in-depth look into all the muscles that deadlifts work

Deadlifts 101: The Specific Muscles Deadlifts Work

Deadlifts, oh boy! Are you ready to work your entire body in one single movement? Well, get ready to feel the burn!

Deadlifts are a compound exercise that work multiple muscle groups at once, making them a great addition to any strength training routine. They are also a great way to get your heart pumping and your muscles working overtime.

Deadlifts are not just for bodybuilders or powerlifters, they are for anyone looking to improve their overall strength, power and fitness.

In this post, we will explore the specific muscles that are targeted during deadlifts and how they contribute to the movement. We’ll also dive into the benefits of deadlifts and why you should add them to your workout routine.

So, put on your weightlifting shoes, grab a barbell, and let’s get ready to lift heavy….stuff. Gotta keep it PG folks.

The Main Muscle Groups Worked During Deadlifts

deadlifts work a wide assortment of muscles including the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and more

The main muscle groups worked during deadlifts are the glutes, hamstrings, quads, lats, and lower back muscles.


The glutes, or the muscles in your buttocks, play a major role in deadlifts. They are responsible for extending the hips and are heavily recruited during the lifting phase of the movement. Strong glutes can help improve overall athletic performance and prevent lower back pain.


The hamstrings, located on the back of the thigh, also play a significant role in deadlifts. They work in conjunction with the glutes to extend the hips and help maintain proper form during the lift. Strong hamstrings can improve running speed and jumping ability.


The quadriceps, or quads, located on the front of the thigh, assist in the lifting phase of the deadlift by helping to extend the knees. Strong quads can improve overall leg strength and power.


The latissimus dorsi, or lats, are the muscles located on the sides of the back. They are responsible for helping to hold the weight in a stable position against gravity. The lats help to keep the spine in a neutral position during the lift and also play a role in maintaining proper form.

Lower Back

The lower back muscles, specifically the erector spinae, are heavily recruited during deadlifts to maintain proper form and stability. Strong lower back muscles can help prevent injury and improve overall core strength.

How Deadlifts Work These Muscle Groups

Deadlifts work these muscle groups by utilizing a multi-joint, compound movement. The lifting phase of the movement involves the simultaneous engagement of the glutes, hamstrings, quads, lats, and lower back muscles to lift the weight from the ground.

The lowering phase of the movement, also known as the eccentric phase, engages the same muscle groups to control the weight as it is lowered back to the ground.

What Are The Specific Health Benefits of Doing Deadlifts?

  1. Increased muscle mass
  2. Improved Core Strength
  3. Increased Power and explosiveness
  4. Improved cardiovascular health
  5. Improved Posture and balance
  6. Increased functional strength
  7. Increased bone density
  8. Improved overall fitness

It’s good to note that deadlifts are a heavy compound movement and require proper form and technique to be performed safely. It is recommended to start with a lighter weight and gradually increase the weight as the form is mastered.

It is also necessary to have a proper warm-up before performing deadlifts.

1 Rep Max Calculator For Deadlifts

To use a 1 rep max calculator, you will need to input the weight you lifted and the number of reps you completed. The calculator will then use a formula to estimate your 1 rep max.

The most common formula used is the Brzycki formula, which is 1RM = weight lifted (in pounds) x (1 + (reps / 30)). However, there are other formulas that can be used as well.

Once you input the weight and reps, the calculator will give you an estimate of your 1 rep max. Keep in mind that these calculations are estimates and may not be entirely accurate.

One-Rep Max Calculator

What Are The Different Grips You Can Use To Deadlift?

different grips you can use to deadlift

There are several different grips that can be used during a deadlift to target different muscle groups and to accommodate for individual differences in flexibility and strength. The most common grips used during a deadlift are:

Double overhand grip:

This is the most basic grip used for deadlifting and it is the grip where the palms of the hands are facing towards the body. This grip is suitable for people with strong grip strength, but it can be less secure as the barbell may slip out of the hand if the lifter’s grip strength is not strong enough.

