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The deadlift is a weight training exercise in which a loaded barbell is lifted off the ground to the hips, then lowered back to the ground.[1] It is one of the three powerlifting exercises, along with the squat and bench press.

Deadlift Phases
Phase 1
Phase 1
Phase 2
Phase 2
Phase 3
Phase 3


Deadlift refers to the lifting of dead (without momentum) weight, such as weights lying on the ground. It is one of the few standard weight training exercises in which all repetitions begin with dead weight. There are two positions one can approach when doing the deadlift, which include the conventional deadlift and sumo-deadlift. In most other lifts there is an eccentric (lowering of the weight) phase followed by the concentric (lifting of the weight) phase. During these exercises, a small amount of energy is stored in the stretched muscles and tendons in the eccentric phase, if the lifter is not flexible beyond the range of motion.



Romanian deadlift: Unlike a standard deadlift, which begins from the floor with a concentric movement, this variation begins from the top. For this reason it is not technically a deadlift. Jim Schmitz claimed to name this exercise in 1990 after the nationality of Nicu Vlad who first performed it.[2]

  • Starting with an eccentric phase and incorporating a stretch reflex, it eliminates most of the quadriceps contribution, putting more emphasis on the hamstrings and glutes. It is performed by standing with barbell held in front of the body with knees unlocked and bending at the hip while keeping the back straight, then extending the hip to lockout and hyperextending the lower back for maximum contraction.[3]

Sumo deadlift: A variation of the deadlift whereby the legs are spread far apart to the sides (arms reaching down inside of legs), mimicking a sumo stance, hence the name. This variation changes the emphasis of the lift to the legs instead of the back. The sumo deadlift is purported to be easier for those with large waists as well as those with relatively long torsos and shorter arms, and is mainly used by powerlifters, like Dan Green, in order to increase the amount of weight lifted, rather than as a training tool.

Stiff-legged deadlift or Stiff deadlift A variation whereby the knees are only slightly bent and not moved during the exercise.


Deadlifts can be performed using dumbbells, barbells, or kettlebells with one hand or two hands & with one leg or two legs. Variations are only limited by the athlete's imagination. Other variations are the side deadlift or suitcase deadlift, rack pulls, deadlift lockouts, deficit deadlift or deadlift from a box (pulling from the floor while standing on a built or improvised low platform).

Each of these variations is called for to address specific weaknesses in a lifter's overall deadlift. For instance if the athlete has difficulty breaking contact at max. weight, deficit deadlifts are performed to strengthen the gluteus maximus and hamstrings due to the greater range of motion required by standing on the low platform or low box. On the other hand if the lifter has no problem with breaking contact with the floor but has difficulty locking out, he should perform rack pulls to strengthen his upper back, posterior deltoids, and trapezius muscles while de-emphasizing the gluteus and hamstrings.

The archaic "dead weight lift", or "dead weight lift with lifting bar" involved a T-bar with weight loaded on it while the lifter stood on sturdy chairs or other such platforms.[citation needed] A remarkably heavy amount of weight could be lifted in this manner due to its short range of motion; the main limitations are in the grip. This lift is similar to the modern day rack pulls, where a heavy amount of weight is lifted deadlift style a short distance in a power cage or squat rack.


Typically, there are two grips used: overhand (pronated) or a mixed overhand-underhand (supinated) (sometimes called "offset," "staggered," "alternating", or "mixed") grip. Depending on forearm strength, the overhand grip may result in the bar potentially rolling about. Mixed grip is capable of neutralizing this through the "physics of reverse torsion." The mixed grip allows more weight to be held for this reason.

