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How to Deadlift: A Guide to Proper Deadlift Form

Deadlifting: The king of lifts. But why is it so popular with weightlifters and fitness fanatics alike? Lifting has a range of benefits that goes way beyond simple muscle strength, but only if lifts like deadlifts are done properly to avoid strain or injury. Read on for our guide to deadlifts and why they’re a great addition to any workout routine.

The Benefits of Deadlifts

Why are deadlifts so popular? What does deadlift work in terms of muscles? Here are just a few deadlift benefits that make them one of the most popular weights exercises around:

  • Wide range of muscles worked
  • Simple to do when proper form is followed
  • Minimal equipment needed
  • Functional: helps with daily lifting, other strength-related tasks like digging, and back safety
  • Stretches muscles as well as toning which is good for flexibility
  • Burns fat
  • Improves bone mass and density

What Muscles Do Deadlifts Work?

What do deadlifts work in terms of muscles? Well, when doing a deadlift, muscles all over the body get involved. This is beneficial because it avoids focusing only on “Mirror Muscles,” literally, what you see when you look in the mirror, like abs and biceps. When performing a successful deadlift, muscles worked include:

  • Trapezius (muscles across the shoulder and upper back)
  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Abdominals (core muscles)
  • Various back muscles
  • Muscles around the hips

Keeping a straight back and engaging all the muscles correctly while deadlifting makes this exercise a full-body workout.

Proper Deadlift Form: How to Deadlift Step by Step

How to Deadlift Step by Step

Here are the steps for the proper deadlift form. Before starting, be sure to warm up, drink water, and don’t lift weights when ill or suffering from an injury. If unsure, speak to a doctor or personal trainer.

  1.   The barbell starts on the floor. Step up to the barbell, and stand with feet slightly under, so the bar is above the middle of your feet.
  2.   Feet should be as far apart as your hips and angled slightly outwards for stability.
  3.   Bend over keeping both arms at shoulder width and grip the bar. Don’t lift yet.
  4.   Bend your knees until your shins nearly, but not quite, make contact with the bar.
  5.   Keep back neutral, engage glutes (butt muscles) and abs.
  6.   Lift the bar, keeping feet flat to the floor, and visualizing your weight pressing down through your heels.
  7.   Keep your weight focused down through your legs until the barbell is passed the knees.
  8.   Push hips forward into a normal standing position and stand with the weight for just one or two seconds.
  9. Carefully reverse this process, ensuring back doesn’t become curved or rounded, until the barbell is back in its starting position.

Romanian Deadlift Form

The Romanian deadlift is almost a reverse deadlift. You start with the barbell in your hands, in front of the thighs. Bend the knees and push the butt backward, bending forwards from the hips with a straight back to lower the barbell. Lift it again with a reversal of these movements.

The Romanian deadlift may work the glutes and lower back muscles more than a conventional deadlift. It may also help if your flexibility doesn’t allow you to bend all the way to the ground to pick up a stationary barbell. You may not find as much muscle gain with this type of deadlift, though.

Sumo Deadlift Form

A Sumo deadlift starts with the feet wider apart than a conventional deadlift. The feet should be wider than shoulder-width, and the toes should point outwards at about a 45-degree angle. Other than this, the move is pretty much the same, with the same safety points: Don’t curve or round the back at all, ensure weight is driving through legs, and keep feet flat on the floor.

Smith Machine Deadlift

Visitors to the gym or those lucky enough to have their own home gym set up can use the Smith Machine for deadlifts. Basically, this is a bit of equipment that has the barbell set up in a frame. The barbell is still lifted by you, but the frame only allows it to go up and down in a controlled manner, and it can be locked out at certain heights.

Smith machine deadlifts could help you control your own form, and get used to getting in the same position every time. Some weightlifters feel that it’s too easy to become reliant on the machine, rather than figuring out the proper form by yourself. It’s a really personal thing or something to discuss with a personal trainer.

Deadlift Bar FAQs

Deadlift Bar FAQs

Anyone doing a barbell deadlift or thinking of starting a deadlift workout may have asked these questions from time to time.

How Much Does a Barbell Weigh?

If you’re an absolute beginner, you might not have any idea what sort of weights to expect. This might lead to you picking up something way too heavy at the gym- or something too light that won’t have any benefit to you.

A barbell with weights on is the combined weight. It is the bar (see below) and the added weights- simple, yeah? So, weights range from the basic bar weight up to and beyond 450 pounds.

What’s the Best Barbell Weight to Start With?

Start with the bar with no additional weights. This is the lowest you can go, after all, and gives you a benchmark to begin from. It also allows you to practice the correct form with minimal risk of injury. Add weights gradually from this point. A weekly increase is fine. Slow and steady ensures gradual but consistent muscle growth and strength training.

How Much Does the Bar Weigh?

The standard weight of the bar is 20kg or 44lb, although this may change at the competition level. For example, in some women’s competitions, the bar is only 15kg or 33lb, but at the gym generally, everyone lifts with the same 44lb bar.

Ready to deadlift? Remember, the form is everything. Without the correct form, those weights won’t do you any good at all. Take an experienced friend or talk to a trainer. Get someone to watch you, or film yourself lifting and show it to someone who knows what they’re talking about. The better your form, the more your strength and muscle tone will improve.


Deadlifting is a type of weightlifting involving barbells. Proper form is essential for safety and for the best strength training. Deadlifting is a whole body workout when done properly, engaging many muscle groups and improving bone mass and fitness.

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