How Do I Do a Barbell Deadlift?

Dan Cavallari

The barbell deadlift is one of the most common weight training exercises done by lifters because it works several target groups and strengthens muscles within those groups quickly and effectively. Like all other weight training exercises, it is important to do this exercise correctly to prevent injury, so before doing a barbell deadlift, be sure to research the proper technique; if possible, have a professional trainer or experienced lifter show you how to do this exercise properly, and always have a spotter standing by, especially if you are new to this strenuous exercise.

Man lifting weights
Man lifting weights

Start with the barbell on the ground in front of you. If this is your first time doing a barbell deadlift, start with less weight than you would otherwise use for such exercises so you can learn the proper lifting technique without raising the risk of injury. Stand with your feet a bit wider than hip width apart, and keep your knees slightly bent throughout the exercise. The neck should be in a neutral position; many weight lifters say the neck should act as an extension of the spine during the barbell deadlift, an the lower back should not bend or flex to ensure maximum benefit.

Grasp the barbell with your palms facing inward; your hands should be about shoulder width apart. Engage the stomach muscles and triceps, and lift the barbell off the ground. Your arms should not bend at any time during the lift, and your back should stay straight the entire time. Some lifters will lift the barbells to about knee height, hold the position, and then lower the weight back down until it is just above the ground, then repeat. Others will lift the weight during the barbell deadlift until he or she is in the standing position with the barbell dangling down, and then lower it again to just above the ground. The latter exercise is far more strenuous, and there is more risk for improper form and injury.

Several repetitions of the exercise can be done for maximum benefit, and a lifter can increase the weight on the barbell as he or she progresses in skill and muscle growth. Doing the barbell deadlift improperly can lead to injury, but it can also lead to a lack of muscle benefit; if the muscles are not properly engaged, they cannot be strengthened, so it is important to practice with less weight before progressing.

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