Deadlift Video Guide

Exercise Profile

  • Strength
  • Barbell
  • Compound
  • Hinge (Bilateral)
  • Intermediate
  • Abs, Adductors, Calves, Forearms, Glutes, Hamstrings, Lats, Lower Back, Middle Back, Quads, Traps, Upper Back
Hamstrings Exercises Diagram Target Muscle Group

Exercise Instructions

  1. Position the bar over the top of your shoelaces and assume a hip width stance.
  2. Push your hips back and hinge forward until your torso is nearly parallel with the floor.
  3. Reach down and grasp the bar using a shoulder width, double overhand grip.
  4. Inhale and pull up slightly on the bar while allowing your hips to drop in a seesaw fashion. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as “pulling the slack out of the bar”.
  5. As you drop the hips and pull up on the bar, set the lats (imagine you’re trying to squeeze oranges in your armpits) and ensure your armpits are positioned directly over the bar.
  6. Drive through the whole foot and focus on pushing the floor away.
  7. Ensure the bar tracks in a straight line as you extend the knees and hips.
  8. Once you have locked out the hips, reverse the movement by pushing the hips back and hinging forward.
  9. Return the bar to the floor, reset, and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Exercise Tips

  1. You MUST keep the crease of the armpit over the bar and the midfoot in order to allow the bar to travel linearly.
  2. The deadlift is a hinge, not a squat. If you set the hips too low you will put yourself in a disadvantageous position biomechanically and limit your potential for pulling maximal weights.
  3. In order to prevent the bar from drifting away from the body, one should focus on squeezing their lats in order to keep the bar close and allow it to travel in a linear fashion. Use the cue: “squeeze oranges in your armpits”, “put your shoulder blades in your back pockets” (i.e. scapular depression) or “imagine you’re doing a straight arm pulldown”.
  4. The hips should be lower than the shoulders and you should be able to see the logo on the lifter’s shirt before they pull (i.e. “chest up”). The chest up cue is usually accomplished when the lats become locked in though so this cue is typically not needed if the lifter understands how to initiate the lats.
  5. Neck position is highly individual - Some prefer a neutral neck position (i.e. keeping the chin tucked throughout the lift) while others do well with looking slightly up. Here’s some factors to consider:
    • If you’re someone who is more globally extended (i.e. athletic background), then you will likely be able to keep a neutral position more effectively by packing the chin.
    • On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you tend to be more flexion dominant (especially in your thoracic spine - upper back) then it would behoove you to look up slightly as this will drive more extension.
    • Experiment with each and see which one works best for your individual anatomy and biomechanics.
  6. Ideally you should cue and emphasize a vertical shin but this will depend entirely on a lifter’s spine and limb length.
  7. Toe angle is highly individual - this will be dependent upon your hip anatomy. Experiment (toes slightly in, out, or neutral) to see what feels best for you.
  8. Do NOT retract your shoulder blades. This is mechanically inefficient and a self limiting cue as it shortens the length of the arms thus requiring a larger range of motion.
  9. Make sure you wrap your thumbs around the bar and don’t utilize a false grip. Squeeze the bar as tight as possible like you’re trying to leave an imprint of your fingerprints on the bar.
  10. Scraping the shins isn’t always necessary in the deadlift. It may occur more frequently with sumo rather than conventional work but if you have the arm pits in the correct position (as noted above) then the bar should travel vertically and the shins will become vertical and move out of the way as the knees extend.
  11. To follow up on my previous point, if you focus on keeping the weight entirely on the heels, you won’t be able to effectively recruit your quads at the beginning of the lift and thus you’ll be slow off the flow. So, to combat this, you should focus on driving through the whole foot - you want 3 points of contact: big toe, little toe, and heel.
  12. Ensure the elbows stay locked out. Don’t actively flex the triceps but make sure that your elbow doesn’t break neutral as this can potentially put you at risk for a bicep tear under maximal weights.
  13. More experienced lifters may not need to emphasize the “pull the slack out the bar” cue as much and that’s perfectly fine if it works for them and still allows them to pull maximal weight but initially it’s an important concept to understand and implement.
  14. For single repetitions, it will be much easier to drop the bar from lockout (provided that it’s allowed and you’re lifting on a platform or with bumper plates) due to less eccentric loading upon your spinal erectors. However, for multiple repetitions you should try to lower the weight under control while not overly fatiguing the erectors.
  15. The knees should be stacked over the feet. If you position the feet too wide (outside of hip width) then you will likely have to resort to one of two strategies:
    • The knees will be pushed inward (valgus) due to your grip width.
    • You will have to widen your grip which will require a larger range of motion and make the lift less efficient.
  16. If you find that you’re weak at lockout, you should incorporate rack pulls, RDLs, and/or pulls against chains or bands. On the opposite end of the spectrum however, if you’re weak off the floor, you should incorporate paused and/or deficit deadlifts. You would also need additional supplementary work for the upper back and glutes.

