How To Deadlift Properly: Deadlift variations, exercise tips and benefits

How To Deadlift Properly: Deadlift variations, exercise tips and benefits

Categories

The top-dog in compound exercises, knowing how to deadlift properly will target a profusion of muscles in the body; demanding coordination, stability, power and strength.

The deadlift is one of the first exercises gym newbies will learn, with an element of full-body strength and posture control; performing the deadlift recruits fibres from all over the body, making it one of the most effective exercises for all-round development.

A proper deadlift technique gives you the foundations to progress on to other lifts and exercises.

The concept of the deadlift is simple, to lift the weight up from the ground, and back down again. But, getting your form correct is key for weight and strength progression, while reducing the chance of injury.

This article will cover the basics of the deadlift, including the different types of deadlifts, how to deadlift properly and the benefits in doing so.

Did you know? The deadlift makes up 1 of 3 exercises in powerlifting competitions, the other two exercises being the squat and the bench press.

The main deadlift variations

There are five main deadlift variations:

  1. Conventional Deadlift
  2. Romanian Deadlift
  3. Single-leg Deadlift
  4. Sumo Deadlift
  5. Trap Bar Deadlift

Other than these five deadlift variations, the deadlift can still be performed in different ways, such as changing the equipment used to involve the use of exercise machines.

What Muscle Groups Do Deadlifts work?

When you're learning how to deadlift, paying attention to the muscle groups worked helps you understand the benefits of deadlifting, and how engaging certain muscles and muscle groups can help improve your deadlift.

The deadlift is renowned for it's full-body impact, and it will be no surprise that the muscles worked when doing a deadlift involves your entire body. Let's break it down into the key muscles used when deadlifting, and their role when performing the perfect deadlift technique.

The main Lower Body Muscles Worked During The Deadlift:

  • Calves
  • Quadriceps
  • Biceps Femoris
  • Hamstrings
  • Gluteus Maximus

These muscles generate the most power, strength and stability when performing a deadlift, working simultaneously in creating the force required to lift the bar off the ground while stabilising the body throughout the entire deadlift movement.

The Main Upper Body muscles worked during the deadlift:

  • Trapezius
  • Rhomboid major
  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Levator scapulae
  • Deltoid
  • Abdominals
  • Obliques

Engaging your entire lower body gets you halfway there, but your upper body is crucial when performing the deadlift exercise. Providing balance, rigidity and the essential task of holding the bar securely throughout the exercise, your upper body needs to remain tight and engaged throughout the exercise, including your core!

How To Deadlift Properly: The Conventional Deadlift

• Step 1: Place your feet under the barbell, spread hip-width apart with your feet pointing slightly outwards.

• Step 2: Tilt your hips back and bend your knees, grasp the bar outside of your knees, with a shoulder-width grip.

• Step 3: Inhale deeply, retract your scapulae(shoulders) and engage your core and back muscles to maintain a neutral spine, keeping your arms straight throughout the lift. 

• Step 4: Begin to straighten your legs, squeezing your butt, hamstrings and quads, driving your feet into the floor and pushing your knees outwards. As the bar becomes level with your knees, extend your torso and continue to straighten your legs until your body is fully upright.


• Step 5: Hold the top position for a couple of seconds before lowering the bar, keeping a proud chest and ensuring the back does not round. The weight should be controlled back to the platform.

The conventional deadlift is, without a doubt, the most common of the deadlift exercises, providing a challenging, progressive movement pattern that engages the entire body.


Getting your deadlift form correct at this point opens the door for many other deadlift variations, and also provides the motor skills to perform other exercises safely.

How To Sumo Deadlift

• Step 1: Place your feet under the barbell, spread 1.5x your shoulder-width, with your feet pointing slightly outwards.

• Step 2: Tilt your hips back and bend your knees, grasp the bar inside your legs, with a shoulder-width grip.

• Step 3: Inhale deeply, retract your scapulae(shoulders) and engage your core and back muscles to maintain a neutral spine, keeping your arms straight throughout the lift.

• Step 4: Begin to straighten your legs, squeezing your butt, hamstrings and quads, driving your feet into the floor and pushing your knees outwards. Keep your torso upright, placing all the movement through the extension of the legs.

• Step 5: Hold the top position for a couple of seconds before lowering the bar, keeping a proud chest and ensuring the back does not round. The weight should be controlled back to the platform.

The sumo deadlift is in many ways similar to the conventional deadlift, the main difference being your feet position and reduction of the hip hinge. The sumo deadlift foot position is much wider than a regular deadlift, increasing the knee extension.

This increase of knee extension places more emphasis on the quadriceps and glutes, while the reduced lower back and lumbar stress make the lift generally safer for those with certain injuries.

Don't be fooled, though, the sumo deadlift still targets your entire body.

How To Romanian Deadlift (RDL)

• Step 1: Place your feet under the barbell, spread hip-width apart with your feet pointing slightly outwards.

• Step 2: Grip the bar outside of your knees, with a shoulder-width grip and straight arms. Engage your back muscles to maintain a neutral spine. Standing upright, let the bar hand against your thighs.

