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Deadlifts are one of the most important strength exercises, and they provide an array of benefits.

They require and build core strength, which helps to establish safe motor patterns, stabilize the trunk, and improve coordination and agility. This makes them a popular choice among bodybuilders and athletes who want to boost their performance.

Deadlifts are also popular among people who want to bring ease to their daily activities. They can increase range of motion in the hips and knees, enhance joint stability, and improve bone density.

Plus, they’re an adaptable, versatile exercise with plenty of variations that allow you to tailor your workout to meet your needs, goals, and abilities.

Read on to learn more about the different types of deadlifts, as well as the muscles they target, benefits, and cautions.

How to do a traditional deadlift

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and the barbell in front of your feet.
  2. Broaden your chest and drop your hips back slightly.
  3. Hinge at your hips to bend forward and take hold of the barbell.
  4. Press your feet firmly into the floor as you drop your hips back.
  5. Press your hips forward to come into a standing position.
  6. Hold the bar just below your hips, keeping your legs, back, and knees straight.
  7. Return to the starting position by pushing your hips back, bending your knees, and squatting down to place the bar on the floor.
  8. Do 3 to 5 sets of 1 to 6 reps.
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Traditional deadlift

Muscles targeted

Deadlifts build lower-body strength by targeting your:

  • trapezius
  • back
  • abdominals
  • glutes
  • hips
  • adductors
  • quadriceps
  • hamstrings

Tips for proper form

It’s important to avoid making technique and alignment mistakes. Here are some tips for proper form:

  • Begin with a comfortable, light load to perfect your form. Start with a standard 45-pound barbell. Gradually add weights to the sides as you progress.
  • Engage your core muscles to prevent rounding or overextending your lower back, and keep your chest open to avoid rounding your upper back outward.
  • Allow your arms to hang down naturally instead of pulling the bar in against your thighs.
  • Bend your knees slightly to target your hamstrings. This also helps to prevent knee strain.

Avoiding injury

While deadlifts can help to reduce low back pain, they can also cause injury to this area. Here are some suggestions for avoiding injury:

  • Use a weightlifting belt to support your low back.
  • As you lift, keep your arms and back straight while engaging your core muscles.
  • Hold the barbell using an overhand grip or a mixed/alternating grip, with one palm facing up and the other facing down.
  • If you have wrist concerns, use wrist braces to support heavier loads.
  • To increase grip strength, use lifting straps.
  • Exercise caution and pay attention to any pain or discomfort you experience during or after the exercise.
  • Keep the bar close to your body the entire time.
  • Move slowly and with control, avoiding any jerky movements.

How to do a Romanian deadlift

  1. Use an overhand grip to hold the bar at hip level.
  2. Draw your shoulders back and keep your spine straight.
  3. Push your hips back as you slowly lower the bar toward your feet.
  4. Press your hips forward to come into a standing position with the barbell in front of your thighs.
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Romanian deadlift

Muscles targeted

The Romanian deadlift targets your hamstrings more than standard deadlifts. You’ll also work your glutes and forearm flexors.

This variation requires more core strength and works your glutes, hamstrings, and calves more than traditional deadlifts. This enhances squatting performance and overall leg strength.

How to do a stiff-legged deadlift

  1. Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart, maintaining a slight bend in your knees.
  2. Hold a bar using an overhand grip.
  3. Keep your back straight as you hinge at your hips to lower the barbell, feeling the stretch in your hamstrings and glutes.
  4. Slowly rise back to standing.
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Stiff-legged deadlift

While one type of deadlift isn’t completely superior to the variations, there are a few key differences between the types.

To decide which variation is most appropriate for you, think about your goals, strengths, and limitations, as well as which type feels most comfortable to you.

When doing all types of deadlifts, you must keep your head slightly lifted, especially if you have any neck concerns. The stability of your knees during all types of deadlifts make them a safe option for people with knee concerns.

Romanian and stiff-legged deadlifts target your hamstrings more than the standard form, making them ideal for people wishing to strengthen this area. They also put less pressure on your low back and are ideal for people with back pain.

Traditional deadlifts may strengthen your lower back more. Romanian deadlifts are the safest option for people with low back pain.

Romanian deadlifts are a great option for people who want to increase hip mobility and target the glutes, which is beneficial in activities that require you to bend down, as well as movements such as squatting.

Stiff-legged deadlifts target your lower back and legs more than the other types. This makes them ideal for building strength in these areas but also leaves you more prone to injury.

Avoid stiff-legged deadlifts if you have any concerns with your lower back and legs.

Think about what you want to achieve as well as any limitations that you may have to create the best workout plan. Always do the exercises safely and efficiently, especially when you’re trying out new techniques.

Deadlifts are a fundamental full-body exercise that’s an extremely beneficial addition to your strength training routine. You’ll tone and define your muscles while correcting any misalignments, which benefits your overall stance and posture.

While deadlifts can be challenging, the effort is worth it due to their total body strength development. Take the time to develop proper form and technique when learning deadlifts, and start with a lighter load.

Talk to your doctor before starting a weightlifting routine if you’re new to exercise or have any medical concerns. If it’s possible, have at least a few sessions with a personal trainer.

If that’s not an option, find a friend who can give you feedback and help to make corrections. Watch yourself in a mirror or make a video to observe your form.