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53 Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted Mon, 12/28/2015 - 11:40
Joe

I am 66 and do all the intermediate exercises along with a few of the recommended muscle building techniques that I have been emailed. Great site for even us old guys....

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Posted Mon, 05/30/2016 - 11:02
Juan

Hi Joe,

I'm in the 50s and this is my favorite exercise next to squat. One problem I have is grip at very heavy weight, do you have any recommendations or suggestions. Thanks

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Posted Tue, 06/06/2017 - 13:35
Nestor

Nice booty!

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Posted Wed, 10/28/2015 - 23:57
Benjamin

I am using a light weight (small weight plates) at the moment in deadlifts which is probably why my shins don't touch the bar in the bottom position. Would it be a good idea to put plates underneath the end of each weight on the ends to heighten the barbell off the ground more? Would this be risky form-wise?

MikeWines's picture
Posted Thu, 10/29/2015 - 09:41
MikeWines

Ben,

You can boost the plates but putting risers, boxes, or stacking plates underneath the smaller plates. You can also perform rack pulls in which you simply adjust the safeties on the rack to the normal height that the bar would have if you have a full 45lb plate on it.

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Posted Thu, 10/29/2015 - 18:59
Benjamin

Thank you, MikeWines. I will try it out.

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Posted Sat, 04/25/2015 - 20:07
Built1st

Crucial point in this is the knees must not be over the bar and shins must make a 90 degree angle to the floor. Most people lack mobility to even get into a position for the deadlift.

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Posted Tue, 04/28/2015 - 04:21
Benjamin

(Built1st, was this in response to my question?) Thanks for the information. I will try it on my next Back day.

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Posted Sat, 03/21/2015 - 06:09
Benjamin

Hello everyone,

Quick question: I have started to do deadlifts again but have an issue- I can grasp the bar (just past shoulder width as instructed) and have my feet half-way under the bar as accurately as I can see/tell, but when I drop my hips my shins do not touch the barbell. This happens when I use even the most weight I can safely handle (10kg- two five kg plates as a beginner, 22lbs [?] ) . Can some one please tell me what I should do?

Thank you.

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Posted Thu, 09/11/2014 - 21:46
Gloria

This looks more like a squat than a deadlift to me

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Posted Sun, 05/25/2014 - 16:56
mMario

Hi Steve, I am doing this exercise, but not taking heavy weight. I got >9% scoliosis and I wonder is this not going to affect my back or spine if I start doing with heavier weight ? Thanks.

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Posted Tue, 02/11/2014 - 16:57
Maaz

Hi,

Couple of years back, I sort of damaged my back while doing the Dead-lifts (you can blame the imperfection in technique may be).
I still workout regularly, but have been trying to ignore Dead lifts since then.

Do you think I should try it again? I am afraid it will reactivate the pain and I would end up leaving the gym.

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Posted Fri, 09/27/2013 - 02:24
Tim

This video actually shows incorrect technique.
1: Deadlift is for glutes and hams, pivoting centrally thru the hips, NOT the back. Lifting for Dummies... do not lift using your back...
2: why is the guy also using his quads to lift here? His legs are visibly trembling! Totally incorrect.
3: glutes and hamstring combined are ultra strong, with correct technique they are recruited to raise heavy thing from the floor by pivoting at the hips with a straight back and minimal quads.

