How to Do a Deadlift Correctly Copy

There’s no need to overcomplicate this classic strength-training move.

If you’re serious about lifting weights, learning how to do a deadlift is important. Deadlifts are a great exercise because when done properly they can work several large muscle groups at the same time, making them a great compound exercise to know.

Compound exercises can help you make your workout routines extra efficient since they work the most muscle groups in the least amount of time. Think of squats with an overhead press or lunges with a rotation and compare that to, say, triceps presses or biceps curls, which work muscles in isolation. Deadlifts are a great compound exercise because they work your hamstrings, glutes, back, and even your core. Depending on the variation you’re doing, deadlifts can also be great for building balance.

While it might take you a bit to get the hang of how to do a deadlift, once you do, they might just become your new favorite strength-training move.What Is a Deadlift

A deadlift is a weight-lifting compound exercise that works several large muscle groups including your glutes, hamstrings, back, and core. It’s most commonly done with a barbell, but if you’re new to the move you should practice your form first with little or no weight to make sure you learn the movement correctly. If you have access to one you can also use a light body bar, like these, to get a sense of what it will be like lifting a bar without adding too much weight.

Once you learn how to do a deadlift, you can try them with dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, or even resistance bands.Benefits of Deadlifts

Deadlifts are great for building strength in your glutes, hamstrings, core, and back. They’re also one of three powerlifting exercises (alongside squats and chest presses), meaning they’re perfect if you’re interested in lifting heavy. Translation: There’s no reason to go light on this move once you’ve mastered your technique. Deadlifts can help get you strong as hell, if that’s a goal of yours.

Deadlifts can also be great for people who have knee pain when doing lunges or squats, since they work several of the same muscle groups but put less pressure on your knees. Since you’re not bending your knees much at all and you’re allowing your glutes and hamstrings to do the bulk of the work, deadlifts can also be good for those with limited ankle mobility.

Another benefit of deadlifts is that they secretly work your shoulders, upper back, and core at the same time. Keeping your core engaged throughout the exercise is essential for proper form; and you’ll use your grip strength, shoulders, and upper back as secondary muscles to pull the weight off the floor.Deadlift Techniques

Here’s a detailed breakdown of exactly what to do for a classic deadlift (often called a stiff-leg or Romanian deadlift) using a barbell. See the next section for an instructional GIF of the move.

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  • Stand behind the barbell with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent.
  • Hinge at your hips, bending slightly at your knees. Push your butt way back, keeping your core engaged so that your back stays flat.
  • To pick up the barbell, you may need to bend your knees more on this first rep than you will on subsequent reps.
  • Grip the barbell with both hands so that your hands are placed wider than your knees.
  • Focus on keeping your shoulders pressed down, away from your ears, and slightly internally rotate your elbows in order to engage your shoulder scapula (shoulder blades) so that you are using your back and shoulders to help lift the weight.
  • Keeping your core tight, push through your heels, and lift the weight, straightening your knees first, keeping your back flat, and then reversing the hinge at your hip to stand up the rest of the way.
  • Pause at the top, and really squeeze your butt to ensure that your hip flexors are completely extended (your legs are straight), and your pelvis is stacked directly under your shoulders, with no arch in your low back.
  • The key is to make sure that you’re actually using your glutes and hamstrings to lift—not rounding your back as you lift the weight, which can be dangerous and lead to injury.

Types of Deadlifts

There are so many deadlift variations out there, you’ll definitely find one that’s right for you and your body. The single-leg deadlift requires the most balance, so you may want to master a few other variations first before attempting that one.

Like we mentioned, the Romanian, or stiff-leg, deadlift, is probably the most well-known. Deadlifts make sense to do on “leg day,” but because the move works so many muscle groups they’re also great if you’re doing a total-body workout.Most Popular

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Kelsey McClellan

Romanian (Stiff-Leg) Deadlift

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. Hold a kettlebell with both hands (as shown), or hold a dumbbell in each hand at your thighs.
  • Hinge at your hips, bending slightly at your knees. Push your butt way back and keep your back flat. Your torso should be almost parallel to the floor, and the weights should reach your shins.
  • Keeping your core tight, push through your heels to stand up straight. Keep the weights close to your shins as you pull.
  • Pause at the top and squeeze your butt. This is 1 rep.
barbell deadlift
Katie Thompson

