This complete guide will teach you everything you need to know about the Conventional Deadlift.
Before we start, let’s turn to multiple time world’s strongest man and Icelandic legend Jon Pall Sigmarsson for one of the most well loved Deadlift quotes of all time.
“There is no point in being alive if you cannot do Deadlift”
What is the Deadlift?
The Deadlift is a full body compound barbell exercise that involves lifting the weight from the floor to the standing position with the arms straight down by the sides or the body.
Hips are fully extended at the top of the movement to lock out the movement and complete the rep.
“The deadlift is more functional in that it’s very hard to imagine a more useful application of strength than picking heavy **** up off the ground.” – Mark Rippetoe
- What is the Deadlift?
- Benefits of the Deadlift
- Muscles Worked by the Deadlift
- How to Do the Conventional Deadlift
- Deadlift Training Tips
- Common Deadlift Mistakes to Avoid
- Which Deadlift Grip is Right for You?
- Deadlift Variations
- Deadlift Alternatives
- Why Should YOU Deadlift?
- Learn More
Benefits of the Deadlift
The Deadlift has many benefits:
- Enhanced functional movement
- Perfect for all strength sports
- Build muscle
- Improve strength
- Strengthen the back
- Add bone density to the body
- Augment the Immune system
In this article we go into much more depth about all the specific benefits of the Deadlift.
Muscles Worked by the Deadlift
The Deadlift is, alongside the Squat, the best muscle and strength building exercise that exists.
Consequently it targets and strengthens many muscles in the human body:
- Rectus Abdominis
It practically works every single muscle in the body. However, there are some muscle groups that must work harder than others during the exercise.
In the Deadlift the hamstrings are vital as they work with the glutes to hinge the body and weight up to the fully extended position.
You will always feel the tension and stretch in the hamstrings as you lift.
As a hip extension exercise, the Deadlift demands that the glutes work hard to help the athlete stand up with the weight.
They work hard throughout the entire range of motion but are especially important in helping straighten the body after the barbell passes the knees.
The deadlift is primarily a hip extension exercise. As such, the glutes do a lion’s share of the work in helping you stand tall with the barbell. Your glutes are active from start to finish, but engage primarily to straighten your body once the barbell passes your knees.
The quads are essential for getting the weight off the floor in the first place as they are knee extensors.
As the weight is lifted progressively higher the role of the quads lessens.
The traps are important for helping to balance and hold the shoulders in position.
As you Deadlift you will feel a lot of pressure on the traps. You can build serious muscle mass and strength for the traps by using the Deadlift.
The lats stabilise the torso during the Deadlift. Weak lats will stop a lifter feeling solid and in control during the lift.
The spine stays in a straight line at all times during the Deadlift. It must support a lot of tension and has to work hard to maintain this position.
The erector spinae protect the spine and so the lift makes them contract and strengthens them significantly.
How to Do the Conventional Deadlift
The following instructions will teach you how to perform the Conventional Deadlift.
Click here to learn how to Sumo Deadlift.
- Set the feet slightly wider than hip width apart
- Stand with your feet under the barbell. The barbell should over the exact middle point of the feet (as measured from toe to heel)
- Reach down and grip the barbell with a mixed or pronated grip
- From this point, DO NOT move your feet. Keep them rooted to the floor and pointed forwards as if they were on train tracks
- Straighten the spine then bend the knees to lower the hips until the barbell comes into contact with the shins. The glutes should not be too high or too low. The shoulders should be directly over the barbell. That is your starting position
- Inhale and brace the core, grip and glutes
- Imagine performing a leg press and push the ground away from you in order to lift the barbell upwards. Keep it in contact with your shins at all times
- Rise until the barbell passes your knees. Power the lift from your quads
- Once the barbell is past the knees, thrust the hips forwards and lock the bar and hips. Contract your glutes to gain more explosive power
- Pause at the top
- To lower the load, push back the hips and load the hamstrings. Stay tight and controlled at all times
- Let the weight come to a dead stop on the floor
- Repeat for the desired number of reps
Deadlift Training Tips
Many lifters will place their feet about hip width apart and point the toes out slightly. This works well, however, Eddie Hall (the first man to ever Deadlift 500kg) recommends that you place them wider and straight forwards (as if they were on train tracks) in order to create a more secure base.