Mixed grip:

This grip is used to prevent the barbell from slipping out of the hands. One hand will have a pronated grip (palm facing away from the body) and the other hand will have a supinated grip (palm facing towards the body). This grip is suitable for those with weaker grip strength and allows the lifter to lift more weight. Over time, however, it can lead to muscle imbalances.

Hook grip:

This grip involves wrapping the thumb around the barbell and then gripping the barbell with the fingers. This grip is more secure than the double overhand grip. Unfortunately, it can be uncomfortable for some lifters as the thumb is placed under a lot of load.


Lifters will use these to assist with grip strength. It is not a traditional grip but it is common among those who lift heavy weight. Lifters use straps to help secure the barbell to the hand. This will allow them to focus on the muscle groups worked during the deadlift rather than grip strength.

Related Reading: How To Use Lifting Straps The Correct Way

Ultimately, the grip used during a deadlift will depend on the individual’s grip strength, flexibility, and personal preference. It’s a really good idea to experiment with different grips to find the one that is most comfortable and effective for you.

Do Deadlifts Work The Core Muscles?

Yes, deadlifts do work the core muscles. The core muscles, including the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, and obliques, are all engaged during a deadlift to provide stability and support for the spine.

During the deadlift, the core muscles help to maintain a neutral spine position and to brace the body against the load of the weight. This is particularly important in the lifting phase of the deadlift.

As you pull the weight off the ground, the core muscles will activate to help maintain proper form and prevent the lower back from rounding.

The core muscles will also engage during the lowering phase of the deadlift, known as the eccentric phase, to control the weight as you return it to the ground. This helps to prevent injury and maintain proper form throughout the entire movement.

It’s important to note that the core muscles are not the primary muscle group working during deadlifts, but they are an essential part of the exercise and play an crucial role in maintaining proper form and stability.

Specifically, Do Deadlifts Work Your Abs and Will You Get a Six Pack?

do deadlifts work the core muscles and will you get six pack abs

Deadlifts do work the ab muscles, specifically the rectus abdominis and transverse abdominis, as they are engaged during the movement to provide stability and support for the spine. However, deadlifts alone are not likely to be sufficient to achieve a six-pack.

While deadlifts do strengthen the abs and help to improve overall core strength, a six-pack is primarily a determination of body fat levels. To see the visible definition of the rectus abdominis muscle, one needs to have a low enough body fat percentage.

To achieve a six-pack, a combination of proper nutrition and a consistent cardiovascular and strength training program that includes exercises specifically targeting the abs, such as crunches and leg raises, is necessary. Diet plays a crucial role in achieving a low body fat percentage.

Is It Better To Do Deadlifts With or Without Shoes On?

There is some debate on whether it is better to do deadlifts with or without shoes on. Both options have their own advantages and disadvantages.

Doing deadlifts without shoes can be beneficial because it allows for a greater range of motion and allows the lifter to feel the floor with their feet. This can help to improve balance and stability during the lift.

Additionally, going barefoot can activate the muscles in the feet, which can help to improve overall foot and ankle strength.

On the other hand, doing deadlifts with shoes can be beneficial because it provides added support and stability for the feet. Cross-training shoes, specifically weightlifting shoes, have a raised heel that can help to improve the lifter’s range of motion and provide a solid base for the lift.

proper lifting shoes during deadlifts can help maintain better form

Wearing shoes can protect the feet from any potential hazards on the floor.

The decision of whether to deadlift with or without shoes will depend on the individual’s preference and the equipment available.

My advice? Go with the option that allows you to maintain proper form and stability. Experiment with both options and see which one you feel more comfortable and confident with.

Variations of the Deadlift

Conventional Deadlift

As the name implies, this is the traditional form of deadlift and it is the one that is most commonly performed. The barbell is lifted off the ground while maintaining a neutral spine, and using proper form and technique.

Sumo Deadlift

A favorite alternative, the Sumo deadlift involves a wider stance and a grip that is closer to the body. This deadlift variation works the quads and glutes more and less on the lower back.

