Deadlifts are a popular workout among weightlifters and bodybuilders as they can train more than one muscle group at a time and have different variations that help focus on different muscles.
Deadlifts work two major muscle groups, the legs, and the back, they also work the core of the body which some do count as one of the major muscle groups.
Because they work a variety of muscle groups it is difficult to know where you should feel deadlifts, this article will explain which muscles in those muscle groups deadlifts work and what variations will change where you feel the deadlifts working.
What Are Deadlifts?
To perform a deadlift you have to lift a stationary weight off of the ground in front of you, typically done with a barbell so you can get the spacing of your arms in the right position.
In the traditional deadlift, you must keep your back and spine neutral as you use your legs and butt to lift the bar off of the floor, meaning the work will come from your butt and legs instead of your arms.
How Do You Do A Deadlift?
If not done correctly, deadlifting can lead to seriously injuring yourself or those around you as deadlifting is usually done with a heavier weight than most workouts.
We recommend practicing deadlift form with just a bar and no weight, to begin with as it is much more important to get the form right than add weight.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart keeping them stationary for the entire duration of the deadlift. For the entire deadlift, you must keep your back straight and your spine neutral, don’t be tempted to look up or around during your deadlift.
Push your butt back and bend your knees slightly to pick up the bar in front of you. When you grab the bar, drive your feet into the ground and squeeze your glutes to extend your hips.
Then come to a standing position holding the bar, by bringing your butt forward and straightening your knees.
After you are fully standing up with your butt forward and your legs straight, slowly lower the bar by pushing your butt back and bending your knees slightly, and softly dropping the weight back to the ground.
When you have a heavier weight, make sure you are on the correct surface for dropping the weight and make sure no one is in your direct vicinity. Repeat this for the number of sets that you feel comfortable with the weight you have.
What Muscle Groups Do Deadlifts Work?
Deadlifts are very versatile in the muscle groups that they work, they mainly focus on the leg muscle group but also work the back and the core. However, they only work select muscles in these muscle groups, so here’s a brief guide to these muscle groups and what muscles you can expect to work while performing deadlifts.
Legs are the biggest muscle group on the body and are usually split up into two groups, the upper portion of the legs and the lower portion of the legs.
The lower portion of the legs consists of the calves which have two main muscles, the soleus, and the gastrocnemius. However, deadlifts only work the upper portion of the legs, which include the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.
The quadriceps are made of four large muscles on the front of your leg (hence the name), they work together to extend the knee, helping you to stand up.
The hamstrings do the opposite, they are a group of three muscles on the back of the leg that are used to flex the knee, helping you to lower your body. The glutes are the largest muscle in the body and are used to form your butt, they play a major role in stabilization and aren’t just for looks.
The deadlift uses the glutes and the hamstrings of your legs to lift the bar. When lifting the bar, the glutes need to tighten to stabilize your body and help you maintain form.
When you are lifting the weight, the quadriceps are doing most of the work as they are used to extend your knees. When lowering the weight slowly you are also working your hamstrings as they are used to flex the knee.
Your back is made up of four major muscles, the latissimus dorsi (lats), the rhomboids, the erector spinae, and the trapezius (traps). The lats are the biggest muscle on your back, attaching your back to your upper arm and forming a wing-like shape.
The rhomboids attach your shoulder blades to your spine, the erector spinae is the muscle that sits in your lower back running along the spine, and your traps are on the top of your back connecting your spine to your shoulder blades.
As the weight is being hung from your shoulders while doing a deadlift, the traps are doing the most work in your back as they connect your shoulders to your back and have to bear the weight.
However, because the back has to be stable during the deadlift, the entirety of your back will do a lot of work in tightening and helping your glutes and quadriceps lift the bar.
The core and the abdominal muscles are usually not recognized as a major muscle group as, if you are training the other five muscle groups correctly (chest, arms, shoulders, back, and legs), your core should be getting the right amount of work needed and won’t have to be trained separately.
Deadlifts are one of the workouts that, although designed to work out your back and legs, also work out your core as you will naturally tighten your core when lifting with your legs to increase stability.
Where Should I Feel Deadlifts?
If done properly, you should feel deadlifts throughout your back, legs, and core.
You will mostly feel deadlifts in your quadriceps and glutes as these are the muscles that are doing the most work during a deadlift but don’t be alarmed if you feel the deadlift working your back or abs, especially the traps.
Deadlifting can be very dangerous so make sure not to train deadlifting more than twice a week, and remember to space out these workouts by at least 48-hours.