T Nation

'Deadlift Not a Great Muscle Builder'


Before you get angry, even though you probably are just because of the title of this post, I do not believe this is true.

This point was mentioned in an article be Menno Henselmans recently, I believe in February. His point is defended by him comparing the muscle hypertrophy obtained by squatting and doing Chin-Ups.

I believe the Deadlift is an incomparable way of developing the Upper Trapezius, the Semi-Membranous muscle, the Semi-Tendinous Muscle, and the Biceps Femoris (Hamstrings).

Besides, it allows you to build muscle in an astonishing way on other parts of the body when you deadlift decent weight and learn to lift explosively, not to mention how tight you have to get in every skeletal muscle to accomplish this lift.

1. What do you believe about this claim of the Deadlift not being a great mass builder? (does somebody actually agree?)
2. What muscles do you think the Deadlift is best for developing [for most lifters]? (Not taking height of the lifter into the matter for practical purposes of this discussion)

*In the mentioned article, Menno does not state the Deadlift is not good for building muscular mass, but he believes there is an enormous difference with the squat and the chin-up.


The deadlift is NOT a good muscle builder. A real deadlift is an eccentricless movement. There's active hip extension and alot of isometric work going on, but it's not a good muscle builder, as eccentrics are essential.

You train the deadlift to train the deadlift. Just like you wouldn't train cleans to build traps. It would be an innefective bastardized shitfest that is neither ideal for training the movement nor building the muscle.

Deadlift variations with eccentrics are great for the posterior chain and erectors though. SLDLs, RDLs, etc


Oh my fucking God just say hamstrings already.

This has been discussed. Get a great deadlift and you'll probably have a pretty great back and hamstrings. But a lot of people just do them with 225-315 or something to be "hardcore" and they never seem to get anywhere.


Squat Deadlift and Bench. Rinse and Repeat. It doesn't matter who put what in an article.


How many people do you know get a great deadlift without doing other exercises? You can't credit a big deadlift with all the muscle on someone's back when they've been strengthening their rows and pullups and romanian deads to get there.

I have always thought of deadlifts as more of a test of strength rather than an exercise to be done regularly like others.


Mr. Popular:

First of all, nobody does a single exercise. At least they shouldn't.

And yes, the Deadlift is so complete you WILL improve drastically by practicing it and improving the vast amount of neuromuscular connections involved. Of course all the big lifts need some assistance work, but that's not the most important aspect of the best exercises.

You should meet Powerlifters if you think they got their astounding Deadlift numbers by complementing with pullups.

Instead of using the deadlift to TEST of how strong you are, why don't you use it to become strong?

Cheers, thanks for your thoughts.



I agree for the most part with your philosophy, but I do believe that each big lift has unique properties that should be discussed.

When a trained author states something so unusual, it's interesting to try to understand their point and draw conclusions to use in your favor (may the author be right or wrong). Even if at first it may sound outrageous.

Good luck with your lifting and thanks for the contribution.


You should be capable of naming muscles individually, each of them differs even if slightly. If you can't handle adequate words or are too lazy to write properly, you're on the wrong site.

Almost everything has already been discussed, this does not mean that people have stopped thinking about new approaches or ideas about those topics that deserve being re-discussed.

I agree with you that there seems to be a common plateau at the weight you have mentioned.



"You train the deadlift to train the deadlift" if you are a powerlifter. Most Testosterone Nation members seek strength and muscle hypertrophy, both of which are a reward from training the deadlift.

It would not be an "innefective bastardized shitfest" idea to do deadlifts or cleans to build traps. In fact it is an excellent idea. It is just not exclusively for that purpose.


With all the respect, I think Menno is worrying too much about advanced science stuff and being revolutionay, when he should just get under a bar and listen to the really smart guys like Dan John, Jim Wendler, Waterbury, Thibaudeau, etc.

He would learn a lot more by doing that than reading that zillion references he puts in the end of his articles. I'm not saying science is not important, it is, but too much of it can get you kind of lost, like in the anti-stretching article he wrote recently, that was one of the most stupid things I ever read.


all I know is that when I started doing heavy deads, my body comp increased, I got stronger in other lifts, and gained thickness all over.

of course, I ain't a researcher, or blogger - just some lifetime meathead who knows results when I see them.


The deadlift is a great muscle builder for the back and posterior chain, but it isn't the only one.


I don't understand how something can be a muscle builder and something can't be.

If you using muscles to move something incredibly heavy why wouldn't they grow to compensate for the increased load over time?

Yes rep ranges can promote strength over hypertrophy blah blah blah but its pretty standard that the large a muscle the stronger it is.

There was a guy at my old gym who had freakishly huge traps, i mean huge, i asked him what he did, he said he

never did a shrug in life or any direct trap work in his life, he credited them to dead lifts.


Wow I like this guy's style...not afraid to tell it like it is.

Regarding deadlifts: they are a good muscle builder, but I find them too taxing to fit in a bodybuilding split where I try to lift 3 days & then 1 off-day. Whenever I try to incorporate them more, the accumulated fatigue starts affecting other workouts.

Perhaps if I did a 3 day per week split, but still I suspect they are not strictly necessary.


Keep in mind that Menno does not deny that Deadlifts work. He states that there is an abysmal difference between the gains you can expect when comparing Deadlifts with Squats or Chin-Ups.

I agree that direct trap work is totally ridiculous: spending energy on such a pathetic movement like a shrug when you can do olympic lifts or deadlifts instead, getting better results for your traps plus multiple other benefits.

Maybe the Deadlift can rely more efficiently on neuronal power to move the massive weights, while a Squat probably requires more cross sectional area to move the weight. If this were true, I would like to know the reasons, seems interesting.


I don't think any exercise is stricly necessary in bbing. You could build a good chest without bench press, good legs without squats, etc. Does not mean those exercises aren't effective. Pulling heavy ass weight off the ground is gonna build some quality muscle, even if it's eccentricless. Also will have some carryover to other exercides. I feel deads can be pretty easily incorporated into a your split.

Agree w what edgy said.


I rarely deadlift. I do tons of other back movements though and it seems to do just fine.


What is your approach on deadlifting? (sets, reps, etc.)


Deadlifting - excellent, especially if you want to be: strong, powerful, fast and large. Albeit on how your approach is to the lift.


When you say "rarely", more or less how often and what schemes do you use?
Have you found alternate exercises that give you better results?

I posted another thread about what Testerone Nation members believe is the best exercise for the traps, I would like to know your opinion on that matter.

Anyway, could you share your approach for the back muscles if you have some time to spare?