar instead of a mixed grip or overhand grip on a straight barbell.
This change has shown that athletes can lift more weight in the trap bar deadlift compared with the conventional deadlift (Swinton et al., 2011).
In the trap bar deadlift, there is less demand on the low back, hips, and ankles but greater load demand at the knee. Camara et al. (2016) showed that the vastus lateralis (outside of the quad) was more activated in the trap bar deadlift. However, the hamstring and erector spinae were more activated in the conventional deadlift.
I would use the trap bar deadlift to increase quad strength, either for a squat or deadlift assistance movement.
If you want a more detailed breakdown of the trap bar deadlift, check out my article comparing the Trap Bar Deadlift vs Front Squat.
Deficit Deadlift: Muscles Worked
The deficit deadlift can be used in a conventional or sumo stance. As such, the answer to ‘which muscles do deadlifts work?’ is the same for both deficit and non-deficit deadlifts. The former targets all of the muscle groups previously discussed for those variations.
While the quads, hamstrings, spinal erectors, and glutes will all be used, the conventional deficit deadlift targets more of the spinal erectors, and the sumo deficit deadlift targets more of the quads.
As the deficit increases, there will be more end range on either the hip or knee extensors, placing more loading demand on those muscle groups to complete the movement.
I typically only program 1-2 inch deficit deadlifts because any more will likely require mobility that falls outside an athlete’s normal biomechanical limits. Even a small deficit of 1-2 inches will move significantly harder, especially if the athlete struggles to pull the weight off the floor.
To learn more, check out how you can build muscle mass with powerlifting.
Top Tips for Optimizing Deadlift Technique
Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced powerlifter, it’s important to execute your deadlifts with perfect form. Use the following tips and cues to optimize your deadlift technique:
- Take a deep breath before starting each rep and embrace your abdominal muscles throughout the movement
- If you’re struggling to keep hold of the bar using an overhand grip, switch to an alternate grip (one overhand, one underhand)
- Pull the slack out of the bar before lifting it off the ground
- Keep your lats contracted and your shoulder blades squeezed back to avoid excessive spinal rounding
- Drive your feet into the ground as you lift the bar
- Keep the bar as close to your body as possible during the movement
Benefits of Deadlifting
When done correctly, deadlifts offer several benefits, including:
- Increased Total Body Power and Strength
- Increased Fat Burning
- Targeted Glutes, Quadriceps, and Hamstring Growth
Increased Total Body Power and Strength
Deadlifts are one of the most effective compound exercises to increase power and strength across your whole body. The main deadlift muscles worked are the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and lower back, but it also works the lats, biceps, and abdominal muscles.
Increased Fat Burning
Because deadlifts are so effective at building muscle, they can help to increase your basal metabolic rate (BMR), meaning you can burn more calories while at rest. As a result, they’re an effective exercise for fat loss and weight management.
Targeted Glutes, Quadriceps, and Hamstring Growth
Although deadlifts can improve strength in the upper body, they primarily target the leg muscles. They require a high knee flexion at the start of the reps, which targets the quadriceps nicely. The glutes and hamstrings become more activated as you approach a standing position.
Common Mistakes in Deadlifts
There are a few mistakes that people commonly make when performing deadlifts, including:
- Arching The Lower Back
- Rounding The Shoulders
- Letting The Hips Rise First
- Bouncing The Bar Off The Ground Between Reps
Arching The Lower Back
By far, the most common mistake that people make when deadlifting is rounding the lower back. When the lower back rounds, the right deadlift target muscles are not targeted as effectively. It also puts excess strain on the smaller, weaker muscles in the lower back and the spinal joints, increasing the risk of injuries.
Rounding The Shoulders
It’s not just the lower back that you need to keep an eye on when you’re doing deadlifts. Many people also tend to round their shoulders when lifting the bar, which is usually due to lifting a weight that is too heavy for them to handle or using poor form.
Excessive upper body rounding strains the cervical spine joints, increasing the risk of muscle strains and joint issues. It also reduces the effectiveness of the exercise by limiting the load on your glutes and lower back muscles.
Letting The Hips Rise First
When lifting the barbell off the ground, you might find that your hips rise before the rest of your body. This is a relatively common deadlifting mistake and often results from lifting too heavy or adopting the wrong steadying position. Raising your hips too quickly can transfer the load onto your lower spine, leading to injuries.
Bouncing The Bar Off The Ground Between Reps
Using a small amount of momentum is okay to lift as much as possible. However, you shouldn’t rely on this to lift the bar off the ground with each rep. You should be lifting and lowering the bar with control at all times by activating your upper body, lower body, and core muscles properly, and doing so will maximize your muscle growth and strength gains.
