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Bench Press and Deadlift questions

I haven’t been taught the way to do these, but I’ve kind of taught myself to do them from pictures. But I have a few questions. Whenever I do deadlifts(any kind, sumo/stiff legged) I only feel the “burn”(good lifting burn not bad burn) in my lower back, but not my hamstrings. The hamstrings are the main place I’m trying to target!
Also, with bench pressing, I only feel the “burn” in my triceps and not my chest! And once again, the chest is the spot I’m trying to target.
Can anyone give me some ideas of what I might be doing wrong or a different way to target these without machines, only dumbbells and barbells?

Hey Tokyoo, hows it going? Well to isolate specific muscles like the hammies and pecs, you have to understand exactly what these muscles do in the first place. The pecs make it possible for you, in layman’s terms, to rotate your upper arm inward in front of the body. So it’s not enough to just pick a certain exercise like flyes and get the weight up, its HOW you do the exercise. So try dumbbell flyes bringing the bells down all the way in a wide arc, then pressing up in a straight line. In other words, the dumbbells themselves should move stright up and down in a wide arc, not brought together at the top like most people do. You should feel this more in the pecs than anything else. Then remember how that feels and try to get the same feeling in other exercises like the bench… The hamstrings make it possible for your shins to rotate backwards (like your ankles are at your butt) and also help bring your torso up from a “touching toes” position to stainding straight up. So hamstring curls and romanian deads work great obviously. Again, it’s HOW you do it though. For instance, when you’re doing a ham curl, to target the hams directly it is important not to point your toes up or down like most people do, that causes your calves to help lift the weight and reduces the effectiveness of the exercise. Instead, ensure your feet are “limp” throughout the range of motion and focus on contracting the hammies to get the weight up and give them a good squeeze at the top. You’ll have to use less weight, but you’ll end up with stronger hammies. As for deadlifts, keeping your lower back arched (stick your butt out) is paramount to hamstring activation. Do romanian deads: Keep your legs slightly bent throughout, keep your lower back arched, and lower the weight as you stick your butt out behind you. You should lower the weight to around knee level and feel a great stretch in the hammies there. If you haven’t done them for a while you should be limping the next day. Hope that helps! Take care,

i had basically the same situation with the deadlifts… only felt them in my lower back no hammies…

well, something that really helped was: max effort exercise is deadlift, assistance exercise is goodmornings, and even one more assistance is back extensions…

well, that worked, i remember not being able to walk next day (hammies got murdered)…

im not saying go all crazy but, it seems like doing GM’s on same day as dead’s really gets them hit hard…

as for chest i dont know, i always feel it in my chest when i do dumbbell bench press with palms away (not palms in)

try a wider grip, maybe do some more bodybuilding style stuff with flys+bench, or pre-fatigue triceps maybe !


Tokyo, do a search on this site for RDL in the T mag area. RDLs will work your hams as will glute ham raises. I am lucky enough to go to a gym owned by a pro strongman so we have all the goodies to use. As I mentioned… do the search for any questions on “how to” for any movements.

just because you get a burn in the smaller muscle groups does not mean you are not using the other muscles. do you feel a soreness in your legs and chest after you do your given lifts? maybe try to use that as a gauge. just my opinion. laters pk

If you want a deadlift variation that will kill hamstrings and glutes, try doing extra-wide sumo deadlifts with a bar loaded with 25lb plates. Same effect as deadlifting off blocks but you don’t have to dick around with blocks.


You likely have weak hamstrings if you feel most of the burn in that area during deadlifts. Try the exercises mentioned in the other responses in this thread to help strengthen them.

As for your bench, check your grip. Your hands might be too close together, thus forcing the triceps to do more work. Try a wider grip.

This may help.

My current hammy programme is:

Toes-out Romanian Dead-Lift (2x10) to warm up and pre-tire the hammies.

Standard Dead-Lifts, 8-6-5-4-3.

Split-Leg Good-Mornings (3x8)

Lying HamCurls (3x5-5-5)

I alternate this with a “soft programme” every other week, and a ME day once a month.

Try glute-ham raises.

You can do a search to find out how to do them properly if you don’t have a GHR bench in your gym.

Don’t worry about where you feel the burn. This just means that your back muscles aren’t as strong as your hams so they are wearing out first.

The same with your tris. They are small than your pecs and will burn out first.

If you want to get over this try 1 month of high rep bench and deads.

For bench try 2-3 warm up sets just to get the blood flowing then do

2 sets 30-40 reps of bench. Believe me you’ll feel it in your arms more than your chest. Then follow it up with 1 set of flyes 30-40 reps. This will burn your pecs.

Deads I would do 2-3 warm up sets followed by one set of 30-40 reps.

I second the suggestion of glute ham raises. I would also recommend doing 1 set max of reverse trunk twists and 1 set max of russian twists. It sounds like your trunk needs more strength.

For the tris if you reall want to burn them do skull crushers with your arms at 45 degrees vs. 90 degrees like most people do them.

The good news is that you know your weak links. If you work them your strength will go up.

  1. deads are either felt in the lower back, hams, or both. I personally dont feel them much in my hams. I hit straight leg deads every time i do legs, directly following squats.

  2. widen your grip. i utilize an extra-wide grip, so i rarely feel any burn in my tris, only pecs and front delts ever burn.