Deadlift Exercise

Original Editor - User:Matt Huey

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Introduction[edit | edit source]


The deadlift exercise is a relatively simple exercise to perform, a weight is lifted from a resting position on the floor to an upright position. The deadlift exercise utilizes multiple muscle groups to perform but has been used to strength the hips, thighs, and back musculature.

It was believed that the mechanics are similar to the squat, however, there are several differences. First, the deadlift the force production is not assisted with a stretch-shortening cycle as in the squat. This means that the deadlift starts with a concentric contraction and ends with an eccentric contraction[1]. Another is the load is applied perpendicular to the body and loaded on the horizontal plane. The squat is loaded in the vertical plane. This means that the deadlift could have benefits for horizontal plane activities such as sprinting and long jumps[1].

Technique[edit | edit source]

To perform a deadlift:

  1. Start with the feet shoulder width apart (foot stance may vary depending on variation). Feet are under the bar with the bar close to the shins
  2. Lower the torso to the bar by pushing the buttocks back and hinging at the waist. Then grasp the bar in your hands.
  3. Squeeze the shoulder blades together to engage the lats, followed by engaging the core musculature. Make sure to keep the hips lower than the shoulders and the head/neck in a neutral position.
  4. Push through the feet and pull the weight up. Think about pushing the floor away, rather than lifting the weight up. The bar should stay relatively close to the shins. Squeeze the glutes to lock the top of the lift.
  5. Lower to the floor the the reverse manner.

Muscles Used[edit | edit source]

The deadlift exercise can be considered a full body exercise since it utilizes many muscles in both the upper and lower body.

A systematic review did look at the muscle activation during a deadlift. It was found that the erector spinae and quadriceps muscles were more active than the gluteus maximus and biceps femoris. In the hamstrings, the semitendinosus has slightly greater muscle activation than the biceps femoris[2].

Variations[edit | edit source]

The deadlift exercise can be modified in a number of ways depending upon the desired goals, sport, or limitations of the person performing the deadlift. Each variation will allow the person to focus on specific muscle groups or mimic a desired activity[3].

  • Conventional Deadlift
Sumo Deadlift

The conventional deadlift is often the most commonly thought of. The person stands with their feet approximately shoulder width with the arms outside their thighs. There is increased emphasize on the lower back due to the trunk having more of a forward lean.

  • Sumo Deadlift

The person sets up with a wider stance with the arms inside the thighs. The trunk stays in a more upright stance utilizing the hips more than the back.

  • Straight/Stiff Leg Deadlift

The person stands with the feet about shoulder width and the knees stay extended (not fully locked out). The trunk says in a neutral position and the downward motion comes from the hips flexing and moving posteriorly. The focus is on the lower back and hamstrings.

The person stands with the feet about shoulder width but now the knees are flex approximately 15 degrees. The trunk says in a neutral position and the downward motion comes from the hips flexing and moving posteriorly. The focus is on the lower back, gluteals, and hamstrings.

  • Rack Deadlifts

The person can utilize whatever stance they prefer, but the difference is the bar starts at a higher height using a rack. The height of the bar can be adjusted to whatever height the person would like. This allows the person to either focus on lifting heavier weights, training weak points, or mimicking a similar activity.

  • Deficit Deadlifts

The person utilizes whatever stance they prefer but they typically are on an elevated surface so the bar is lower than it would typically be. This allows the person to focus on the initial pull of the deadlift, training a weak point, or mimicking a similar activity.

  • Snatch Grip Deadlift

The person uses a conventional set up but instead of gripping the bar just outside the thighs, the person uses a much wider grip. Using this wider grip puts more emphasis on the stabilization of the scapula and upper back musculature.

Additional Variations[edit | edit source]

The variations to deadlifts are not limited to the type of deadlift itself. Additional modifications can be made to change the exercise.

  • Bars

Changing the type of bar used can add variety. Stiff bars, hex bar, or fatter diameter bars changes the forces and demands.

  • Resistance

The use of resistance bands and chains can add increasing or even decreasing resistance throughout the range of motion of the deadlift.

  • Grips

Most people use 1 of 2 grip variation, double overhand (both hands around the bar with palms facing them), or opposing grip (one palm facing in and the other out). To challenge the grip, a larger diameter bar could be used or having something wrapped around it. Another grip could be a fingertip grip, which the bar is held more in the fingers, rather than the palm "digging into" the bar.

  • Speed

The speed at which the lift is performed can be changed. A person could perform a repetition as quickly as possible or at a slower than normal rate.

Research[edit | edit source]

Deadlifts and low back pain:

One study found that a 8-10 week deadlift training program did improve pain and function at a 15 month follow up with people with discogenic low back pain[4].

A systematic review found there is Level B evidence that deadlifts are a clinically effective option for the treatment of mechanical low back pain, with improvements in pain and functional outcomes[5].

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Vecchio, L. D., Daewoud, H., & Green, S. (2018). The health and performance benefits of the squat, deadlift. and bench press. MOJ Yoga & Physical Therapy, 3(2), 40-47.
  2. Martin-Fuentes, I., Oliva-Lozano, J. M., & Muyor, J. M. (2020). Electromyographic activity in deadlift exercise and its variants. A systematic review. PloS one, 15(2), e0229507.
  3. Piper, T. J., & Waller, M. A. (2001). Variations of the deadlift. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 23(3), 66.
  4. Holmberg, D., Crantz, H., & Michaelson, P. (2012). Treating persistent low back pain with deadlift training–A single subject experimental design with a 15-month follow-up. Advances in Physiotherapy, 14(2), 61-70.
  5. Fischer, S. C., Calley, D. Q., & Hollman, J. H. (2021). Effect of an exercise program that includes deadlifts on low back pain. Journal of Sport Rehabilitation, 30(4), 672-675.