What is the  barbell deadlift ? It is the king of all exercises to gain volume and strength. For many experienced athletes, the deadlift is the most basic movement and the one that every beginner should learn from day one. Count on us to learn the technique and everything you need to know about this exercise. This move has a plethora of benefits and works countless muscles at once. This move is the easiest way to work your entire body! However, you have to know how to do it well.

What muscles does the deadlift strengthen?

The basic deadlift is done with a barbell. It is a basic and global movement that involves all the muscles of the body . It is also a powerful ally to gain strength in general. In bodybuilding routines, this exercise is usually included as the main one in the back session. It mainly works the following parts of the body:

  • • High back .
  • • Low back .
  • • Neck.
  • • Trapezium.
  • • Abdomen.
  • • Quadriceps.
  • • Buttocks.
  • • Tibial.
  • • Twin.
  • • Biceps.
  • • Forearm.
  • • Multiple stabilizing muscles.

In addition, this movement is very important because it strengthens the grip , which is useful in many other pulling exercises.

 What muscles does the barbell deadlift work?

The benefits of the barbell deadlift

Science supports the following benefits of this exercise. Take advantage of the effects of the deadlift .

  • • Improves strength . All parts of the body become stronger; for example, the hands, arms, back and legs. All the strength gained can be transferred to day-to-day activities (such as carrying groceries, pushing a car...). That's why the deadlift is recommended for people of all ages.
  • • Activates the whole body . The barbell deadlift strengthens both the legs and the core. Many people think that this exercise is only for the lower back, but they are wrong. Even your biceps and shoulders work on the deadlift.
  • • Strengthens the legs . Mainly, it exercises the glutes and quadriceps. This exercise is advisable if you want to have a good muscle mass in the lower body.
  • • The number one exercise to strengthen the back . Deadlifts can prevent lower back pain (which comes with age). It is a very functional movement that also prevents muscle damage and imbalances.
  • • That many calories . It is a compound movement that involves all the muscles. Therefore, you burn a large number of calories during training. The deadlift activates the muscles, so you will continue to burn calories even afterward, when you are at rest.
  • • Creates an anabolic hormonal environment . Multi-joint exercises, such as barbell deadlifts, promote the release of testosterone and growth hormone, necessary for muscle size and well-being.
  • • A great job for the abs . Taking a weight off the ground is very beneficial for the abdominals. You will have an incredible and strong abdomen, which will facilitate other activities and exercises.
  • • It is a complement to other sports . All the strength you gain from the deadlift can be used in other sports, such as soccer, track, tennis, and martial arts.
  • • Increase your cardiovascular endurance . You can train the deadlift with high reps, which will provide a great cardiopulmonary workout, as well as strength.
  • • This exercise improves your posture . It's effective for aligning your shoulders, spine, and hips, although it's critical that you learn how to do it well.
  • • Improves grip strength . The exercise involves holding a highly heavy load with the strength of the hands. The improvement in the grip will be useful in all the other bodybuilding exercises. Let's keep in mind that the strength of the hands is lost with age and is a sign of aging that we can prevent.

How to do the deadlift with a bar correctly?

Keep in mind that this movement is one of the most complex to execute. For this reason, many gym trainers choose not to teach it to clients. Our recommendation is that you do it, but that you learn the technique well.

barbell deadlift technique

1. Starting position : The bar should be on the floor. The ideal is to use plates high enough so that the bar is about 22 cm from the ground. Standing, we approach the center of the bar with our feet shoulder-width apart. The balls of the feet will point slightly outward.

*Note: Some experts recommend starting with the shins close to the deadlift bar . However, in our experience, this position could make it difficult for inexperienced users to lift (the bar could hit the legs when going up and could cause damage). For this reason, we recommend leaving the shins detached from the bar by a few centimeters.

2. Squat : The next step is to squat down, as if we were at the bottom of a squat. The depth when lowering the hip will depend on the height and anatomy of each lifter. We must look for the starting position in which we are comfortable. Yes, we must make sure to keep our back straight and our eyes forward.

