Deadlift – The Ultimate Exercise. Not Just For Zombies

Word Count: 652 NF Difficulty: Advanced

heavy-deadliftI’ve been going to the gym here in Atlanta for about a year and a half now, and you know how many people (other than myself) I’ve ever seen do a deadlift?  ZERO.

Not a single person in the entire time I’ve been in there has done a deadlift. I’m sure there are some that I just haven’t seen yet, but it’s pretty crazy to think that I have yet to run into somebody doing one, considering how often I’m there.  After all, it is the most basic, primal, mass-building, testosterone pumping, results driven exercise out there.  It’s the exercise that separates the men from the boys, the heroes from the chumps.  You’re not a chump, are you?

Deadlifts work your legs, butt, back, arms, forearms, shoulders, traps, and abs. Not bad for one exercise!  Oh, and it also pumps up your whole body and can even release extra testosterone, which will help you in your muscle building.  If you’re a skinny guy looking to bulk up and you’re not doing deadlifts and squats (read my squats article here), you’re just wasting your time.

I think I have an idea why nobody else is doing deadlifts at my gym – because they’re scared of getting hurt. I was scared of deadlifts for a long time too; in fact, it probably took me a year of doing them (with light weights) before I realized that I was doing it wrong (using way too much of my back).  However, since I’ve studied the exercise and put in some time, I’ve seen massive gains in my deadlift maximum and it’s beyond exciting – I’ve added 50 lbs to my deadlifts in the past month and a half.

deadlift2Think about our ancestors: they didn’t have a weight rack to deal with, or a Smith machine to help them out – they had heavy rocks, logs, and carcasses they needed to move from one place to another.  Simple enough – you can either pick it up, or you’re too weak.  If you’re too weak, you might not have dinner for your family that night, or you might not have a place to sleep, so you found a way to GET strong enough.  Be more like the cavemen!

Deadlifts work your entire body. Forearm curls? Waste of time.  Shrugs with dumbbells? Useless.  500 sit ups? Why bother?  I guarantee you by the time you’re deadlifting big weight you’ll have massive arms and legs, forearms that you can hammer nails with, a crazy strong lower back, and abs that are beyond ridiculous.

Rather than explain it to you in 1000 words, I found a great video that shows great form and emphasizes proper technique.  After the video, I’ll describe the most important things to keep in mind:

Proper Deadlift Technique Video (1:30)

Things to keep in mind when doing deadlifts:

  • Don’t arch your back (or roll it in the other direction). Keep your abs tight the ENTIRE TIME, and keep your back straight (the guy in video does really good job with this).
  • Keep the bar as close to you as possible – almost roll it up your shins until you get to your knees, and then almost roll it up your thighs until you’re upright.
  • As you bring it past your knees, don’t think about pulling up with your back, thrust in with your hips (um, that’s what she said? COME ON)
  • Keep your head up and chest out as you lift - this will help you keep your back aligned properly.
  • As you bring the weight up, you want your legs to straighten out simultaneously as your hips come in completely - form a straight line at the same time with your hips, knees and feet.

Did this article help you? Was it enough of a motivator to get you to want to do deadlifts?  Let me know at [email protected] if it didn’t and let me know what I can explain better.


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  • Lauren Perry


  • Lauren Perry

    If you keep very good form, deadlifts should strengthen your lower back and make it more stable and less susceptible to injury. However, if you round your back you may find that it causes more problems than it is worth. In your case it might be worth doing other lower back exercises (like hyperextensions and/or weighted hyperextensions) to build up that muscle a little bit before you jump into deadlifts.

    At any rate, it’s probably something to work on with a physical therapist or personal trainer to make sure that your body is capable of it and that you aren’t going to hurt yourself.

  • Lisa

    I probably can’t do these as I had surgery for sciatica 4 years ago. Luckily I haven’t re-activated it, but I have to be careful what strength training I do. Would deadlifts using a moderate weight still be helpful? I probably wouldn’t set goals of increasing the weight each time.

  • Bryce S.

    Is this motion at all related to cleaning? I am experience with cleaning from football, but never did any deadlifts.

  • Niggademus

    This is funny. Im not doing deadlfts and im still bulking up. I might start doing it soon though.

  • Dom

    Hi everybody, I am working myself through this blog and will definitely try out most of what is recommended in here. At least try it.
    I never did deadlifts before and I have no access to a gym. But looking at this article I have one question?

    Are deadlifts anything else than squads with the bar in your hands instead of on your back?

    The form looks the same to me.
    You are probably gonna correct me know :)

  • colek3

    I, personally love stiff legged deadlifts standing on a block of wood. Your blog is great, especially appreciate the squat piece. I had the same experience with the smith rack and have avoided them since. You have inspired me to start them. Thanks!

  • WV

    This is the first time i see this technique but it looks like pretty dangerous. Done wrong, it can injure your back.

  • Kristine Griffett

    I love deadlifts!!

  • Eva

    Really helpful intro to deadlifts but very geared toward men! Would appreciate more gender neutral language in the articles so I feel included as a woman looking to become a fit nerd.

  • Beach Bum

    Hi there, i’ve just started dead lifts in my workout… I’m 57 started going to the Gym 19 months ago, so have some build up stuff.. anyway love the feel of dead lift feeling for two days after… anyway go cocky on my 8 workout doing dlifts… ya now hurting bad,, never felt it when i was doing them but wow next day.. sucks… anyway i got lazy and lost focus.. i’m sure.. ive had back issues for years and had them resolved for the most part till now…. so ya not sure how long it will take till i can do them again? thanks for the tips.. gawd i’ve watched so many videos now i’m more confused then when i started with a trainer ….