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How to Deadlift

What is a deadlift?

What is a deadlift

See all deadlift variations

The deadlift is a one of the best lower body compound exercises for improving strength. While the main muscles recruited are in the legs and back, deadlifts also require you to use your arms and abs so it’s also a good movement to master for toning the whole body. You might not even be aware but you’ve naturally been doing deadlifts in your everyday life. Every time you bend down to pick something up, you are essentially performing what is called the deadlift, so it’s a practical and functional exercise that would be worth adding to your exercise routine.

Other than developing real strength, there are several more benefits to performing the deadlift. This includes improved posture, increase in muscle mass, greater fat burn, and more.

See variations of deadlift exercises below, which includes video demonstrations and a how-to guide.

Commonly asked questions on Deadlifts

  • Deadlifting with bad form can be bad for your back, but deadlifting safely with the correct form will hugely strengthen your back, hamstrings and glutes. It's a great exercise to help improve strength and build muscle. Make sure to spend some time learning how to deadlift with good form before increasing the weight you lift. 

  • The deadlift is a great weight exercise that can help to build muscle and improve strength in the following areas: hamstrings, glutes, back, shoulders, arms.

  • Deadlifts can help to burn belly fat provided you are in a calorie deficit. This exercise uses multiple muscle groups which can help to burn calories and aid fat loss. It can also help with offsetting the rate of muscle loss which can occur during weight loss.

Deadlift tips

  • Think about keeping your shoulders back and down and maintain a tall spine throughout the whole movement to avoid rounding your back.
  • Brace your abs and pull the bar (or dumbbells) smoothly off the floor.
  • Keep the bar (or dumbbells) close to your body while performing the whole movement to avoid unnecessary swinging movement.

Deadlift variations

How to do a Barbell deadlift or conventional deadlift

Level: Intermediate to Advanced

Equipment required: Barbell with weighted plates

SET UP: Your gym should have a weights area with enough space for you to perform this exercise. Some gyms will have an Olympic lifting platform which would be the ideal place to perform this exercise.

  1. To get into starting position, make sure to stand up right against the bar, lower your hips to reach the bar. Your hand should be slightly wider than the width of your shoulder. You can either hold the bar with an overhand grip, or have one underhand grip and one overhand grip - whichever feels best for you.
  2. Once you’ve got a hold of the bar, push your hips back to the point where you feel tension in your hamstrings. Brace your abs and maintain a tall spine.
  3. Engage your lats and keep your chest proud throughout the whole movement. A good way to do this is to imagine as if you are putting your shoulders in your back pocket. This will help to avoid putting too much tension on your back.
  4. Lift the bar smoothly off the floor by extending your knees until you are standing in upright position, whilst keeping your abs tight, shoulders engaged and the bar close to your body.
  5. Exhale as you reach the top and squeeze your glutes. Slowly lower the bar back to the floor, keeping the bar close your body to return to starting position.

How to do a sumo deadlift

Level: Intermediate to Advanced

Equipment required: Barbell with weighted plates

  1. Set up a bar with weight plates on either side and clips to secure them. Use a weight you are comfortable with or leave the plates off if the bar is heavy enough).
  2. Stand behind the bar with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart and toes pointing out.
  3. Bent at the hips to lower and grab the bar. Make sure your back is flat in this bottom position.
  4. Pull your shoulders back and down. Then push through your heels and extend your knees to lift the bar to about mid-thigh height.
  5. Carefully lower the bar back down to the floor whilst keeping a straight back.

How to do a Stiff leg deadlift or romanian deadlift

Level: Beginners to Advanced

Equipment required: Barbell with weighted plates or a pair of dumbbells.

  1. Grab a pair of dumbbells, or a barbell with plates loaded. Make sure there is enough space surround you to perform this exercise.
  2. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold the dumbbells, with palms facing you, or bar in front of you.
  3. Bend your knees ever so slightly and hinge forward from the hips, keeping your back straight.
  4. Lower the weights towards the floor, keeping them close to your body, and feel the pull down your hamstrings.
  5. Return to starting position, squeezing the glutes at the top.

How to do a dumbbell deadlift

Level: Beginners to Advanced

Equipment required: Pair of dumbbells

  1. Grab a pair of dumbbells at a weight you are comfortable using.
  2. Holding a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing the body, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  3. Bend your legs and keep your back straight as you slowly lower the dumbbells towards the ground without allowing your back to round. Pause at a position you feel a stretch in your hamstrings.
  4. Return to standing up straight, squeezing your glutes and keeping your core tight as low as they can be positioned on the rack.

How to do a rack pull

Level: Beginners to Advanced

Equipment required: Barbell with weighted plates

  1. Find a squat rack and place the rungs as low as they can be positioned on the rack.
  2. Place the bar above the rungs and add weight plates on the ends of the bar with clips to secure (or leave the plates off if the bar is heavy enough).
  3. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and place your hands on the bar shoulder width distance apart.
  4. Keeping your back straight, drive through both feet to stand up with the bar.
  5. Squeeze the glutes and keep the core tight. Slowly lower the bar back down to the rack, keeping the weight in your heels.
  6. Pause on the rack and repeat

If the rungs are in a position which is too high for your height, you can use a weighted plate to stand on to adjust your height as shown in the video.

How To Do A Single Leg Deadlift

Level: Intermediate To Advanced

Equipment: bodyweight or dumbbells, kettlebells, barbell

  1. Stand tall with your feet hip width apart and engage your core. Raise your left foot so it's just off the floor behind you.
  2. If using weights, hold these in front of your thighs with your arms fully extended. If you are using bodyweight only, you can place your hands out to the side, in front, or on your hips.
  3. Hinge forward at the hips to bring your torso forward, extending your left leg out behind you at the same time. Stop when your upper body is parallel with the floor.
  4. Pause, then drive through your heel and push your hips forward to bring your body upright. Squeeze the glutes.
  5. Repeat for number of reps then switch sides.


If you’re not sure if any of the above exercises are suitable for you, please consult your doctor before you start it. Need guidance on how to perform the exercise? Ask a personal trainer at your gym.