- The deadlift builds all-over strength, burns calories, and boosts sports performance.
- Proper deadlift form is vital for maximizing benefits and reducing injury risk, especially for beginners.
- Most people can benefit from deadlifting anywhere from one to three times per week.
Deadlifting is one of the best exercises for building full-body strength and improving your overall fitness. It’s even beneficial outside the gym by making everyday tasks like sitting, standing, and lifting or carrying things easier to manage.
But these are only a few of the benefits afforded to those who regularly deadlift. I spoke to two personal trainers about the other perks folks can expect to see after adding the move to their weekly fitness routine.
And don’t worry if you’re a beginner. The trainers shared some insight about the correct form and technique to use, as well as how to pick out the right amount of weight to lift, and how often you should deadlift.
Read on for all the benefits of deadlifts, how to do them, and why proper form is important.
1. Deadlifts work your entire body
“Deadlifts are one of the best full body exercises you can perform, as they work multiple major muscle groups in the same movement,” says chiropractor and certified strength and conditioning specialist at Body Check Chiropractic & Sports Rehabilitation, Matt Tanneberg.
Specifically, deadlifts recruit your glutes, hamstrings, back (lower back, latissimus dorsi, trapezius, rhomboids), abdominals, and forearms. That means you’re able to log some serious full-body strength-building with every rep.
2. It boosts grip strength — and overall health
The deadlift is one of the single best exercises you can do to strengthen your grip as it requires your hands to hold onto and move a heavy weight, says Zach Johnston PT, DPT, at Providence Saint John’s Health Center’s Performance Therapy.
A strong grip is a key predictor of overall health, while also making everyday tasks easier. In fact, research has shows that grip strength is a better predictor of death from heart disease than systolic blood pressure (the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats). According to the study, the stronger your grip, the greater your odds of lifelong health.
To maximize your grip strength from deadlifting, practice holding the barbell, dumbbells, or kettlebells for longer periods at the top of each rep, Johnston suggests. For example, instead of flowing through the rep and lowering the weights as soon as you stand upright, hold for a count of two to three breaths before moving on.
3. It burns tons of calories
In general, cardio activities like running and cycling burn the most calories. But as far as strength exercises go, deadlifts are a solid calorie burner.
“The deadlift involves many of the body’s largest muscle groups and the more muscle mass you recruit during an exercise, the more calories you burn,” says Strength Log personal trainer, Andreas Abelsson.
A recent study found that a group of exercisers burned between 238 and 282 calories while performing three sets of 10 deadlifts using 60% of their one-rep max (i.e the maximum weight that can be lifted with proper form for a single rep).
So, for example, if their one-rep max was 200 pounds, then they burned between 238-282 calories — the equivalent of about 30 minutes running on a treadmill — by doing three sets of 10 deadlift reps of 120 pounds.
In addition to burning calories during the exercise, you’ll also burn a number of calories after your deadlift session. This is known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption or EPOC, says Johnston. The exact amount of calories varies but the more oxygen you expend during and after exercise, the more total calories you’ll burn.
4. Deadlifting builds everyday strength
Adding the deadlift to your weekly fitness routine may also have a major impact on how you manage things like carrying groceries or changing a tire. This is because the all-around strength it builds can help make everyday tasks less demanding.
Additionally, the form and technique you learn from lifting something like a weighted barbell off the ground is also the exact same that’s required to pick up and haul a box or to move heavy furniture. Deadlifting teaches you how to use your legs, instead of your back, and the strength that comes along with doing the lift correctly will help with more than just weight lifting.
Plus, enhancing your glute, abdominal, back, and leg strength can make walking, climbing stairs, and even sitting and standing less taxing on your body.
5. The strength you build carries over to other exercises
Deadlifting requires several major muscle groups to coordinate at once to complete the lift. This includes the glutes, hamstrings, and back, as well as your core and your forearms. Because of this, the move is great at building all-over strength which may help you perform better in other sports and exercises.
In fact, deadlifts are one of the most effective strength exercises you can do to improve how well you jump and sprint. One study found that newbies who performed barbell deadlifts twice a week for 10 weeks added roughly one inch to their vertical jump height.
A similar study concluded that deadlifting improved a runner’s power during a sprint while also helping prevent knee injuries.
How important is proper form?
Proper form while deadlifting is essential for preventing injury.
Improper form stresses your lumbar (lower) spine, which increases your risk of lower back pain and injury, Tanneberg says.
There are several different deadlift variations but for the traditional barbell deadlift, follow these steps:
If you’re not ready for a barbell — or you don’t have access to one — you can follow these same steps using dumbbells, kettlebells, or even a dowel rod.
What weights should beginners use?
If you’re new to deadlifts, practice proper form with a dowel rod, a set of light dumbbells, or your body weight. If you can, work with a certified personal trainer who can iron out any kinks in your form and technique before you add weight.
Once you feel confident in your form, use a weight you can comfortably deadlift for three to four sets of eight to 12 repetitions, Abelsson says. The weight you choose may depend on your body weight, age, and how much experience you have with strength training, so aim for something that feels easy.
“The initial goal is to learn the exercise and proper form, not max out your weights,” Abelsson explains.
After a few workouts, move up to a weight that feels challenging to do three to four sets of six to eight repetitions of, “and that’s your beginner starting weight,” Abelsson says.
How often should you deadlift?
Both beginners and advanced lifters can benefit from deadlifting one to three times per week.
For a beginner, it can be helpful to do deadlifts more often — as in, two to three times per week — so as to learn the movement and coordinate your muscles, brain, and central nervous system, Abelsson says.
“If you go too long between workouts as a beginner, the body starts to forget how to perform a complex exercise like the deadlift,” he explains.
The deadlift is a staple exercise. Doing this full-body movement burns calories, boosts grip strength, builds strength for everyday tasks, and improves performance in sports and exercise.
But first, you have to nail proper form. Deadlifting correctly ensures you reap these benefits without the risk of injury. Once you get comfortable with the movement, work it into your routine one to three times per week.