Female powerlifter Nia Shanks explains the importance of the deadlift for women, and provides some deadlifting tips.

Nia ShanksDeadlifts. They are by far one of the best exercises for producing overall strength. But even more than that, they can even help you improve your physical appearance too. So, before we get into the meat of this article, I want to explain why women in particular should do deadlifts on a regular, consistent basis.

There are several reasons why women should incorporate deadlifts into their programs. One of the most important reasons I think deadlifting is important for women is that it allows them to realize their true strength potential. It never fails; anytime I train women and get them to pull a heavy triple on the deadlift (after building up to that level, of course), they absolutely love it. Something just seems to click in their minds when they rip a heavy weight off the floor.

Unfortunately women are still taught to believe that they can’t get strong, and that they should only lift tiny dumbbells coated in pretty pink or other pastel colors. They are taught to believe that if they lift anything heavier than 10 pounds that they will become muscle-bound beasty freaks. Those are blatant misconceptions, and women need to know the truth.

Once women can get past that false mentality of lifting heavy weights and actually push themselves, the results are amazing. I have seen this time and time again with myself and my other female clients, and those who follow Fat Loss Detour. Most recently my Mom started to train for push/pull meets (the total of the bench press and deadlift). After only a couple months of training, she pulled 235 pounds!

Well, after that first meet she got the powerlifting bug and wanted to do more. In her quest to get better and pull more weight, she also decided that she wanted to lose some fat and get into a lower weight class. At her first meet she was in the 148 pound weight class, and she wanted to get into the 132 pound weight class.

Her powerlifting and weight loss journey included a heavy dose of deadlifting, which not only helped her increase her strength, but it allowed her to lose body fat as well. Deadlifting is a great exercise to use even if your only goal is to lose weight and look better. The reason is because it stimulates a lot of muscle which helps to jack up your fat burning metabolism and build muscle. Leg extensions, leg curls, and the inner and outer thigh machines could never compare to a heavy set of deadlifts.

Deadlifts will allow you to build muscle in your upper and lower back, glutes, and hamstrings. Why waste your time with useless exercises when you can get such amazing results with a single one?

Long story short: if you want to transform your body and/or get stronger, then you should be deadlifting. Period.

Okay, now that you know why you should be deadlifting, let’s get into how to deadlift properly.

Something I have noticed the past couple of years when it comes to teaching women to deadlift is that the learning curve is usually smaller if they start with sumo deadlifts. Now, this doesn’t always apply to everyone. Some people just have the biomechanics that make traditional deadlifts easier/more comfortable. Some people learn quicker when using a trap bar. Ultimately you need to do what works best for you and your body type, but quite often sumo is the way to go if you have never deadlifted before.

Watch this quick video to get the main training cues for the sumo deadlift.

The main points from the video are:

  • Have your feet wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Set up very close to the bar; I prefer to have my shins touching the bar.
  • Point your feet out at about 45 degree angles.
  • Force your chest out to maintain the arch in your lower back.
  • Do not try to “squat” the weight up. Your hips are higher on the sumo deadlift than a squat.
  • Keep the bar close to your body the entire time – it should run up your shins and then up your thighs.
  • Near the top of the movement, push your hips forward to lock it out.

Now that you know how to deadlift, you should also know that I don’t recommend that you perform more than five reps in a set if you are a beginner. Since the deadlift recruits a lot of muscles, your smaller and weaker muscles tend to give out before your larger, stronger muscles. If your weaker muscles are giving out and you keep pulling for more reps, you could be setting yourself up for injury.

How can you start to include deadlifts in your current program? Simple – just start to include them one to two times a week. If you are a beginner, then deadlifting twice a week could be the way to go, that way your body can start to adapt to the movement pattern, and your strength levels will increase at a fast rate.

Once again, if you are a beginner then I would recommend that you perform three to four sets of five repetitions with the sumo deadlifts. Just remember – make sure every repetition is perfect; sloppy reps won’t benefit you at all.

So start deadlifting and watch your strength levels soar, and your body transform.

Posted on: Mon, 03/21/2016 - 04:41

Nice article on deadlift!
I do deadlift (with straight legs for hamstrings) twice a week, along with other upper body workout. Im doing this since 2 months with 10kg plates, 4 sets of 10 counts.
I wanted to know if i have to continue with deadlift even if other exercises are changed. And should i try for higher weight plates.
Does once in a week give me good results in fatloss..
Thank you!

Posted on: Sat, 10/17/2015 - 16:01

I'm new to weight training. I just started incorporating deadlifts and after a set I feel it all in my abs and a little in my lower abs. It's on fire like I've done a hundred crunches and planks. I never hear anyone talk about feeling it in the abs so am I doing it wrong?

Posted on: Tue, 01/06/2015 - 19:12

OK I'm completely new to this!, I understand everything that's been said above apart from one thing; as I'm a complete beginger what should my starting deadlift weight be? Should I start with say 5kg which is v easy or go for more? Thanks

lucy pooley
Posted on: Mon, 03/02/2015 - 14:15

I started 4 weeks ago with 10kg on each side of a 13kg bar.
Now ive added another 5kg disc each end so now 43kg total.

Ollie Radulovic
Posted on: Sat, 10/05/2013 - 23:07

Which muscle groups do you target more with the sumo deadlift as apposed to regular? I do regular deadlifts all the time- and I'm trying to up my 1Rm and I've never even done sumo!! Will it help my regular? Will it help my squat :)?