How Many Sets of Deadlifts Should You Do Each Week?
When it comes to deadlift training volume and frequency, performing multiple sets a week is the best option. Several sets can stimulate up to 40% more hypertrophy than a single set, no matter what your experience level.
With any form of resistance training exercise, including deadlifts, there is a dose-response relationship. You will achieve more muscle growth with over 10 sets compared to fewer than 5 sets.
However, it’s also important not to push it too far and overtrain, as this could hinder your deadlift progress and increase the risk of injury. Studies have shown that performing over 15 sets for one muscle group per week stimulates less muscle growth than 5-10 sets.
Ideally, an average of up to 10 sets a week of deadlifts spread across 2-3 workout sessions will be ideal for intermediate to advanced lifters. Make sure to space your workouts evenly throughout the week to allow for adequate rest and recovery time.
Who Should Do The Deadlift?
Deadlifts are appropriate for most people and are hugely beneficial compound exercises. However, they’re not suitable for every lifter.
One major factor determining how easy and effective deadlifts will be for you is your limb proportions. If you have longer legs, the deadlift bar path is much longer, meaning you’ll have to work harder to lift the same weight as somebody with shorter lower limbs.
However, even those with longer limbs can still benefit from doing deadlifts with great form. Generally, sumo deadlifts are the best option if you have long legs, as this shortens the distance between the starting and ending position of the deadlift.
Deadlifts won’t always be appropriate if you’re recovering from an injury. You should always work with a professional coach or physical therapist to determine whether or not deadlifts are a suitable exercise for your recovery protocol.
Useful Equipment for Deadlifting
Although you can deadlift using just one or a few deadlift bars and some weight plates, there are additional pieces of equipment that you can use to improve your form and lift heavier. Some of the most helpful equipment includes lifting belts, lifting chalk, and lifting straps.
A lifting belt is used to improve your technique and strength. It can help you to lift heavier without compromising your form by squeezing your abdominal cavity, creating more tension and stability.
Lifting belts are compulsory for all powerlifting competitors, as stipulated by the International Powerlifting Federation.
Our Favorite Lifting Belt: Inzer Advance Designs Forever Lever Belt
For more options, check out the article: The Best Lifting Belts
Chalk is an alternative to lifting straps when you want to improve your grip strength. It increases the amount of friction between your skin and the barbell, preventing it from slipping out of your hands during sets of conventional, Romanian, or sumo deadlifts.
Our Favorite Lifting Chalk: Warm Body Cold Mind Liquid Chalk
For more options, check out the article: The Best Liquid Chalk for Lifting
Wrist straps or lifting straps improve your grip on the bar, allowing you to lift more and perform more reps, whether you’re using an underhand or overhand grip. No matter how sweaty your palms are, you can rest assured knowing that the bar won’t slip out of your hands!
Our Favorite Lifting Straps: Warm Body Cold Mind Lasso Lifting Straps
For more options, check out the article: The Best Lifting Straps
Deadline Training Program Examples
When you’re programming deadlifts into your routine, you must consider your main goals. The muscles a deadlift works won’t change based on your programming. But depending on whether you are training for power or strength or you want to focus on high-volume pyramid training, your workout program will look slightly different.
Below, I have included some examples of deadlift training programs. You can follow one of these below based on your goals or adjust them slightly to meet your needs and preferences.
Deadlift Training Program for Power
If you’re a competitive or amateur powerlifter, you’ll want to follow a deadlift program that follows low-rep workouts. Generally, this will follow a 1-3-5 approach, where you perform between 1 and 5 sets of 1 and 5 reps around twice a week.
Here’s a great example four-week deadlift workout program to follow.
- Monday – 1 x 5 at 70% 1RM, 1 x 5 at 75% 1RM, 1 x 5 at 85% 1RM
- Thursday – 5 x 5 at 65% 1RM
- Monday – 1 x 3 at 70% 1RM, 1 x 3 at 80% 1RM, 1 x 3 at 90% 1RM
- Thursday – 5 x 5 at 65% 1RM
- Monday – 1 x 5 at 70% 1RM, 1 x 3 at 85% 1RM, 1 x 1 at 95% 1RM
- Thursday – 5 x 5 at 65% 1RM
Week 4 (Deload Week)
- Monday – 1 x 5 at 45% 1RM, 1 x 5 at 55% 1RM, 1 x 5 at 65% 1RM
- Thursday – 5 x 5 at 50% 1RM
Deadlift Training Program for Muscle Growth
Deadlifting for hypertrophy and strength is one of the most popular approaches for the average gym goer or athlete. It’s a little more high-volume than power-focused deadlift programming, with three weekly sessions. Make sure to include plenty of deadlift progressions to increase your training volume and load.