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Posted Fri, 12/06/2013 - 03:12
shawn

if done properly, the dead lift should work your glutes, hams, AND lower back. the lower back aspect comes from the core tightening during this lift (and by core i mean both the abdominals and the lower back. they do kinda go together). i agree that form in this video is incorrect and that it needs to be updated. to add to your directions, or rather, make a suggestion to individuals trying to keep their back straight, i found that tucking my chin, NOT looking forward or up when doing this exercise, helps keep my back straight. it does so, for me at least, because i am concentrating on clinching my shoulder blades together and keeping my entire back tight and flat. i found that looking forward caused me to use my lower back more and round my back making me lift with my hips rather that making my hips a hinge that works the legs and back.

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Posted Thu, 08/15/2013 - 18:36
mike

when I click the leg press video it goes to deadlift....what is the difference?

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Posted Wed, 09/16/2015 - 09:39
James

Leg press is a machine/fixed motion exercise, I would recommend searching for it on google.

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Posted Wed, 08/14/2013 - 08:06
Manu

Hi,
I found this video intreresting.
It helps me alot.

I am going to implement this . Can any one suggest other good exercises for Back.

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Posted Thu, 07/11/2013 - 02:02
dominic

i've been deadlifting for about 25 years now and when i first started out there was 2 types of deadlift regular style and suma style i started on regular style but my lifting partner at the time was doing sumo so one day i decided to try it and i loved it -it just seems safer on the lower back cause i can keep it straight throughout at the time both ways were legal in competition some of the best were using that style one question is why do i not ever,ever here about anyone talking about or using this style is it still legal in competition also my best dl is 440 about 12 years ago i just recently got back into going heavy im 41 now i can do about 400 on a good day but sometimes i get like a mind block when i try to lift heavy off the ground its as if i cant figure out what muscles to use to get it to budge with weight i know i can lift like 360lbs for instance and for the life of me i cant budge it i know its in my head any tips or workout i can do which actually brings me to another question i reaLLY NEED A WORKOUT SUGGESTION cause i'm not totally sure of what to do regularly or when going for a max

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Posted Thu, 05/09/2013 - 20:46
David Coote

Is there an alternate exercise or machine I can utilize? I don't have a heavy bar...

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Posted Mon, 04/15/2013 - 15:49
wladius

Recently I started doing deadlifts so I'm working on the weight but I have a question though - when I lift, in the first phase of the lift (when the barbell is around the knees, maybe thighs) I feel pressure in the back around the pelvic area, especially around the tailbone. It's not pain, but slight discomfort. What do you think is the problem? Bad posture, too much weight or just weak muscles in the lower back?

Thanks for the advice.

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Posted Fri, 05/10/2013 - 11:04
Tony

your lower back gets "hot", using to much back, lower your hips a bit more, once the bar gets to your knees, push your hips forward, remember, head in nutral position, eyes up, chest up,

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Posted Wed, 04/10/2013 - 16:14
vic simon

I use a hexagonal trainer bar to do "deadlifts". Does this affect involved muscle groups differently?
Thx for remply

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Posted Mon, 02/25/2013 - 03:42
Rahul

Hi.. i m 17 and 5 ft 6 inch tall and weight 65 kg wanna to increase my height. should i take any suplement if yes then which one ??

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Posted Mon, 02/25/2013 - 03:40
Rahul

Hi.. i m 17 and 5 ft 6 inch tall and weight 65 kg wanna to increase my height. should i take any suplement if yes then which one ??

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Posted Sat, 02/23/2013 - 19:59
Andreas

Why do you have to put the weight on the floor on each repetition? can't i just go very close to the floor but not put the weight down?

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Posted Fri, 05/10/2013 - 10:53
Tony

then it's not a dead lift, the weight is stopped on the floor, there fore dead!!

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Posted Fri, 02/22/2013 - 09:58
cyle

could you please shed some light as to why deadlifts are on the leg day? i always thought deadlifts were for your back?