Pay attention to the eccentric lowering phase. If muscle mass is your aim, make sure to slowly lower the weight as this will maximise the time under tension.
Common Deadlift Mistakes to Avoid
Make sure to avoid these common Deadlift mistakes.
Letting the Hips Rise Too Quickly
You don’t want the hips to shoot straight up right at the beginning of the lift. This can be a sign of poor mechanics. It can also indicate weak quads.
Your upper body should rise in the same position as you set up, with the quads powering the weight up beyond the knee.
Make sure you film your own lifts so that you can see exactly what is happening and where you need to improve.
Deficit Deadlifts can also be useful to address this issue.
An Erratic Bar Path
The bar path for the Deadlift should a single vertical A to B line from the floor to full extension.
When the bar path is straight, the movement is efficient and you don’t waste any energy. 100% effort can go into shifting and powering the weight.
Once again, filming yourself or getting the perspectives of your coach or training partner can be a huge help here.
Romanian Deadlifts can be a good way to help you focus on moving the load with as straight a bar path as possible.
Not Pulling all the Slack from the Barbell before it Leaves the Floor
Before you pull the weight from the floor, the barbell (and your body) should be in a tense, strong position.
Brace the bar as much as you can so that there is no other movement when you rise from the floor.
Which Deadlift Grip is Right for You?
The Deadlift exercise can be performed with many different grips
- Double pronated (overhand)
- Mixed Grip
- Hook Grip
Double Pronated Grip
If you want to also develop your grip strength then this is the best choice for you.
Of all the types of grips, it is the weakest, however that means that it will be the best one when it comes to progressing your grip strength.
You can also use this with the hook grip option as well.
This grip comes from Olympic Weightlifting.
Here the thumb is placed against the barbell and then the other fingers wrap around in order to secure the grip in place.
This is not comfortable but you will get used to it. It provides more security that the simple overhand grip.
With this variation one hand faces forwards (supinated) and one hand faces back towards the body (pronated).
This stops the barbell from rolling out of the hands.
It will make your lifts feel strong and secure.
One drawback is that it can create rotational stress or develop the body in uneven ways (which is rare).
These Deadlift variations will help you build strength and muscle, and improve your Deadlift in new and challenging ways:
- Sumo Deadlift
- Block Deadlift
- Stiff-Leg Deadlift
- Deficit Deadlift
- Snatch-Grip Deadlift
- Banded Deadlifts
- Deadlifts with Chains
- Trap Bar Deadlift
- Dumbbell Deadlift
- Deficit Dumbbell Deadlift
Add these alternatives into your program and enhance hypertrophy, unilateral strength and gains.
- Rack Pulls
- Hip Thrust
- Farmer Carry
Why Should YOU Deadlift?
The Deadlift is the best strength exercise that exists (although the Squat also has an excellent claim to that throne).
Whatever your goal, the Deadlift deserves a place in your training plan. From bodybuilders to Rugby players, Cyclists to CrossFit athletes, it has huge functional benefits for everyone.
Beyond the strength and muscle gains, the movement has huge benefits for general physical (immune system, bone density etc) and psychological health.
It is also suitable for everyone.
Often it can be overlooked by people that are new to lifting as it can seem scary and daunting. However, start light and work with a coach to nail the technique and anyone can reap the rewards of this excellent exercise.
Scroll through to find more answers to your questions.
Can Beginners Deadlift?
Yes, 100% The Deadlift is a great exercise for athletes and lifters of all different training levels and abilities.
How should I Warm Up for Deadlifts?
Here are a few tips that will help you warm up for Deadlifts:
- Work on the muscles groups that will be active during the lift
- Warm the back up with bands or light dumbbells
- Raise the heart rate during the warm up so that the body is warm. Plyometric Box Jumps can be a great choice here as they will activate the legs and glutes as well as raise the heart rate.
Add Nordic Curls into your workouts and include other effective deadlift variations to your training: