A deadlift is a strength-training exercise that primarily targets your hamstrings, lower back, quadriceps and glutes. Building these muscles helps improve your body's strength and stability. The deadlift is a compound exercise that strengthens the muscles you use each day to bend and lift. Exercising proper form when performing a deadlift is essential to minimize the risk of injury to your hamstrings or lower back.
The deadlift is generally performed using a barbell, although a set of dumbbells may also be used. Place the barbell on the floor in front of you and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Tighten your core to stabilize your spine as you bend at the knees to retrieve the bar. Hold the bar with an overhand grip with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width. Slowly extend your knees and hips as you return to an upright position. Lower the bar back down to the floor by slightly pushing your hips back and bending your knees. Gently lower your shoulders to keep your back flat as you bring the bar toward the floor. Avoid rounding your spine or locking your knees at any point in the exercise. Keep the barbell about one inch from your body throughout the exercise.
Deadlift variations, including the straight-leg deadlift, sumo deadlift and single-leg deadlift, strengthen your glutes through hip extension and squat movements involved in the exercise. Hip extension is the primary responsibility of your gluteus maximus, the largest muscle in your butt. Tightening your glutes when performing a deadlift reduces the amount of stress and pressure on your lower back.
A deadlift strengthens the muscles in the front and back of your thighs. Your hamstrings, located at the back of your thigh, stabilize your body throughout the exercise, while the quadriceps, the muscles in the front of your thigh, act as the primary movers. Your quadriceps consist of four muscles that start at the top of your thigh and move down the front of your thigh. These muscles are strengthened through the knee extension involved in a deadlift.
The deadlift strengthens your entire back, particularly the erector spinae, which acts as one of the primary movers during the exercise. These muscles of your lower back extend the torso and pull your spine back when you stand up. Perform deadlifts with a hip-forward motion and squeeze your glutes to avoid straining your lower back.
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