3. Grab : Once we're in a crouch, it's time to grab the deadlift bar. The arms will be completely straight. The position of the arms will be more or less the width of the shoulders and a little outside the legs. There are various styles of grip , which we will cover later. The most basic grip is with the hands in pronation (the palms of the hands facing our body).

*Grip tip : Before taking the bar off the ground, you have to get a good grip on it. Rotate your hand and fingers over the bar to cover the largest diameter for the perfect grip. Make sure that the palms of your hands are in contact with the bar . Don't grab the bar with just your fingers or fingertips. This grip will be much weaker.

4. Deadlift takeoff : It's time to lift the bar. We are supposed to be ready and well positioned. We will completely fill the rib cage with air. The shoulders will maintain a natural position. We will hit the heels hard on the ground, as if we wanted to break the ground with our feet . We will begin to rise explosively until we stand up completely with the bar in our hands. We will expel the air at the end of the movement, when we are standing.

Let's see some tips for takeoff: 

* We will try to make the shoulders and hips go up at the same time . This is very important to do the exercise well. 

*Expert lifters can benefit from kicking off their legs at the start . You have to know how to do this. It consists of lifting your legs back a little in the starting position and then bending back and using the momentum to raise the bar. This allows a much more explosive takeoff, where we involve more leg strength.

* Never move your arms when climbing . The arms should not "pull" the bar. We will only use the arms to hold the bar as if they were hooks. Trying to row with your arms can lead to injury.

5. Return the weight to the ground: Without releasing the weight, we will let it fall to the ground. This exercise does not have a negative phase. We will return to the starting position to do another repetition.

Which deadlift bar to buy

The deadlift is usually done with two types of bars: a standard gym bar or the Olympic bar. The standard bars usually have a weight of about 10 or 11 kg, while the Olympic bars weigh 20 kg. 

An Olympic bar is thicker. In addition, it usually has a knurling or roughness in the grip area, which makes it easier to grip. Olympic plates typically give the bar more height off the ground. For these reasons, Olympic equipment is much better for progressing in the deadlift. 

standard deadlift bar 28mmolympic deadlift bar
28mm standard bar.Olympic bar.

Woman's barbell deadlift

Women can use a 15 kg special Olympic bar. The 15 kg weightlifter bars can also be used in the women's barbell deadlift .

Flex bar deadlift

There are some specific bars for doing deadlifts. One of the best known is the flexible Olympic bar . This makes it easier to take off the ground during the exercise. It is a bar with a special flexibility that bends when the athlete begins to raise the weight. 

flex bar deadlift
Flex bar.

What is the advantage of the flexa bar ? Its special feature makes the discs located closest to the center of the bar rise first. In this way, when the rest of the discs leave the ground, the bar has already advanced several centimeters. This advantage can grant several kilos of dead weight to the user.

More use can be made of the flexible bar in the sumo deadlift, a variation where the arms are placed between the legs.

Hex Bar Deadlift

This deadlift bar  allows you to perform the exercise with a neutral grip . To use it, the athlete must be placed inside the hexagon. The bar will be grasped with the two handles located at the ends. This type of bar makes it easier to grip. The movement is carried out in the same way as in a conventional straight bar, the only difference is the position of the arms, which are on both sides of the body and not in front. It must be taken into account that a hexagonal bar it can weigh more than a straight Olympic bar, so check the weight with the manufacturer to be sure of the loads to be lifted. The deadlift hex bars are not used in powerlifting competitions, but they can be used to train in a different way in the gym.

hex bar for deadlift
Hex bar.

Can I do Z-bar deadlifts?

The Z bar, due to its grips and dimensions, is not the most appropriate to execute this movement. It is not advisable to do Z-bar deadlifts . It is always best to look for a standard or Olympic straight bar that is long enough for you to be comfortable.

Deadlift variants

In addition to the basic exercise that has been explained, there are several variants . Let's see in the barbell deadlift that each variant works and what it is used for.

Romanian Barbell Deadlift

This version is known as the  leg barbell deadlift because it places more emphasis on the hamstring muscle. Here, the legs are not bent as much as in the conventional exercise. We will explain the differences of the Romanian deadlift with respect to the conventional one:

- In this variant, you have to throw your buttocks and hips back.

- The bar will go down close to the legs while the buttocks and hips remain behind. The bar will reach more or less to the instep of the foot.

- Legs will be kept straight or bent as little as possible to be comfortable without compromising technique.

- In the Romanian barbell deadlift, the discs never touch the ground . The bar remains in the air during all repetitions.

This  barbell deadlift for the glutes is highly recommended .

Deadlift with bar and bands

 Deadlift with bar and rubber bands

This variant is used by strength athletes in powerlifting. You can add resistance bands to the bar to increase the difficulty of the exercise. The barbell and band deadlift  can help you gain strength and improve exercise results. Rubber bands will force you to generate more force. Thanks to them, you will strengthen the final part of the movement (blocking). Rubber bands promote proper mechanics for your body and strengthen your back.

Training with rubber bands is like adding kilos of weight as you raise the bar. The idea is that by the time you stop using the bands, you will have gained maximum strength in the deadlift. The rubber bands are hooked on the bar. The other end of the rubber bands can be stepped on with the feet.

Deficit deadlift

deficit deadlift

This consists of getting on a wooden platform or a thick disc to do the exercise. Thus, more travel is added and, therefore, difficulty. The idea is to improve maximum strength in the normal deadlift when the platform is removed. This technique is used by powerlifters.

Deadlift with platforms

deadlift with blocks

In this case, two platforms are placed, one under each set of disks. The lifter keeps the feet on the ground. Platforms help move more weight . This technique serves to disinhibit and gain strength in the middle and final part of the journey. The idea is to be able to improve on the normal deadlift when the platforms are no longer used. Smaller platforms can be used gradually. For example, you can go from 8 cm to 5 cm.


Rack-pulls to improve deadlifts

Here, the deadlift bar is placed on the safety supports. A power structure is needed to do this. From this starting position, much more weight can be used. The exercise serves to improve blocking and the final run of the repetition.

Deadlift with chains

Deadlift with chains for powerlifting

It is similar to the version with the rubber bands. The chains are adding kilos to the exercise while the athlete raises the bar. A chain should be placed at each end of the bar. The chains will always be in contact with the ground.

Barbell sumo deadlift 

How to Do Sumo Barbell Deadlifts

It is a variant of the deadlift allowed in powerlifting competition . In this version, the legs are spread open and the arms are placed between the legs. It is a highly technical deadlift used by athletes who have a lot of hip and leg strength. The main characteristics of sumo are the following:

• • Many people can lift more weight because it shortens the stroke.

• • Facilitates blocking compared to conventional dead weight.

• • Involves the legs and hips more than the back.

Barbell or dumbbell deadlift?

how to do the dumbbell romanian deadlift

You can do a dumbbell Romanian deadlift instead of a barbell. The technique is the same. You have to focus on throwing the buttocks and hips back. The legs will stay straighter than in a conventional deadlift. You have to raise and lower the dumbbells attached to the legs.

This version allows more localization of work on the hamstring and gluteus. It is an excellent complement to a hypertrophy routine. It is also useful to enhance the individual grip in each hand.

Hex bar for deadlift 

Hex Bar Deadlift

The hex bar is the latest variant. Allows you to deadlift with a neutral grip and move more weight.

Types of grip for deadlift

Improving your deadlift grip is very important, as grip is everything. It is useless for us to have very powerful muscles if our hands are not going to be able to hold a heavy bar. We will review the most used types of grip .

Conventional grip

conventional deadlift grip

This is the most basic and with which everyone learns. The hands are placed in the prone position and the fingers are encircled around the bar until the thumb and index finger touch. It may be fine for beginners and approach sets. However, when controlling high loads, you will have to change your technique because the bar will slip.

Hook grip

deadlift hook grip

It is similar to the previous one, but the position of the fingers changes. In this case, after surrounding the bar with the hand, the index finger and the middle finger will be placed above the thumb. The thumb will be squashed between the long fingers and the bar, giving a very strong grip as if the hand were a hook or pincer. 

