Deadlifts – One Exercise for Full Body Workout

If you could choose only one exercise to add to your workout, that would be deadlifts.

Yes, if you had the (unreal) possibility to do only one exercise, you couldn't choose better.

This is absolutely the most complete exercise that you can imagine, because it involves a full body workout. It trains your upper body and lower body like no other exercise available.

Deadlifts form

Correct deadlifts form

Quads, glutes, hamstrings, back, lower back, forearms, traps, rear deltoids, core...almost every muscle group is worked with this exercise.

Think of deadlifts as a squat, only the barbell is in your hands instead of being on your shoulders. Plus much more.

This is the type of exercise that you have to do if you want to make big muscle gains.

If it was your only exercise in a workout day there would be nothing to complain about. Your body would respond building muscle fast!

It's probably the most effective exercise but it also comes with some risks. You can do deadlifts only when you have practised a lot and learned the perfect form.

If you injury your back doing deadlifts it might keep you out of the gym for a long time.

Deadlifts Details

PRIMARY MUSCLE: Lower Back, Quads

SECONDARY MUSCLES: Glutes, Hamstrings, Back, Traps, Rear Deltoids, Core, Forearms

EQUIPMENT: Barbell, Weigh Lifting Belt (optional)

TYPE: Compound


As you can see, with this exercise you work out every muscle group except chest and arms.

If you do deadlifts, do it as first exercise of your workout session. It requires focus and energy that you might not have at the end of a workout.


INITIAL POSITION: Place a barbell loaded with the desired weight on the ground and follow these directions:

  • Feet: your fee should be shoulder width, or even less, and point forward. There is not an exact distance recommended. Experiment with shorter/wider distance until you find which one gives you more freedom of movement when you bend down. Sometimes different width can give you some hip and knee restriction. Place your feet under the barbell, with the bar almost touching your shins.
  • Hands: grab the bar with a width that is wider than your shoulders. If you use heavy weights you can use reverse grip with one hand, this gives you more strength holding the bar.
  • Chin: Always chin up to keep your neck straight. Fix a spot high on the wall or just make eye contact with yourself if you do it in front of a mirror.
  • Legs: Bend down keeping your back straight and lower your butt. Your upper legs should be horizontal to the ground.
  • Back: Imagine your back as a piece of wood. Don't ever bend it or...good luck!

MOVEMENT: The movement needs detailed direction for the active phase and negative phase:

  • Pushing up: when you feel your feet 100% stable on the ground, start pushing up with your legs and glutes, lifting the bar on a vertical line. That means that it should slide vertically in front of your shins. When your legs are extended your body is still bent forward. At this point use your lumbar muscles to reach the straight position, always keeping your back straight. When you are straight up do crunches with your traps to push your shoulders back.
  • Going down: Repeat the movement in opposite way. First of all bend your body forward keeping your back straight, basically until the bar is lowered down to your knee level. Then bend your knees slowly and lower your butt until the barbell touches the ground.

BREATHING: Exhale while you push up and inhale during the negative phase.

TIPS and ERRORS: Tips and errors for this exercise can be hundreds. The main thing is to practice with an unloaded barbell until your personal trainer tells you that your form is perfect. Remember to warm up very well before you attempt these lifts. Keep your back straight, don't ever bend your spine because you can really injure your discs and be affected by hernia. Use of a weight lifting belt is strongly recommended. At the beginning you will probably scratch your shins with the bar while you push up, but it's matter of learning how to balance. Like for the squats, when you bend down your knees should never pass your tip toes. No part of your body should pass your tip toes.

DEMO: How to Perform Deadlifts Correctly



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