PS. I actually am a girl :P I just have a boys name FYI

love competition
Posted on: Tue, 05/28/2013 - 18:33

Can I still do deadlifts if I have a lower back lifting problem?

Posted on: Sat, 01/05/2013 - 10:54

Thank Nia, I should try too!!

Posted on: Thu, 11/29/2012 - 13:22

I am still trying to find out who the woman has ever pulled the most weight and how far??? Does anyone know?

Ollie Radulovic
Posted on: Sat, 10/05/2013 - 23:08

I don't understand...? I think you need to be more specific. Are you talking about deadlifts? And how many reps...?

Posted on: Wed, 11/21/2012 - 13:47

Thanks for this, finally something to do with my husband's bar. Bench presses scare me after getting stuck under it once >.<

Just wanted to say, before I started the video, I really thought it was going to be a CGI model demonstration. Your posture and shape are gorgeous!

Posted on: Mon, 07/23/2012 - 12:24

hii! i didnt do much weight lifting all i did was the light 'girl' weights.. i found myself wanting to try something different so i googled deadlifting as my boyfriend does it, now just a week im deadlifting 154pounds and i love it really great and gives you a sense of achievement, it really is just believing in yourself, only thing is i wish my hands didnt get sore any tips ??

Cam Ford
Posted on: Fri, 02/22/2013 - 18:31

just keep at it your hands will get stronger and the skin will get tougher. If you want to avoid callouses however you can use gloves or lifting straps however I am a firm believer that is cheating as we want the hand strength also.

Posted on: Tue, 04/02/2013 - 16:02

That is great! Try wearing gloves when you do deadlifts. They are not the best but it will help with the soreness of the hands. Also, do them in front of the mirror or have someone check your form. Form is important when doing deadlifts.

Ollie Radulovic
Posted on: Sat, 10/05/2013 - 23:12

I find- personally cause I am a woman and I have small hands- using gloves actually minimizes my hold on the bar. I think that using straps works way better! Or/and- over/under grip :) but of course! different things work for different people, I try not to even use my straps because I want my grip to improve- thought it may take 4-9 year, haha

Posted on: Mon, 06/18/2012 - 01:06

Does anyone know the most weight pulled by a woman, her name, and her weight?

Posted on: Tue, 05/01/2012 - 14:03

Do deadlifts make your waist appear bigger. I want to build my legs and everywhere else but want my waist to remain feminine

Ollie Radulovic
Posted on: Sat, 10/05/2013 - 23:35

Lol- trust me your waist will stay the same OR shrink a tad. Everyone's body is different but normally as women we will lost weight from the place we build it up most easily (again each woman is different, but tends to be hips and thighs) :P Now I'm not saying that you will lost all your fat from your hips and become a size zero, but if you store lots of fat there than possibly losing weight, the fat will prbbly go from there first. I truly don't know, I am not a doctor :P (just a kin student :P)-it'll go from everyone at different rates. Anyway what you can look forward to from deadlifting it that you'll be stronger, have firmer muscles AND possibly thinner hips :) AND you'll look like a badass at the gym :)

-Ollie :)

PS. trust me lots of woman have negative ideas about what the gym will do to them but just remember this- its much easier to lost muscle (by not working out, say you feel you got "too big") than it is to lost fat :) Fat is super hard to lose! I mean if you skip breakfast and lunch- and then weigh yourself in the evening and you "dropped 3 lbs". What do you think you lost? Fat? No :P definitely not! Muscle most likely :P Plus some water. So trust me, work out, lift weights, love lift and decide for yourself the person & body type you want to be :) <3

Posted on: Tue, 03/27/2012 - 05:00

I am 5'4" and 270lbs, clearly in need of shaping up. My fiance trains regularly mainly doing deadlifts, which I have done in spurts of 3 weeks and then I lose momentum...I want to do this exercise to lose weight and I am wondering what your opinion is on this.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 03/27/2012 - 12:04

An exercise alone won't do much for weight loss. Weight loss is primarily about calorie intake. Find a quality level that allows you to lose weight. that way even if you don't currently feel compelled to exercise, you are still making progress.

Posted on: Sun, 12/18/2011 - 10:22

I have skinny, shapeless legs. Will doing squats and dead lifts help me making them look nicer? I am a beginner, 31 yrs old. Hope it does not cause any other side effects or injury. please advise.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 12/21/2011 - 10:33

Squats in particular are great leg builders. Deadlifts are good for strengthening the entire body. As with all exercises, learning proper form is essential.

Lacey Kaye
Posted on: Sat, 05/28/2011 - 16:38

What is the difference between regular deadlifts and straight leg deadlifts (other than the form). Is one better for you than the other?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 06/01/2011 - 14:20

Hi Lacey,

Stiff leg deadlifts are primarily for hamstrings and lower back while regular deadlifts tax more of the upper back, and are a better full body lift.

Posted on: Wed, 03/02/2011 - 15:33

I alternate with deadlifts, my question is do they make your waist thicker?

Ollie Radulovic
Posted on: Sat, 10/05/2013 - 23:45

No!! I don't know where this rumour got started :(

Posted on: Thu, 07/15/2010 - 16:52

So true! Deadlifting is my FAVORITE exercise...probably because it is one of my best lifts!