This grip is for weightlifters with long, strong fingers. It can be very painful, but it eliminates the risk of tearing the biceps, which are present in the next grip that we are going to see.

Mixed grip

mixed grip for deadlift

It is the most used by powerlifters in competitions. It consists of placing one hand in supination and the other in pronation. When the hands are in opposite positions, the bar does not slip and it is possible to lift much more weight. 

It's a good grip, but it really has its risks. The arm placed in supination could sustain a biceps tear. Therefore, you have to be very careful if you are going to use this grip. You have to turn the arm only what is necessary. Never pull or twist with your arm supinated during the movement.

Grip with conventional deadlift straps

 deadlift straps

Purchasing some deadlift straps  has some benefits. They are wrist straps that wrap around the bar to ensure a good grip. To secure the straps, you simply have to give them a turn or two and then place your hands on top. 

Thanks to the strap, it is not necessary to use the mixed grip, with the danger that comes with it, although some bodybuilders like Ronnie Coleman preferred to use the mixed grip and the straps at the same time. Leashes have their advantages and disadvantages .

  • • In bodybuilding, they allow you to forget about grip strength and focus on training your back in exercises like deadlifts and rows.
  • • With straps, it is possible to use much more weight.
  • • Powerlifters can take advantage of them in training, but straps are not allowed in competition.
  • • The disadvantage of the strap is that it does not strengthen the grip, so it is recommended to use it only for the heaviest series.
Ronnie Coleman deadlift grip
Ronnie Coleman with mixed grip and straps.

Figure 8 or Strongman straps

strongman eight straps

With other types of straps. They are in the shape of a figure 8. Both parts of the strap are intertwined around the bar. This strap offers even more grip benefits.

Our two tips to improve in the deadlift

If you already have some experience with this exercise, we recommend you follow the advice on the techniques that our athletes have used to improve. Give them a chance because they have all been tested.

1. Do pull-ups first

In a back routine, do about three sets of pull-ups before starting with the deadlift. Thanks to this, you will start with a weak grip and the exercise will be much harder.

When you go for a record attempt, remove that previous set of pull-ups and you'll see your strength increase.

2. Reserve strong grips for effective sets

When you start training the deadlift, you'll do a few warmup and approach sets . Do not use the mixed grip, straps or magnesium on these sets. Use the normal grip better.

If you have to go for your effective working set, then grab the bar with mixed grips or straps. This approach will strengthen your grip.

materials and techniques

How to raise the bar

Squeeze the bar hard. You have to pull it hard and fast, but never push it with your arms or you risk injury. Keep your eyes forward, exhale, then take a deep breath and dig your heels into the ground. Pull up using both your lower back and leg muscles to bring the bar up to your knees.

Move and lock

Make sure your legs lock out and your back straightens at the same time. Once you're straight, draw your shoulder blades back and keep your head up. Total control of the bar. Then, lower the bar back to the ground.

What shoes to use in deadlift?

deadlift shoes

For most leg types, slippers are beneficial. However, in lifts like the barbell deadlifts , shoes backfire. They will add more height for you to lift and lean you forward slightly, throwing off your movement pattern. How to get the best results? Train in flat shoes , such as Converse, with socks or barefoot . If you are going to wear shoes, opt for sneakers with a good flat rubber sole that sticks to the ground. This will give you a stable platform to stand on.

Don't move the bar too far away from your body

The further you move the bar away from your body, the more difficult it will be to lift it. Why do you think  Eddie Hall , the world champion, ends every record attempt with bleeding shins? You may not need to go this far, but don't stray too far from the bar. At least your feet should be under the bar. You may need some good long socks for deadlifts. Thanks to them, you will not harm yourself.

Deadlift belt

You could even add about 12kg to your lift with a proper deadlift belt . If you breathe with your stomach and push your abdominal muscles against the belt, you will increase intra-abdominal pressure. You'll create a more stable block with your core, which is necessary when lifting heavier weights.

To do barbell deadlifts , the belt should not be placed around the belly. Instead, wear it higher up at the point where your chest and abs meet.

deadlift belt


You won't be able to lift heavy weights if your hands can't hold the bar. To develop a strong grip, try using magnesium chalk on your hands. Magnesium is allowed in competition.