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Barbell Deadlift

  • Stand behind a barbell with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
  • Sit your hips back, bend your knees slightly, and lean your torso forward, maintaining a tight core and flat back. Grab the bar, placing your hands shoulder-width apart, palms facing in toward your body.
  • Push your feet into the floor and stand up tall, pulling the weight with you and keeping your arms straight. Bring your hips forward and squeeze your abs and glutes at the top.
  • Slowly reverse the movement, bending your knees and pushing your butt back to lower the weight back to the floor. Keep the bar close to your body the entire time and maintain a flat back. This is 1 rep.
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Katie Thompson

Banded Deadlift

  • Place a looped resistance band straight on the floor and step on it with both feet to secure it firmly. Keep enough slack in the middle of it for you to pull up.
  • Hinge forward at your hips to lower your body, keeping your back flat. With both hands, grab both parts of the resistance band and lift it to about shin height. This is starting position. There should be enough slack in the band so you don’t feel tension yet.
  • Push through your heels to pull the band up so you stand up straight. Pause at the top and squeeze your butt. This is 1 rep.

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Katie Thompson

Sumo Deadlift With Barbell

  • Stand behind your barbell with feet wider than shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and toes angled out. (The more you turn your feet out, the more this move will work your inner thighs.)
  • Lean forward and wrap both hands around the barbell. You can also do this move with dumbbells by holding a weight in each hand in the middle of your legs, or with a single weight holding it with both hands.
  • Keeping your core tight, push through your heels to stand up straight. Keep the barbell directly underneath your body as you pull upward.
  • Pause at the top and squeeze your butt.
  • Now, hinge at your hips and bend your knees to lower your body. Push your butt far back and keep your back flat. Your torso should be almost parallel to the floor and the barbell weights may tap the floor, though you should not allow the weight to rest on the floor. This is 1 rep.

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Shauna Harrison doing a kickstand deadlift
Kelsey McClellan

Kickstand Deadlift

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Place one foot a foot-length in front of the other, toe on the floor, so your stance is staggered. You’ll be working your front leg.
  • Hinge at your hips to lower your body. Push your butt far back and keep your back flat. Your torso should be almost parallel to the floor.
  • Keeping your core tight, push through your front heel to stand up straight. Keep the weights close to your shins as you pull up.
  • Pause at the top and squeeze your butt. That’s 1 rep.
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Katie Thompson

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Single-Leg Deadlift

  • Stand with your feet together, holding a dumbbell in each hand in front of your legs. This is the starting position.
  • Shift your weight to your right leg, and while keeping a slight bend in your right knee, raise your left leg straight behind your body, hinging at the hips to bring your torso parallel to the floor, and lower the weight toward the floor.
  • Keep your back flat. At the bottom of the movement, your torso and left leg should be almost parallel to the floor, with the weight a few inches off the ground. (If your hamstrings are tight, you may not be able to lift your leg as high.)
  • Keeping your core tight, push through your right heel to stand up straight and pull the weight back up to the starting position. Bring your left leg back down to meet your right, but try to keep the majority of weight in your right foot.
  • Pause there and squeeze your butt. That’s 1 rep.

Mistakes to Avoid

Because doing a deadlift involves a decent amount of coordination, there are several common mistakes. The best ways to avoid all of these is to practice first without any weight in front of a mirror to check your form, or to work with a trainer.

Here are some items to watch out for:

  • You round your back. Deadlifts should be performed with an engaged core and neutral spine (a flat back). If you’re rounding your back to pick up the barbell from the floor, you risk injury.
  • You arch your back. Another common mistake is the opposite of the one above. If you’re thrusting your chest forward and not engaging your core when you lift the weight, it’s likely that your low back will arch—and you risk injury that way as well.
  • You bend your knees way too much. Though you should avoid locking your knees to keep them straight, you should also be conscious to not bend your knees too much (it’s not a squat). Keep your knees loose, but focus on the movement coming from your hip hinge and only lower the weight as far as your flexibility allows.
  • You hold the weight too far from your body. Whether you’re using a barbell or dumbbells, you should be conscious to keep the weight directly under you as you lift and lower—let gravity do the work. Think about almost scraping your shins and thighs with the weight—don’t waste energy or turn the move into a shoulder exercise by holding the weight away from your body.

Safety Tips

A deadlift is not a beginner move, and you should have a good mastery of squats, lunges, and good mornings (a basic hip-hinge movement) before you move on to deadlifts. Because it can be easy to injure your back if you do a deadlift improperly, make sure that you start with light weights or no weight at all.

You should also avoid doing deadlifts if you’ve got a history of low back pain, a hamstring injury, shoulder injury, or if you’ve been instructed to avoid doing deadlifts by your doctor. All strength training comes with a certain amount of risk so make sure that you check with your doctor, warm-up properly first, and regularly integrate cardio routines and stretching into your workout regimens.