Joey's picture
Posted Fri, 02/22/2013 - 11:27
Joey

It depends on the on the routine you're following. Most often you'll find them on back day, but for some routines it's perfectly fine to include them on "leg day".

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Posted Sat, 02/02/2013 - 08:11
Daniel Brady

Here's a photo for quick technique reference - http://www.sportsscience.co/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/starting-strength...

And Corey, the rest pause means 1 second pause at the top, and resetting your position at the bottom.

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Posted Sat, 12/01/2012 - 13:42
Corey

How does this work with a rest-pause system. Where do you pause? I couldn't figure it out and ended up putting a lot of strain on my forearms try to hold the bar for so long...

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Posted Thu, 11/29/2012 - 20:36
john g.

i have powerlifted for 6 years, stopped for 1 1/2 yrs, then started slow again. i have tweaked my lf and rt adductor and my lf hamstring within the last four months of training when lowering the bar on deadlifts, why?

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Posted Sun, 11/18/2012 - 14:33
Dave

Hey Steve,

Recently Ive been having some mild lower back problems. What would you recommend to strengthen my lower back?

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Posted Wed, 10/24/2012 - 10:12
Eric

I only have dumbells, and currently can't afford a gym membership. So my question is, can these be done using dumbells. I like this workout program and looking through it seems i can sub the barbell workouts for dumbells but this one seems to only ever be done using barbells (due to the heavy weight required for effective workout).

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Posted Fri, 11/30/2012 - 10:56
Joey
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Posted Wed, 09/12/2012 - 23:23
James

what does singles mean? do one rep then rest until next set?

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Posted Thu, 09/06/2012 - 13:21
Paul

To correct what Keith said. Take a deep breath and fill you chest cavity with air and tighten your core. Do not exhale!!!

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Posted Wed, 09/05/2012 - 13:57
Nick

* Do as many deadlift singles reps as you can in 10 minutes. When you hit 15 total reps for 10 minutes, add weight. >When you say this, am i supposed to do one deadlift, then put the bar down and rest? then keep doing about one every 45 seconds? The concept of multiple single reps is confusing me.

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Posted Fri, 05/10/2013 - 10:50
Tony

it means when the weight hits the floor, take a sec to re-grip the bar, and a breath of air, lift again, some people let the weight down to fast and start lifting after they bounce the weight off the floor!!, not desirable, should always keep control of the weight.. we are not apes!! lol

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Posted Sun, 09/02/2012 - 20:43
Walter

Hi,I have a quick question i've been doing this exercise for about two months I started with a weigh of 50 pounds, now I'm lifting 140 pounds so my question is that if is normal to feel a little dizzy after a set of 10 rep.? If it is why I didn't feel it before? Or may am I doing something wrong?

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Posted Wed, 09/05/2012 - 16:05
Keith

Make sure you are breathing properly, I inhale on the negatives, and exhale when i lift the weight. Make sure to keep the oxygen flowing, this could be the reason your getting dizzy.

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Posted Wed, 03/06/2013 - 12:05
Patrick

Walter, how old are you, and when was the last time you checked your blood pressure. Your dizziness could be the result of orthostatic hypotension, a rapid drop in blood pressure resulting from a quick transition in posture. This phenomenon can be an early sign of hypertension or can be a side effect of medications for hypertension.

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Posted Mon, 07/01/2013 - 02:06
James

Tony, I have experienced this before and it means, strangely enough, you did not eat enough before hand (low blood sugar) and/or you did not prepare your body (warm up) for the amount of weight you are demanding it take. Just look into high energy sources of food or perhaps slowly build up to your normal weight (add two sets that are 50% normal lifting weight) :) good luck!

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Posted Fri, 05/10/2013 - 10:44
Tony

I'm 45 and my BP is on the good side of low, 112/72, I see white dots and get dizzy , sometimes. it is the breathing, 100%, I had to learn to breath as well as perform the lift correctly, currently doing 385 pounds, 3 sets of 3, I take a big breath, lift, as the bar gets above my knees, i slowly exhale, take another breath and lower, as it gets close to the floor, exhale, reset, inhale, stand back up, easy right....

