5 Ways to Strengthen Your Deadlift

Build a bigger Deadlift with tips and exercises from STACK Expert Bill DeLongis.


The Deadlift is an important exercise. It trains everything from your grip to your back and on down to your legs. It is also very functional for everyday activity. But you have to do it properly. In my opinion, Deadlifts should be one of the first things taught in the weight room. You don't want to get hurt picking something up off the ground incorrectly.

Benefits of Deadlifting

Improved grip strength. Since you are holding the bar (and ideally not using straps or gloves), your grip determines how much you can Deadlift. Like my grandma always says, "You're only as strong as your grip."

Stronger upper back. A strong upper back will give you better posture and healthier shoulders. The Deadlift helps you develop an often-overlooked part of the body.

A developed posterior chain. Talk to sports performance coaches, and they will tell you they emphasize the posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes and low back) in the programs they prescribe. Why? Because those are the muscles responsible for getting you to sprint faster and jump higher with fewer knee and back injuries.

More bang for your buck. The Deadlift is a full-body exercise with a high transfer to athletic movements and everyday life. It will get your entire body strong. No wonder it is one of the three main exercises in powerlifting and an event in nearly every strongman competition.

Improving your Deadlift

Deadlift from a deficit. Try performing Deadlifts from a deficit by standing on a plate during your warm-up sets. Deadlifting from a deficit is a classic way to help someone who is weak off the floor (starting the lift). Recently, I have been performing my warm-up sets from a deficit, then going back down to the floor for my main sets. When you get rid of the plate, it makes those heavy sets seem easier and helps strengthen the start of your Deadlift.

Start swinging. The Deadlift is a hip-dominant exercise, meaning the glutes play a huge role. If you struggle at the top of the Deadlift, chances are your glutes are holding you back. The hip-hinge style Kettlebell Swing is the best exercise I have tried to improve the lockout of the Deadlift.

Do more Pull-Ups and Rows. Pull-Ups and Rows will help keep the bar in tight to your body by strengthening your lats and your grip. Aim to perform 100 Pull-Ups per week, with various grips, spread over two upper-body workouts. Add in two Row variations in each of your upper-body workouts. I prefer exercises like the Prone Row that don't stress the lower back.

Incorporate speed Deadlifts. All sports require speed, and weight training is a great way to improve it. Take 50 to 60 percent of your one-rep max and work on accelerating the bar as fast as possible. This will help develop your rate of force development (RFD), teach you to accelerate the bar (so those max-effort lifts can be performed fast enough that you don't fail before the rep is complete), and allow you to work on perfecting your form. When using this method, perform 8 sets of 2 reps at the given percentage. Remember, if the bar is not moving quickly, the weight is too heavy.

Train your abs and low back. To effectively transfer force between your lower and upper body in a full-body exercise like the Deadlift, you need a strong core. Give this circuit a try at the end of your workout to stay injury free and improve your performance. Perform two rounds:

Find more Deadlift variations, tips and workouts at STACK.com/Deadlift.