I just returned from a great workout with deadlifts forming the center of the routine. I really, really like deadlifts because:
You can't cheat
Sure, you can use bad form (like any other exercise), but it's nearly impossible to really cheat. With almost every other full body exercise -- squats, benches, or pullups -- it's pretty easy to cheat by using a limited range of motion, particularly at high weights. The deadlift is binary: either you completed the lift by lifting the weight or you didn't.
It is a full body workout
After doing hard deadlifts, I always come away with sore forearms, shoulders, back, abs, and quads. There is no other exercise that comes close to doing such a total workout.
Now that being said, I'm 43 and I know to be careful with this lift. I am very careful to watch my form, particularly to keep my back properly arched at the start of the lift. I also listen carefully to my body and back-off if I'm getting too much stress in my lower back. It' is also important not to overtrain -- I do max weight deadlifts at most once a week, and more usually once every two weeks (in addition to other workouts).
I don't understand why more people don't try deadlifts at any gym I've attended. I think many guys are afraid of back injuries.
Thoughts? What's your favorite exercise?