Looking for that unicorn exercise? You know, the one that’s going to give you everything you ever wanted.
Hate to break it to you, but there isn’t one.
But the deadlift comes pretty damn close. The benefits of deadlifts are innumerable. You’ll get out way, way more than you’ll put in. They’re great for everyone from the never-exercised to the exercise-ninja.
What is a deadlift?
A deadlift is exactly what the name says – you lift some dead weight. In other words, you lift a weight that’s not moving.
What Muscles do Deadlifts Work?
Doing a deadlift uses all your muscles. Not a lie. Not an exaggeration. This is why deadlifts are the closest to an exercise unicorn you’ll find.
Don’t believe me? Let’s start at the top.
- The muscles in your shoulders, arms and hands are used to keep the weight stable, steady and in the right spot.
- The muscles in your back and core work to keep your spine stable and your whole body tight.
- The muscles in your glutes and legs work to lift the weight.
Bam! A whole body workout with one exercise.
But your butt is getting the best return. Your glutes are used a lot when you deadlift, so they’re a great (seriously GREAT) exercise for shaping your booty.
What are the Benefits of Deadlifts?
There are so many benefits of deadlifts. Deadlifts are about way, way more than strength and muscles.
Let’s jump right in.
Deadlift Benefits #1 – Deadlifts are a functional exercise
Functional exercises are my favorites.
A functional exercise is something you might actually do in real life. A functional exercise could also be one that might help you do things you actually do IRL.
Think about that for a second.
Functional exercises are designed to help with real life, not just with working out.
Real Life Examples
- Grocery Shopping
- Lifting a person
Deadlift Benefits #2 – Grip Strength
Grip strength kind of plays into the functional aspects of deadlifts.
People often focus in on how strong their arms, shoulders, legs, and core are. They forget about their hands. How often do you use your hands to do things?
It doesn’t matter if your arms are strong enough to carry a bag. If your grip strength isn’t strong enough as well, you’re going to drop it.
Real Life Examples
- Pushing a stroller (especially downhill)
Deadlift Benefits #3 – Cheap, Easy, Convenient
Deadlifts are cheap. The only thing you need to do a deadlift is some weight. The standard is a weighted barbell. But if you don’t have that, you can use anything.
Deadlifts are convenient. You need enough space to bend over and pick something up. You can do them anywhere you can find some weight to lift.
Deadlifts are easy. If you’re not familiar with doing deadlifts you might be scared. Maybe you’ve heard they’re dangerous (they’re not). You’re hinging at your hips and that’s about it. Once you get the form down, you’ve got it. And it likely won’t take long.
Deadlift Benefits #4 – Posture
Deadlifts target all the muscles used for good posture. This will help you keep your back straighter (good posture) during everyday life.
Beyond the benefit, deadlift form is remarkably similar to good posture. Back straight – neither hyperextended nor curved – shoulders down, chin up. This is the posture you’ll keep during deadlifts. So, if you do deadlifts regularly it will become your natural posture.
Bad posture makes you look shorter, older and fatter. Bad posture also leads to back pain. Do deadlifts, have good posture.
Deadlift Benefits #5 – Strength
I already mentioned which muscles deadlifts work (reminder: all of them). Deadlifts work more muscles than any other exercise – it’s King of the exercise yard (with squats as the Queen).
Strength is a huge benefit of deadlifts because they make so much of you stronger. Who doesn’t want to be stronger?
Seriously. If you’re like “I don’t care about being stronger” – why not?
Stronger legs mean you can stand, walk and run for longer. Stronger legs mean better balance.
A stronger back and core means that you’ll have better posture. They’ll also increase your balance.
Stronger arms means you can lift and carry more.
Being stronger usually means an increase in muscle (and a decrease in fat). This leads to an increase in your metabolism.
Again, I ask: who doesn’t want to be stronger?
Deadlift Benefits 6 – Injury Prevention
A lot of the earlier benefits lead to this one. Deadlifts will help you prevent future injuries.
All those gains of strength I mentioned in benefit 6 correlate to injury prevention. Stronger people are less likely to fall over. And when they do fall over, they’re less likely to be seriously injured than weak people. Be strong.
Furthermore, Deadlifts are a weight-bearing exercise. Weight-bearing exercises build bone density. Low bone density is the leading cause of osteoporosis. Do you want bones that break? No. You want high-density, strong as F@#$ bones. Deadlifts will cover you.
How to Deadlift
Written instructions for a deadlift are not very helpful. Here are two videos to teach you proper deadlift form. Watch them both.
Watch your bar height – if you aren’t using large weights, prop the bar up until it’s a couple of inches above your ankles.
Just starting? Use an empty bar or no bar or hold light dumbbells. Focus on form before you worry about weight.
As you advance, you’ll begin to add more and more weight.
No. Don’t look for them. Don’t do them. Do deadlifts.
The Deadlift Challenge for Beginners
If you’ve never done a deadlift, there’s no time to start like the present.
You’re going to focus on FORM. FORM. FORM. We’re going to do high-volume, VERY low weight. The goal here isn’t to get you super strong in 30 days, it’s to get you comfortable with perfect-form deadlifts.
Adding Deadlifts to Your Routine
You can add deadlifts to leg day. Do 3 sets of 10-12 at the end of your workout.
You can add deadlifts to back day. Do 3 sets of 8-10 at the start of your workout.
Tracking Your Challenge and Workouts
When I did the Deadlift Challenge, I kept track of it in my Bullet Journal because I like things like that.
Don’t have a bullet journal? Have no idea what that is? Learn more about What is a Bullet Journal from Planning Mindfully.
If you want to keep track of your workouts and challenges all in one place, I 100% recommend Jefit – they have a web version, android app, and iOS app. I’ve been using Jefit for years. It’s the best workout app on the. market. Plus, the free version is awesome.
When you’re first getting comfortable with deadlifts, you’re going to want to check your form. Having a friend watch is the easiest way – you can help each other!
If you’re working out in a commercial gym, ask a staff member or another exerciser. Most people in gyms are friendly and would be happy to check your form while they’re resting between sets.
No one available? Set up your phone to record your workout and check your own form.
Don’t Skip Deadlifts
Deadlifts are an excellent addition to any workout. Everyone should be doing them. If you haven’t been, it’s time to start.
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