In order to prevent the bar from rolling out of the hands, some lifters have been known to use an Olympic weightlifting technique known as the hook grip. This is similar to an overhand grip, but the thumbs are inside, allowing the lifter to "hook" onto them with the fingers. The hook grip can make it easier to hold heavier weights using less grip strength, and keeps both shoulders and elbows in a symmetrical position. While it theoretically takes much of the stress off of the joints which might be created by the twisting of a mixed grip it has the disadvantage of being extremely uncomfortable for the thumbs, something which those who advocate it says will pass once a lifter becomes accustomed to it. Another, but rarely used method is a combination of the mixed overhand-underhand grip and the hook grip, preferred by people who lift heavier weights than their grip can handle, but who don't want to rely on lifting straps or other supportive gear.

Many powerlifters adopt the overhand grip for their lower weight sets and move to the mixed grip to lift larger weights so they can achieve their one rep max.

The trapbar deadlift is a variation of the deadlift using a special U-shaped bar (a trapbar). This allows more clearance for the knees to pass "through" the bar. To perform the trapbar deadlift, one loads the bar, steps inside the hollow portion of the bar, bends down, grasps the handles, stands erect, then lowers the bar to the ground in the exact opposite path.

Muscles involved[edit]

The deadlift is a compound movement that works a variety of muscles groups:

  • The grip strength (finger flexors) and the lower back (erector spinae) work isometrically to keep the bar held in the hands and to keep the spine from rounding.
  • The gluteus maximus and hamstrings work to extend the hip joint.
  • The quadriceps work to extend the knee joint.
  • The adductor magnus works to stabilize the legs.

The deadlift activates a large number of individual muscles:

World records[edit]

  • The record for a raw deadlift (a deadlift performed without the aid of a deadlift suit, where only a weight belt is allowed) is 460.396 kg (1,015.00 lb) by Benedikt Magnusson. This lift currently exceeds the equipped record.[4][5]
  • The record for an equipped deadlift (a deadlift performed using a deadlift suit using a standard bar and plates where straps are disallowed) is 457.5 kg (1,009 lb) by Andy Bolton.[6]
  • The world record deadlift in strongman competitions (using a standard bar and plates but straps and hitching allowed) is 461 kg (1,016 lb) by Benedikt Magnusson set at 2014's Europe's Strongest Man competition in England.[7]
  • The world record in strongman competitions (partial deadlift with wrist straps from 18" off the floor with high bending bar) is 535 kg (1180 pounds) by Tom Magee in the 1983 World's Strongest Man competition.
  • The record for the tire deadlift (a deadlift performed using hummertires instead of weightplates) is 524 kg (1155 lbs) by Žydrūnas Savickas.[8]
  • The record for the single handed deadlift is 250 kg (550 lb) by Halldór Kristinn Harðarson MMA fighter from the famous Fenrir institute of fighting science. (unoffical) June 10, 2014


  1. ^ "The Free Dictionary: Deadlift". Retrieved 15 February 2014. 
  2. ^ IronMind article: Jim Schmitz on the Lifts: Romanian DeadLift: "the “discovery” of the RDL was in my gym, The Sports Palace, in San Francisco in 1990 .. Nicu Vlad, of Romania .. proceeded to do this lift, a combination stiff-leg deadlift and regular deadlift, but actually neither. Someone watching asked what the exercise was he was doing. Nicu just shrugged his shoulders and said it was to make his back strong for the clean. Dragomir also said the same; it was just a lift that Nicu had developed for his back and clean. .. Someone taking notes asked what this lift was called. .. Nicu and Dragomir didn’t have a name, so I said, “Let’s call it the Romanian deadlift or RDL for short,” and every one agreed"
  3. ^ "Romanian Deadlift", Core Performance", Retrieved on 2009-06-20
  4. ^
  5. ^ Benedikt Magnusson’s Training Leading Up to His 1015 Deadlift World Record
  6. ^ Soong, Michael: "Men's Superheavyweight Weight Class Top 20", "Powerlifting Watch", Retrieved: 2009-06-20
  7. ^ "Strongman Deadlift World Record". Retrieved 15 August 2014. 
  8. ^ Zydrunas Savickas 1155 Lb Tire Deadlift – World Record

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]