The deadlift is a weight training exercise where a loaded barbell is lifted off the ground from a stabilized, bent over position. It is one of the three canonical powerlifting exercises, along with the squat and bench press.



Deadlift refers to the lifting of dead(without inertia) 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. 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. However, the deadlift is solely a concentric movement, beginning at its most difficult point and without stored elastic energy, and is therefore considered by some[weasel words] to be a more true test of total strength..

World records

An illustration of the deadlifting motion.
  • The record for a raw deadlift (a deadlift performed without the aid of a deadlift suit, where only a weight belt is allowed) is 460.3 kg (1,015 lb) by Benedikt Magnússon.[1][verification needed]
  • 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.[2]
  • The record for the tire deadlift (in which Hummer tires are used as weight) under Strongman rules (in which lifting straps are allowed) is 504 kg (1,110 lb) by Lithuanian strongman Zydrunas Savickas at the Arnold Strongman Classic 2011.[citation needed]
  • The record for a one handed deadlift is 330kg or 727.5lbs by Hermann Görner,[citation needed] who also lifted a 734.5 lb (333.2 kg) block of sandstone in similar fashion.[citation needed] Both lifts were done with a hook grip to allow more weight to be used, a common practice with one handed deadlifts.
  • The world record under eighteen years old, body weight under 181 pounds, 233.6 kg (515 lb)is held by Renaud Cardinal.[3]

Muscles involved

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 are stressed less compared to the squat, but contribute significantly by bringing the hips lower relative to the knee.
  • The adductor magnus works to stabilize the legs.

The deadlift activates a large number of individual muscles:



  • 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.[dubious ] 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.[4]
  • Sumo deadlift is 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 to increase the amount of weight lifted, rather than as a training tool.


Deadlifts can be performed using dumbbells or barbells, 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, deadlift from a box, rack pulls, deadlift lockouts, and "Kuck pulls."

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, or pronated, and a mixed overhand-underhand (supinated) (sometimes called "offset," "staggered," "alternating", or "mixed") grip. Dependent on forearm strength, the overhand grip may result in the bar potentially rolling about. Some argue the mixed grip is capable of neutralizing this through the "physics of reverse torsion." The mixed grip also allows more weight to be used 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. Proponents of trapbar deadlifts include Hardgainer Magazine, Bob Whelan, the Cyberpump website, and Dr Ken Leistner and iron-game writer Paul Kelso.


Further reading

  • Mark Rippetoe with Lon Kilgore, Starting Strength, The Aasgaard Company Publishers, 2005, ISBN 0-9768-0540-5
  • Frédéric Delavier, Strength Training Anatomy, Human Kinetics, 2001, ISBN 0-7360-4185-0

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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