The 5 Benefits of Deadlifts and How to Do Them

  • The deadlift builds overall strength, burns calories and enhances athletic performance.
  • Proper deadlift form is crucial to maximizing benefits and reducing the risk of injury, especially for beginners.
  • Most people can benefit from deadlifting anywhere from one to three times a week.

Deadlifting is one of the best exercises for building full body strength and improving overall fitness. It’s even beneficial outside of the gym by making everyday tasks like sitting, standing and lifting or carrying things easier to manage.

But these are just a few of the benefits provided to those who regularly deadlift. I spoke with two personal trainers about the other benefits people can expect to see after adding movement to their weekly fitness routine.

And don’t worry if you’re a beginner. The instructors shared some knowledge about proper form and technique to use, as well as how to choose the right weight to lift and how often to 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 do because 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 the glutes, hamstrings, back (lower back, lats, trapezius, rhomboids), abs, and forearms. This means you can log some serious full-body strength building with each rep.

2. Boosts grip strength — and overall health

The deadlift is one of the best exercises you can do to strengthen your grip because it requires your arms to hold and move a heavy weight, says Glendale Adventist Medical Center board-certified orthopedic clinical specialist Zach Johnston.

A strong grip is a key predictor of overall health, while also facilitating daily tasks. In fact, research has shown 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 the grip, the greater the chances of lifelong health.

To maximize your deadlift grip, 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 up, hold for a count of two to three breaths before moving on.

3. Burns tons of calories

In general, cardiovascular activities such as 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-repetition maximum (that is, the maximum weight that can be lifted with proper form for a single repetition).

So, for example, if their one-rep max was 200 pounds, then they burned between 238-282 calories—the equivalent of about 30 minutes of treadmill running—doing three sets of 10 reps of 120-pound deadlifts.

In addition to burning calories during exercise, you will also burn several calories after your deadlift session. This is known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC, Johnston says. 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 daily strength

Adding the deadlift to your weekly fitness routine can also make a big impact on how you handle things like carrying groceries or changing a tire. This is because the overall force it creates can help make everyday tasks less demanding.

Additionally, the form and technique you learn by lifting something like a heavy barbell off the ground is exactly the same as that required to lift and drag a box or move heavy furniture. Deadlifting teaches you how to use your legs, instead of your back, and the strength that comes with doing the lift correctly will help you with more than just lifting weights.

Additionally, strengthening the strength of your glutes, abdominals, back, and legs 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 simultaneously to complete the lift. This includes your glutes, hamstrings and back, as well as your core and forearms. Because of this, the movement is great for building overall strength that can 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 beginners who did barbells twice a week for 10 weeks added about an inch to their vertical jump height.

A similar study concluded that the deadlift improved a runner’s strength during a sprint while also helping to prevent knee injuries.

Frequent questions

How important is proper form?

Proper form when deadlifting is essential to prevent injury.

Improper form puts pressure on your lumbar (lower) spine, which increases your risk for lower back pain and injury, Tanneberg says.

There are many different deadlift variations, but for the traditional barbell deadlift, follow these steps:

A silhouette diagram of a man showing five steps to proper deadlift form.  Step 1: Walk up to the bar so your body is close to it and your feet are halfway under the bar.  Step 2: Bend your legs while sitting your hips back, keeping your chest up and your back flat.  Step 3: tighten your grip on the bar and push through the floor.  Step 4: push your feet up to stand.  Step 5: as you come up, make sure you don't overextend and lean into your lower back.

Proper deadlift form is important to avoid injury and get the most out of the exercise.

Alex Ford/Insider

If you’re not ready for a barbell—or don’t have access to one—you can follow these same steps using dumbbells, kettlebells, or even a dowel bar.

What weights should beginners use?

If you’re new to deadlifting, practice proper form with a dowel bar, 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 with your form, use a weight you can lift comfortably for three to four sets of eight to 12 reps, says Abelsson. The weight you choose can depend on your body weight, age and experience with strength training, so aim for something that feels easy to you.

“The initial goal is to learn the exercise and proper form, not to max out your weights,” explains Abelsson.

After a few workouts, go up to a weight that’s difficult to do three to four sets of six to eight reps, “and that’s your starting weight,” says Abelsson.

How often should you deadlift?

Both beginners and advanced athletes can benefit from deadlifting one to three times per week.

For a beginner, it can be helpful to deadlift more often—as in, two to three times a week—to learn the movement and tune your muscles, brain, and central nervous system, Abelsson says.

“If you go too far between workouts as a beginner, the body starts to forget how to perform a complex exercise like the deadlift,” he explains.

Packaged interior

The deadlift is a basic exercise. Doing this full-body movement burns calories, builds grip strength, builds strength for everyday tasks, and improves performance in sports and exercise.

But first, you need to nail down the right form. Deadlifting correctly ensures that you get these benefits without the risk of injury. Once you’re comfortable with the movement, work it into your routine one to three times a week.

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