What Do Deadlifts Work?

Deadlifts are a popular exercise but not a movement most people perform frequently. For those new to deadlifts, they can be pretty difficult to complete and, if done with improper form, can easily lead to potential injuries.

If you do not perform deadlifts on a regular basis or have never attempted the exercise, you’re missing out on some excellent benefits. Adding deadlifts into your exercise routine will help you work numerous muscle groups at the same time.

What Do Deadlifts Work?

The more you do, the stronger and fitter you will become. And, that’s exactly what we all want when we perform exercise routines!  

Deadlifts can help strengthen a range of muscles that you use in everyday life such as bending down to pick up various items. If you find that your back is a little sore, deadlifts could be the answer to improving muscles and limiting further discomfort and pain. 

Today, we are going to look at the muscle groups deadlifts work. We will also be guiding you on how to perform these exercises safely to limit any chance of injury.

The Muscle Groups Worked By Deadlifts 

Deadlifts work multiple muscles all at the same time. This is why it is such a popular exercise in the gym. Instead of performing separate exercises to target specific muscles, you can do a set of deadlifts and achieve the same, if not better, results.

The main muscles worked by deadlifts are:

  • The glutes
  • The hamstrings
  • The hip flexors
  • Upper back muscles
  • Lower back muscles
  • The quadriceps
  • The core
The Muscle Groups Worked By Deadlifts 

When you perform deadlifts correctly, muscles throughout the entire body are worked. They hit just about every muscle group.

This is because the upper body holds the weight of the deadlift while your lower body simultaneously raises it. Therefore, it is one of the best strength-building exercises that can be part of any fitness regime. 

Muscles in the lower portion of the body are arguably targeted the most. These include the hamstrings and glutes. As well as these, the quad muscles are activated as you extend your knees and begin to lift the weight. 

But, this doesn’t mean your upper body’s muscles are not activated. Your traps, lower, middle, and upper-back muscles are all out to work when you complete a deadlift.

And, if you’re looking for a core exercise to try out, deadlifts are a great option. Your core is critical in completing a deadlift as it stabilizes your spine through the entire movement. 

And, yes, deadlifting can help you build the butt you have always wanted! One of the principal movers in this movement is the gluteus maximus. Therefore, the muscles in your buttocks will most certainly build strength with the more deadlift routines you complete. 

Deadlift Variations 

Although deadlifts work most muscle groups in your body, different variations of the movement can have an impact on certain muscles.

When performing a deadlift, you can use any kind of weight such as dumbbells, a barbell, a trap bar, a kettlebell, or even a medicine ball. Then, there is the stance you choose to start with.

This can be a conventional or a sumo stance. A sumo stance is when your feet are placed wider apart than hip-width. What you choose is your personal preference and what feels most comfortable. 

Let’s take a look at how to perform different deadlifts with proper and safe form.

Conventional Deadlifts 

  1. Start by holding your chosen weight down in front of your thighs but at arm’s length. Your feet should be hip-width apart with your knees slightly bent.
  2. Brace your core and bend your knees. Hinge at your hips and lower yourself until your thighs are nearly parallel to the ground. 
  3. Pause for a moment (a few seconds) and then squeeze your glutes. 
  4. Raise your torso back into the position you started with. Once you return to this starting position, you have completed one rep. 

This standard deadlift sees you lower the weight to the ground. This means you use more of your posterior muscles in your back. 

Conventional Deadlifts 

Romanian Deadlift 

  1. Start by standing with your feet at hip-width apart.
  2. Now, hinge at your hips and sink slowly back into your heels and glutes. Ensure that your spine is fully extended and your chest is pushed out and lifted up. 
  3. Using a barbell or dumbbells for the best effect, grip your weight in a comfortable manner. 
  4. Next, dig/push your feet into the floor and then straighten your legs.
  5. Lift your chest as you lift the weight off the ground. 
  6. As you begin to stand up, start thinking about pushing your hips and knees forward. 
  7. Maintain a straight spine and ensure you are standing tall with your shoulders relaxed and away from your ears. 
  8. Push your hips backward and start to lower your weight toward the ground. Make sure your knees maintain a slight bend as you complete this movement.
  9. As you reach the ground, the weight should slightly touch your shins.
  10. Make sure your spine remains straight and then repeat this with how many reps you want to perform. Just try not to release the weight as you move downward. 

Romanian deadlifts rely on hip movement more than other forms of a deadlift. This means you use your hamstrings more and fewer glutes muscles. The main goal of this movement is to keep the weight close to your body at all times. 

Sumo Deadlift 

  1. Move your feet so that they are slightly wider than a conventional deadlift. They should also be pointing outward. 
  2. Keep your spine straight as you grip the weight. Your hands should be on the inside of your legs throughout the whole exercise.
  3. Now, tighten your core, legs, back, and glutes so you have full-body tension. 
  4. Slowly pull the weight (a bar or dumbbell works best) and press your legs against the ground.
  5. Take a moment and a deep breath. Now, move your body upward through your legs. 
  6. Your chest should be kept back at this point. Also, try your best not to fall forward as this can put a strain on certain muscles leading to injury. 
  7. Continue to push your heels and squeeze your glutes for two or three seconds. 
  8. Now, slowly and carefully descend back down. Maintain control with your muscles engaged at all times. 

A sumo deadlift is a great variation of deadlift and a perfect option for beginners as it allows you to have complete control over the weight throughout the entire range of movement. Check out this article to know more about this exercise, including what muscles sumo deadlifts work


With different deadlift variations come different targeted muscle groups. However, if you are looking for that one exercise that can target multiple muscles in your body, a deadlift should certainly become part of your exercise routine.

Kevin Harris