Using Magnesium in the Barbell Deadlift

History, records and curiosities of the deadlift

There are quite a few versions about the origins of the word deadlift. Possibly, the name is due to the fact that, in this exercise, the weight is still on the ground and it must be taken off. Possibly, the first lifting carried out by the human being was of inanimate objects that were on the ground. For example, rocks, logs or game pieces. The deadlift is one of the few exercises where there is no concentric contraction or elastic preload. As an example, in the squat, the weight is in motion before it is lifted and there is a rebound. In deadlifts, the weight is simply "dead" to the ground. You have to build it from scratch.

It is believed that similar lifts were done using harnesses on a raised platform around the year 1700. You had to lift a load that hung from the harness. Julius Cochard moved 300 kg in this exercise in 1895

The creation of the deadlift that we know of is attributed to the German  Hermann Görner . It is not known if he was really the first to do it, but it is certain that he popularized it in 1910. His heaviest lift was 360 kg , quite impressive for that time. From there, new athletes would come to improve the records in this exercise. Ed Coan lifted 900 pounds in 1991 and at the time was considered the greatest deadlift in history . Andy Bolton was the first athlete to lift more than 1,000 pounds (455 kilos).

Hermann Gorner, father of the deadliftHermann Gorner deadlifting
Hermann Görner.Hermann Görner doing a lift.


Historical records

It must be taken into account that in the powerlifting competition with equipment it is allowed to use a special suit to lift more weight. What has been the heaviest deadlift ?

  • •  Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (Icelandic) : 501 kg in 2020 with suit and straps.
  • • Eddie Hall (British) :  500 kg in 2016 with suit and straps.
  • •  Benedikt Magnússon (Icelandic) : 460.4 kg in 2011 without suit and straps.
  • •  Krzysztof Wierzbick (Polish) : 502.5 kg sumo deadlift in 2022 with straps only (unofficial record).
  • • Danny Grigsby (American) : 487.5 kg deadlift in 2022 without suit and straps.

Records of Hermann Görner, creator of the deadlift

  • •  Deadlift : 360 kg with hook grip and 380 kg with mixed grip.
  • • Deadlift with one hand block : 333 kg in 1920.
  • • Deadlift with one hand : 330 kg in 1920.
  • • One hand deadlift (Guinness Record) : 301 kg in 1920.
  • • Deadlift using only two fingers of each hand (normal and reverse grip) : 270 kg in 1933.
  • • 380 kg deadlift : 200 kg bar + two men up at each end of the bar. After completing the lift, he held the weight for a few seconds.

Women's records

  • •  Becca Swanson  (American) : 305 kg without suit and straps. 
  • •  Tamara Walcott (American) : 290.5 kg without straps in 2022.
  • •  Andrea Thompson (American) : 363 kg deadlift with truck wheels in 2022.

*The elephant bar : It is a much longer bar than the normal Olympic ones and has more space at the ends to fit more discs. It is only used in Strongman type competitions.

What is considered a good barbell deadlift for the average natural man?

A beginning man would need to be able to lift 1.5 times his body weight. An intermediate could achieve 2 times his body weight. A very advanced lifter could reach 2.5 times his body weight or even more in some cases. 

Reaching 2 times body weight is already a good mark. If you are an 80 kg man and can move 160 kg, you are on the right track.

A beginning woman should lift 1 times her body weight. An intermediate athlete could move 1.2 times her body weight. And an advanced lifter would reach 1.6 times her body weight or more.

If you're a 140-pound girl, for example, try to deadlift 150 to 180 pounds.

Doing barbell deadlifts at home is not recommended because it is a very noisy exercise, although it all depends on having a good place to do it. Look for a gym that has a good platform or rubber floor to perform this exercise well. It is a compound movement that involves many muscle groups. Currently, the debate continues as to whether this exercise is mainly knee-dominated, hip-dominated, or is it a hybrid movement. There is a consensus that it is a great compound exercise, excellent for strengthening the posterior chain and gaining great overall strength.

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