T Nation

The Deadlift?


First off, I love deadlifting. However, I still dont understand the love the deadlift gets as a back building exercise. IMO the DL is a squat/hip hinge motion with only isometric contribution from the back/lat muscles. Am I completely off the mark here, or is the DL an exercise which primarily targets reactive strength of the lower limb?


Different for different people. Quite a few people have huge backs and don't deadlift, and quite a few people have huge backs that swear by deadlifts.

I can deadlift only, work up to one heavy set to failure, do no other back exercises and have crazy sore lats and traps the next day....

If you like the movement, keep doing it...If you don't feel it is building your back, pick exercises that do...don't drop the deadlifts, but don't consider them a primary back builder for yourself.


your back and trap muscles are keeping hundreds of pounds from yanking your arms out of your sockets. and i think that is a good motivation for them to grow


@austin, I love the DL. I guess I just never understood how it is a back builder (as in lats and traps) I DL exactly like you, work up to a heavy single and then do accessory work. The only soreness I get is glutes/erectors...just curious what others think! When I train back I row, do chins and row some more!



What is your opinion on isometric bench holds as a chest builder?


I used to only feel deadlifts in the glutes and erectors. Then I did loads of pull ups to strengthen my lats and shoulder girdle. Now it feels like im pulling more with the upperback than the lower back.

I think its all dependant onhow tight you can keep the upper back and how close you keep the bar to your shins.


I've always understood the deadlift as a back "thickness" exercise. Meaning it isn't necessarily used to increase the flare of your lats, but rather the depth and amount of tissue on muscles like your erector spinae, traps, and everything else up the middle and in the lower back. In addition to hitting the legs, and the arms somewhat.

Its a great overall mass builder that targets the entirety of the back. Its application is NOT solely in building a huge back, but also in stimulating the addition of slabs of beef to the overall frame, as few exercises allow for such massive weight to be moved.


Same here, i think the DL targets the glutes/hip more than the back for me, except when i do singles or low reps (2 or 3) i can feel it little more on the lats next day, i'm not sure why. which begs the question, does low reps recruit more muscles when doing DL because of the sheer load and the nature of the lift.


you're just not doing them heavy enough


I tested my 1RM yesterday as part of a not particularly high volume 3 day push/pull/legs split for this week. I'm stiff and sore everywhere.

you're probably not lifting heavily enough.


Try a wide, snatch type grip, this should emphasise the upper back area a little more.


It's like the dumbbell fly not really appearing to be a biceps exercise but you can't do them without biceps involvement.


Do deadlifts to get a strong lower back, some other minor/moderate posterior chain benefits (depending on technique and leverages).

Do Rows, chinups, and their variations to get a big wide upper back.

Pretty much simple as that.


I started deadlifting after doing several sets of lat/mid-back work and my back was significantly sorer over the next few weeks compared to having the deadlift at the start of my workout. Nothing else changed, volume-wise, just exercise placement.


x2. Excellent post. Might I add that dead-lift strength will transfer over to those bodybuilding lifts (rows, chin-ups, etc) and lead to even more growth. Its a win-win. Everyone should dead-lift.


well my bench has been stuck at 225 for a long time, so you shouldnt ask me. i think thibadaeu used to write about that before he started jumping on benches and throwing medicine balls and using rings.


I've seen a few pros do it that way also. I tried it with stiff legged deads on my leg day and when I moved them to the end of my routine I got a burn in my hams I had never had before.


Thanks for the responses everyone, was interested in what people thought about this!


Do me a favor: Go watch a heavy max or near max deadlift and tell me if you think it was an "isometric hold" of the lower and upper back.


When ramping up I feel it mainly in the glutes and hamstrings but as I get close to a 3rm my back is working freaking hard not to round over. IMO it is the single best exercise for the erector spinae. Mainly lower to mid but i did them today and could really feel it in the upper traps as well. I also feel that it builds overall strength which in turn helps with other pulling exercises. A strong lower back helps with all other compound lifts IMO.