• Step 3: Do not 'lock out' your knees, keep them 'soft', around 85-95% straight. Inhale, before hinging your hips backwards, sticking out your butt, tilt your torso until your chest is parallel to the ground.

• Step 4: Ensure your back is straight, and your hamstrings and glutes are engaged during the negative part of the movement. Keep your head a spine neutral, before hingeing your hips forwards through and squeezing your glutes and hamstrings.

• Step 5: Exhale when you are back at the top of with the bar resting against your thighs, before starting your next rep.

The Romanian deadlift requires the knees to remain in a static position, placing more load on the hamstrings. The recruitment of the quadriceps is reduced; placing more overall emphasis on the hamstrings, glutes and back muscles.

Keeping a strict posture and retracted scapulae(shoulders) is key to proper Romanian deadlift form, the movement for the RDL should all come from the hips hingeing backwards, sticking your butt out.

To safely get the bar into position before starting the Romanian deadlift, perform a conventional deadlift or place the bar low down on a barbell rack.

Types of Deadlift Grip

  • Conventional Grip
  • Reverse Power Grip
  • Hook Grip

When learning how to deadlift, using the best deadlift grip is a crucial part of the exercise; if the bar is secure in your hands, you can focus your attention on the working muscles and form.

If the bar is slipping or moving in your hands, this will take away from your lift and may even result in dropping the barbell altogether.

The best deadlift grip is the one that suits you. So don't panic if you see others grasping the bar with unusual techniques. We've got tips for the most common types of deadlift grip, so make sure you try them all out and find what you're comfortable with.

As you progress in weight, you may find certain grips help keep the bar more secure than others; there are also certain pieces of equipment that can help you maintain a strong deadlift grip throughout the exercise.

Conventional Deadlift Grip:

The typical and so-called 'normal' grip, the best grip to start with when leaning how to deadlift. This deadlift grip has both knuckles facing forwards, with your fingers going over the bar and thumb under the bar.

The conventional deadlift grip is often the most comfortable and feels natural for beginners and experienced lifters alike. It does, however, place emphasis on your forearms and grip strength, meaning as the weight increases, this deadlift grip will become more challenging to maintain and therefore trying a new, more secure deadlift grip variation may come in handy.

Reverse Power Deadlift Grip:

The reverse power grip is a simple progression following on from the conventional deadlift grip. The reverse power grip helps to reduce 'roll' on the bar during the exercise; it does this by having one hand the opposite to the other.

For example, with your left hand holding the bar with a conventional deadlift grip, place your right hand the other way round; with your palm facing forward, fingers going underneath the bar and thumb over the top to secure.

The reverse grip is often popular when performing a sumo deadlift, as the narrow grip stance and reverse grip can feel more secure and comfortable during the lift.


Hook Deadlift Grip:

Similar to the conventional deadlift grip, the hook grip starts with both hands over the bar, with knuckles facing forwards and the thumb wrapping underneath.

From here, took the thumb under your fingers before closing your grip firmly. Your fingers should now be pushing on the back of your thumb, securing your hands into a hook grip. This keeps a tighter grip on the bar and reduces movement while reducing the raw 'grip strength' needed to hold the barbell securely.

This is a more advanced grip, but certainly when worth practising with a lighter weight first.

Using Straps For Deadlifts:

Utilising lifting straps for the deadlift is common practice for experienced lifters.

Lifting straps help take the strain off your forearms and handgrip, by looping around the bar to create a tight, secure grip without fatiguing your hands or forearms.

*Lifting straps are great for heavy lifts, however, building up your grip strength is invaluable when weight lifting, so be sure not to use them all of the time.

Using Chalk For Deadlifts:

Besides the pure bad*** aesthetic that comes with using chalk, it also plays a great role in securing your grip, whichever deadlift grip variation you use.

The chalk provides a tacky, matte layer over your palm and fingers, preventing the bar from sliding, rolling and slipping in your hands. It also eradicates the impact of sweaty palms when lifting, keeping them dry, however hard you're working; so you can keep your focus on your deadlift form.

Other Useful Deadlift Accessories:

Other Leg and Back exercises you should try

That completes our ultimate guide to deadlifting, showing you how to deadlift and the benefits correct deadlift form can have on your training and development. With deadlifts targeting the majority of your posterior chain (back of the body), there many more exercises you can add to your workout that will help develop this area of the body.

Take a look out our best leg exercises, best back exercises and our brilliant ultimate traps exercise article for developing and growing your posterior chain muscles groups.


Learn more about the Gymshark Conditioning App.
Add deadlifts into your weekly training sessions with the workout app that lets you build custom workouts, track your progress, follow exclusive athlete training plans and much more. Take a peek, you know you want to.

 

Similar Articles

The Gymshark Sale | For The Girls

The Gymshark Sale | For The Girls

You've read the specifics; you know the start time, and what to expect in terms of the logistics... All that's left to do is prepare your Gymshark Sale wishlist...