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Benefits of adding deadlifts to your workout

Are you new to lifting weights?

Do you do deadlifts in your training?

Manchester based Personal Trainer Jade Mottley looks into the benefits of deadlifts and shares real comments from people just like you about why they love deadlifts, aren't keen on them or have never tried them!

What are deadlifts?

Deadlifts get their name from picking up a “dead weight” from the floor. The exercise is performed with no momentum, hence the dead weight (1,2). Usually deadlifts are performed using a barbell but you can use other pieces of equipment such as dumbbells and kettlebells for both variety, time and cost.

One of the reasons Personal Trainer’s love adding deadlifts into workouts with their clients is because there are so many variations to perform; not only do they prevent boredom you can target different muscle groups. Deadlifts are great to tailor a workout for individual needs which is beneficial to a Personal Trainer with clients who have different goals (2). Deadlifts are a great exercise to add to your weekly strength training program because they use the largest muscles in your lower body. In addition, learning to perform a deadlift correctly can help you to safely lift objects off the ground in your day to day activities (1).

Thoughts on deadlifts

Do you include deadlifts in your workout? I asked my followers on Instagram too:

  • 73% love them

  • 11% not keen

  • 7% never tried them

“Deadlifts are easy to progress”

Deadlifts have lots of progressions you may have seen people start to learn to deadlift with a dowel or broom handle especially when working with a Personal Trainer, then progressing the lift using kettlebells right up to performing sumo squats with barbells or single leg deadlifts. Throughout these progressions it is first mastering the hip hinge and then adding load. Exercises like sumo deadlifts are great for those who want to compete in powerlifting events and the single leg deadlifts require real strength and stability during the hip hinge on one leg (3).

“I just really like deadlifts whether I use a barbell or dumbbells”

To perform a deadlift you can use a range of equipment: different gyms will offer different ranges of equipment including your traditional barbell or other bars like a trap bar. If you are working out from home you may need the convenience of performing deadlifts using kettlebells or dumbbells.

The different pieces of equipment will slightly target different muscle groups. The main muscles worked in a regular barbell deadlift are the glutes, lumbar muscles, lats and teres major. The trap bar or also known as a hex bar puts more focus on activating the quad muscles (4).

“I feel more muscle memory in glutes and hamstrings than squats”

This feeling will be down to the exercises deadlifts and squats actually activating different muscles: both deadlifts and squats target the glutes but deadlifts activate hamstrings and squats activate quadriceps (6).

“You can get some nasty injuries and pain if done slightly wrong”

This comment included that they avoided deadlifts because they decided a few years back that the risk to reward ratio is not worth it; if you aren’t confident with an exercise or apprehensive about injuries, that makes total sense why you would avoid. I would advise you to hire a Personal Trainer or workout with someone you know who is an experienced lifter for the short term to learn good technique and lower the risk of injury. Additionally, exercises like squats can build good foundations to movement to then add weights or previously we discussed using kettlebells or dumbbells to deadlifts before progressing onto a barbell.

There are many benefits to including deadlifts into your weekly strength training here are some (6):

  • Activate your hip extensors: deadlifts activate your gluteus maximus and hamstrings and deadlifts have been shown to be a superior exercise than squats to build strength and size of these muscles

  • Reduce lower back pain: for those with low - mild lower back pain when performed correctly studies has shown including deadlifts has improved or reversed lower back pain

  • Increase weight loss: boosting the metabolism has been shown to occur and burn more calories performing resistance exercise like a deadlift, great for those looking for weight loss

“I’m hypermobile, I can dislocate most of my joints on demand and hips are the worst so worried they would fail on me”

We spoke to our Head Personal Trainer and Sports Therapist Andy Jeffries about this.. “the key would be to keep really good form and to not go beyond the normal range, if you are hypermobile you will just have to focus a little bit more on technique.”

“I’m very self conscious”; “I’d get intimidated if other people were there”

Depending on affordability, time and goals there are a number of options I would suggest:

  1. Hire a Personal Trainer - in a private space with a 1:1 Personal Trainer this can be a fantastic opportunity to build confidence whether done in person or online

  2. Join a small gym class - a semi-private option compared to an open commercial gym space, this can offer you guidance from a Gym Instructor or Personal Trainer and a smaller group to workout with which can help with confidence and less people to feel you need to compare to

  3. Workout with a friend - this can be a great hand hold option for confidence in the gym and one I have used in the past. It can greatly reduce the intimidated feeling when starting to lift weights, however make sure your workout partner is experienced at lifting weights and can help spot poor technique if you are a beginner

Are you Manchester based? We run a 6 weeks strength and conditioning course for either beginners or people wanting to have a check in on their weightlifting techniques. These are small group based sessions in our private gym studio on Jackson’s Row just off Deansgate. Ideal for those who are working in the city centre or want a more private gym. To find out more and for our next course dates please send Andy an email:


Researched and written by Jade Mottley - Sport Scientist and Nutritionist


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