Barbell deadlift exercise
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Barbell deadlift

Exercise details

  • Target muscles: Gluteus Maximus, Erector Spinae
  • Synergists: Quadriceps (Rectus Femoris, Vastus Lateralis, Vastus Medialis, Vastus Intermedius), Hamstrings (Biceps Femoris, Semitendinosus, Semimembranosus), Adductor Magnus, Soleus
  • Dynamic stabilizer: Gastrocnemius
  • Important stabilizers (not highlighted): Wrist Flexors, Upper and Middle Trapezius, Levator Scapulae, Rhomboids, Rectus Abdominis, Obliques
  • Mechanics: Compound
  • Force: Pull

Starting position

  1. Stand with your feet under the barbell, hip-width apart. When you look down, the barbell should run halfway over your feet.
  2. Bend down and grasp the barbell with a shoulder-width grip.
  3. Take a deep breath.


  1. Keeping your torso upright and your back and arms straight, stand and pull the bar up the front of your legs, driving with your legs.
  2. At the top of the movement, squeeze your glutes, pull your shoulders back, and exhale.
  3. To return the bar to the floor, push your butt backward and lower the bar down the front of your legs, keeping your back straight.
  4. Once the bar passes your knees, bend your knees and lower the bar to the floor.

Comments and tips

  • Keep your arms and back straight, your torso upright, and your feet and knees pointing in the same direction.
  • At the top of the lift, do not hyperextend your back.
  • Keep the barbell close to your body to improve mechanical leverage.
  • You can use gym chalk or wrist straps to improve your grip.
  • Start light and add weight gradually to give your lower back time to adapt.
  • When lifting heavy, you can wear a support belt to protect your lower back.
  • The barbell deadlift is arguably the king of all major mass-building exercises, challenged only by the barbell squat. It is great for shocking your body into releasing testosterone, strengthening your legs and core, and building body-wide strength and mass.
  • For beginners, you can start with the kettlebell deadlift before proceeding to this exercise. See also the dumbbell deadlift and the dumbbell farmer’s walk.

Barbell deadlift video

Deadlift variations

Mixed-grip barbell deadlift

Using a double overhand grip for the barbell deadlift, as explained above, relies heavily on the forearms for grip strength, which means that it’s a great workout for the forearms. The problem is that once you get to very heavy weights, you may not be able to lift the weight due to a lack of grip strength. In this case, you can perform the barbell deadlift using a mixed grip, where one hand holds the bar with an overhand grip and the other hand holds the bar with an underhand grip. The mixed grip makes it much more difficult for the bar to slip out of your grip. The only downside is that it doesn’t train your forearms as well as the double overhand grip.

Deficit deadlift

The deficit deadlift involves performing the deadlift while standing on a 1–4-inch platform or a weight plate. In this slightly elevated position, you will put yourself at a disadvantage because the elevation increases the movement’s range of motion and your time under tension, as well as prolongs the amount of time you will have to work through the first stage of the movement, which is the most challenging part of the lift. The reasons for using the deficit deadlift include making your standard deadlift stronger and troubleshooting problems with the first stage of the standard deadlift. The increased range of motion also recruits more of the quadriceps and posterior chain muscles (traps, posterior delts, lats, spinal erectors, and glutes).

Sumo deadlift

The sumo deadlift involves performing the deadlift with your legs spaced wide apart, thus mimicking the stance of a sumo wrestler. The wide stance brings your body closer to the floor and allows you to keep your torso more upright. The wide stance also changes the emphasis of the lift, placing more work on the hips and legs and a bit less work on the lower back. Depending on your body shape and build, the sumo deadlift may be easier to perform than the standard deadlift.

Trap bar deadlift

The standard deadlift puts a lot of tension on your back, which poses a risk of back injury and limits the amount of weight that you can lift. Sometimes hexagonal, other times diamond-shaped, a trap (or hex) bar allows you to step inside it and make the lift rather than stand behind it like a regular bar, thus significantly reducing the amount of tension put on your spine. See the trap bar deadlift.


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