Romanian Deadlift (RDL)

Get ready to scorch your hammies with this one. Typically, a Romanian deadlift is performed with less weight than a conventional deadlift and it is focused on targeting the hamstrings and glutes. The barbell is lifted to the level of the knee and then lowered back down.

Stiff-Legged Deadlift (SLDL)

Similar to the Romanian deadlift, doing a stiff-legged deadlift requires that your legs are kept straight throughout the movement. This places more emphasis on the hamstrings.

Deficit Deadlift

The Deficit deadlift is done by standing on a raised surface, such as a plate or step, which increases the range of motion and places more emphasis on the quads and glutes.

Single-Leg Deadlift

Requiring extra coordination, the single-leg deadlift involves lifting the weight on one leg, which helps to improve balance and stability while targeting the glutes, hamstrings, and core.

Snatch-Grip Deadlift

Focusing less on the lower back, Snatch-Grips are done with a wider grip on the barbell, which places more emphasis on the upper back and lats.

Block Deadlift

This variation is performed by lifting the weight from blocks or plates instead of the floor, which allows for a different range of motion and increased emphasis on the hips and glutes.

Examples of a Deadlift Workout For Beginners and the more Advanced

A deadlift workout set can vary depending on the individual’s fitness level and goals. Here are a couple of examples of deadlift workout sets:

Beginner’s Deadlift Workout:

  • Warm-up: 5-10 minutes of light cardio (jogging in place, jumping jacks, etc.)
  • 3 sets of 8-12 reps of conventional deadlifts using a moderate weight
  • 2 sets of 12-15 reps of leg press machine
  • 2 sets of 12-15 reps of leg extension machine
  • 2 sets of 12-15 reps of leg curl machine
  • 2 sets of 12-15 reps of calf raise machine
  • cool down and stretching

Intermediate/Advance Deadlift Workout:

  • Warm-up: 10-15 minutes of dynamic stretching and light cardio
  • 4 sets of 3-5 reps of conventional deadlifts using heavy weight
  • 3 sets of 6-8 reps of sumo deadlifts using a moderate weight
  • 3 sets of 8-10 reps of RDL using a moderate weight
  • 3 sets of 10-12 reps of SLDL using a moderate weight
  • 3 sets of 12-15 reps of single-leg deadlifts using a moderate weight
  • cool down and stretching

Before charging in head first on these workouts, keep in mind they’re examples and the weight, reps, and sets will vary depending on your fitness level, goals, and experience.


Deadlifts are not just your average exercise, they are a powerhouse movement that will work your entire body and leave you feeling like a superhero.

They’re a great way to show off your strength and power, and let’s be honest, who doesn’t love the feeling of lifting a heavy weight off the ground?

Not only do deadlifts target the major muscle groups such as glutes, hamstrings, quads, lats, and lower back muscles, but they also provide a wide range of benefits for your overall fitness and well-being. From improved cardiovascular health, to better posture and balance, to increased functional strength and even stronger bones, deadlifts cover it all.

But don’t just take our word for it, give it a try yourself! Start with a lighter weight and gradually increase as you master the form.

And remember, have fun with it, deadlifting is not just about lifting the weight, it’s about feeling strong, accomplished, and confident. So grab that barbell, let’s lift some “dead” weight, and feel the burn!


  • “The Deadlift: A Complete Guide for Athletes and Coaches” by Mark Rippetoe and Lon Kilgore
  • “The Role of the Gluteus Maximus in Athletic and Rehabilitation Settings” by Michael P. Reiman et al.
  • “The Hamstring Muscle Group: Injury, Rehabilitation, and Return to Play” by Anthony G. Beutler and Michael G. Pagnani.
  • “Quadriceps Function and Injury” by Peter Malliaras and Anthony J. Schache.
  • “The Latissimus Dorsi: Anatomy, Function, and Rehabilitation” by Sarah M. Picerno and Matthew J. Smuck.

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