How to Deadlift: The Definitive Guide
Article by Greg Nuckols
Most people should deadlift. Do you want to add muscle to your posterior chain, gaining quality mass from your traps all the way down to your hamstrings? You’d be hard-pressed to find a better exercise than the deadlift. Do you want to become more athletic while decreasing your injury risk on the field or the court? Deadlifts should probably be at the core of your training program.
And of course, do you want to get stronger? If so, there are few exercises that can build or test head-to-toe strength as well as the deadlift (I’d put squats on the same level, with push press close behind)./p>
Of course, I probably don’t need to tell you any of that. If you sought out or happened upon this guide, you probably already know that the deadlift is pretty awesome. You’re primarily interested in improving your deadlift technique, pulling heavier weights, or building a dense, muscular back and set of traps that scratch your ears.
If so, you’re in luck.
Deadlifts come in all shapes and sizes and can be used for a variety of training goals. This guide is going to break down the movement in-depth, teach you how to optimize your deadlift technique, and teach you how to start maximizing your deadlift training.
If you’re new here, you may be asking yourself, “Who is this guy, and why should I care what he has to say about deadlifting?”
Fair questions! I’m a coach and drug-free powerlifter. I’ve been training for 12 years and coaching for 9. I’ve deadlifted 735 lbs. in the gym (at 240; over 3x my bodyweight) and 710 in competition. I’ve coached lifters at all experience levels, teaching hundreds of new lifters how to deadlift on one end of the spectrum, and training several 600lb deadlifters and 3x-bodyweight deadlifters on the other end of the spectrum. This is combined with a thorough understanding of the biomechanics of the lift. Check the reference list at the end of the article; it’s tough to make it through that much scientific literature without picking up a few tidbits along the way (which largely match my personal experiences as an athlete and coach, I’ll note).
I don’t say any of that to toot my own horn. I just want you to know I’m not just some random internet dude opining about the deadlift. I’d never claim that everything I say is right just because I can pull a fair amount of weight (nor would I claim to be a world-class deadlifter), and I’m entirely open to changing my views as I gain more experience, talk to more high-level athletes and coaches, and read new scientific evidence as it’s published.
One quick note before we get under way: This guide covers a lot of ground. I’d strongly recommend you read the whole thing, but if there’s one section in particular that interests you, feel free to skip around using the links below. If you’re looking for information on how to deadlift, for example, then consider skipping the initial “physics” and “anatomy” sections for your first read, and come back to those later.
One more thing: This guide is ~150 pages long. You may want to download the PDF version.