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Posted Wed, 08/22/2012 - 11:06
Brian N

Are you suppose to de-weight the barbell on the floor every rep, basically starting from a dead-stop every rep (as opposed to touch-and-go on the floor)?

Steven's picture
Posted Wed, 08/22/2012 - 12:27
Steven

Yes. Set the bar down and reset your form quickly before the next rep.

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Posted Tue, 05/01/2012 - 14:01
Braden

@Allen

From just watching a quick video on how to properly do this (Video isn't working on here) he had mentioned the Romanian Deadlift. From what I can see the difference between the DL an the RDL is that when you preform the DL the weight goes straight back to the ground without touching anything. When you do the RDL, the weight sorta rolls down your legs then back to the ground.

Here is a video of what I am talking about he does a very good explanation of this routine. Enjoy www.youtube.com/watch?v=1nRRlk6264I

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Posted Fri, 04/20/2012 - 14:09
Allen

Could you please remark the difference between this and romanian deadlift? Most likely they work over the same muscles group, but I one of my gym frieds says it is the same. I am sure they are not, so I want to remark the difference.

By the way, great workout system, I am doing great with it.

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Posted Wed, 06/27/2012 - 10:08
Steve S

the difference is that with the romanian lift, during the lifting phase, the legs are kept relatively straight and locked during the movement. the deadlift is started off from a squat type position with the legs straightening during the movement then back down into the squat position. romanian lift is good for the hamstrings, deadlift is good for the lower back. hope this is of help.

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Posted Thu, 02/06/2014 - 19:40
John

Hi, Allen ! I commend you on your stick-to-it-tiveness on doing what you believe to be going the extra mile in this exercize! The reason this excercize is so highly rated, is because it is one of the very most effective all around movements for maintenance and growth for strength ! It is OK to "bounce" the weights on the floor, to assure you are doing the movement correctly, because if you happen to be a little more tired, you will tend to "cheat" the movement. Touching the floor with back straight, hips set, head up, helps you to reset the lower spine for the next lift. Not resetting the hips means you are in a position for lowering the bar, this is not the position you want and need for the lift. an injury to the lower spine (compressed disc, compression fracture, ripped or pinched nerve) can and does lead to other problems, because the spine "adapts" to a loss of function and continues to do the work. This means that you are injuring yourself, and making it worse, even though "it feels right !" It ain't right, and leads to permanent damage. Plus, you've lost the "mind/body connection" necessasry for consistent, successful completion of YEARS of safe and productive, progressive excercize. Think about the "big picture !" Short cuts are not an accomplishment. they're shortcuts. Something isn't being done, when we take a shortcut. It's supposed to be a "workout", right? Where's the progress in a shortcut? Something's wrong and probably will get worse. Then, there's the fact of Adrenaline. Adrenaline is a mind-altering chemical. It causes the body to perform where it would rather not, or simply would not, were it not for the presence of Adrenaline! Under the influence of this body-produced chemical, we make some really dangerous decisions to go on, when we should have reduced weights, or reps, or taken a break---then "shit" happens! Rethink your "accomplishment", buddy! It's dangerous! and to you guys who like to throw weights around in a gym---stupid punks.

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Posted Wed, 09/26/2012 - 17:01
Steve S

Hi Allen, to be honest there is too many variables to take into account in regards to wat weight u shuld be lifting. Deadlifting at the beginnin of ur workout will enable u to lift more than if u did it at the end of workout, some ppl lift more in a morning workout than an afternoon workout, the weight u lift will depend on the sets/reps/rest time/etc that ur doin. So there is too many factors to take into account in regards to wat u shuld be lifting. My advice is to lift wat u feel happy with. If u want to increase the weight ur lifting, then increase it slightly and do less reps than normal, and build it up to ur normal rep goal. Wen ur doin ur normal reps once again on that weight, then increase the weight again slightly. And usually u can lift more with a deadlift than a romanian deadlift. Hope this helps