Here’s a great example of a two-week hypertrophy-focused deadlift program to inspire your training. Alternate between each week.
- Monday – 1 x 10 at 50% 1RM, 1 x 6 at 65% 1RM, 1 x 3 at 70% 1RM
- Wednesday – 2 x 8 at 60% 1RM, 2 x 3 at 70% 1RM
- Friday – 5 x 5 at 65% 1RM
- Monday – 1 x 10 at 50% 1RM, 1 x 8 at 60% 1RM, 2 x 6 at 65% 1RM
- Wednesday – 2 x 5 at 70% 1RM, 2 x 3 at 80% 1RM
- Friday – 5 x 5 at 65% 1RM
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Are Deadlifts So Beneficial?
Deadlifts are a functional exercise that works your whole body. Several deadlift muscle groups work harmoniously to help you powerfully lift the bar off the ground with control, including the upper back, lower back glutes, and hamstrings. You can adjust your deadlift training to focus on power, strength, and hypertrophy.
Can Deadlifts Change Your Body?
Yes, deadlifts can change your body. Several groups of deadlift muscles are worked to gain size and strength in your upper and lower body and achieve your dream physique. Deadlifts are particularly helpful in increasing your lower upper back, body shape, and size.
Are Deadlifts Worth It?
If you want to gain power, strength, and muscle size, it’s absolutely worth adding deadlifts to your training program. They are one of the best compound exercises you can perform when trying to target your whole body at once.
Does Deadlift Burn Belly Fat?
Deadlifts can help increase the size of your upper back and leg muscles, increasing your metabolic rate. In turn, they can be effective in helping you burn fat in all areas of your body, including your belly. However, you will only burn fat if you’re in a calorie deficit, so deadlifting is just one part of the fat-loss equation.
What Happens if You Deadlift Every Day?
Deadlifting daily with proper form can help build power and strength in your upper back, abdominal muscles, and leg muscles. It can also help to improve your grip strength. However, compound exercises like the deadlift can be highly fatiguing. To avoid overtraining and injuring yourself, it’s better to practice deadlifts no more than three times a week, especially if you’re a beginner.
Are Deadlifts Dangerous?
Deadlifts are only dangerous if you don’t use proper form. As long as you use a moderate weight for your current strength and the right technique, deadlifts will not be dangerous and will not cause injuries.
Deadlift Muscles Worked: Final Thoughts
In short, the deadlift muscles worked include the knee, hip, and back extensor muscles. However, the long answer to the question, “What muscle groups does the deadlift work?” is that the targeted muscles change based on different points of the range of motion and different deadlift variations.
In the bottom range of the deadlift, you’ll use more quad muscles to extend the knee and break the bar from the floor. At the top end of the deadlift, you’ll use more glute muscles to bring the hips toward the bar.
Depending on your back angle, your back muscles will be used more or less. If your back angle is more horizontal to the floor at the start of the deadlift, like in a conventional deadlift, your spinal erectors will be more activated. However, if your back angle is more upright, like in a sumo deadlift, your spinal erectors will be less activated.
- If you want more quad-dominant deadlift variations, use the sumo or trap bar deadlift.
- If you want more glute and hamstring deadlift variations, use the Romanian or stiff leg deadlift.
- If you want to emphasize the conventional or sumo deadlift main muscles, use the deficit deadlift.
Related Article: Jefferson Squat: How-To, Benefits, & Should You Do It?
Pictures courtesy of Billy Buhler (@bigchunckey42)
Camara, K., Coburn, J., Dunnick, D., Brown, L., Galphin, A., Costa, P. (2016). An Examination of Muscle Activation and Power Characteristics While Performing The Deadlift Exercise With Straight and Hexagonal Barbells. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 30(5): 1183-1188.
Escamilla, RF., Francisco, AC., Kayes, AV., Speer, KP., Moorman, CT. (2002) An electromyographic analysis of sumo and conventional style deadlifts. Medicine Science Sport Exercise, 34(4): 682-688.
McAllister, M., Hammond, K., Schilling, B., Ferreria, L., Reed, J., Weiss, L. (2014). Muscle Activation During Various Hamstring Exercises. Journal of Strength and Conditoining Research. 28(6): 1573-1580.
Swinton, P., Steward, A., Agouris, I., Keogh, J., Lloyd, R. (2011). A biomechanical Analysis of straight and Hexagonal Barbell Deadlifts Using Submaximal Loads. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 25(7): 2000-2009.