When it comes to building strength, improving your fitness, and enhancing your physique, few exercises can match the deadlift. “In a deadlift, you lift the weight from the ground to thigh-level using primarily your leg and hip muscles, but with the assistance of most of the large muscle groups of your body” (Very Well Fit, 2022). At Nielsen Fitness, deadlifts are an all-time favourite: whether you’re an athlete or a beginner, incorporating deadlifts into your workouts can be a game-changer. Here’s why we love them and think they’re so great!

Why we love deadlifts

STRENGTH

The deadlift is a compound exercise, meaning it engages multiple muscle groups simultaneously. It primarily targets the posterior chain, which includes your lower back, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. On top of this, deadlifts work your core, forearms, and upper back. This comprehensive muscle engagement builds overall strength while improving muscular balance and coordination.

FUNCTION

Functional training is about building strength, agility, and resilience that support your activities of daily living. While some workouts isolate muscles to build a specific shape (body-building), functional training uses movements that mimic real-life activities. This makes daily tasks easier while reducing your risk of injury. Deadlifts mirror the movement of lifting heavy objects off of the ground. This can enhance your ability to perform everyday tasks more efficiently and safely.

HORMONES

Interestingly enough, performing deadlifts (especially with heavy weights) stimulates the release of growth hormone, which is crucial for muscle growth and overall strength development. Performing deadlifts applies significant stress and metabolic demand on the body; this intense exertion is what signals the pituitary gland (located in the brain) to release more growth hormones. On top of increased muscle growth, tissue repair, and overall physical development, this hormonal response aids in recovery and hypertrophy while supporting the maintenance of lean mass.

POSTURE & CORE

Deadlifts are highly effective at working your core, primarily because they require significant stability and strength to maintain proper form. During a deadlift, your core – specifically the rectus abdominis, obliques, transverse abdominis, and erector spinae – must engage to stabilize your spine and prevent excessive arching. This stabilization is crucial for protecting your lower back from injury. “While there are many causes of lower back pain that require differing treatments, research suggests that for mild mechanical low back pain, deadlifts can be an effective tool for reducing or reversing this ailment” (Healthline, 2023). The intense isometric (held) contraction throughout the lift also develops core endurance, leading to improved posture, better performance in other exercises, and enhanced overall fitness.

WEIGHT LOSS

Deadlifts are a high-intensity exercise that burns a significant number of calories. When performed correctly and with intensity, deadlifts elevate your heart rate and boost your metabolism. This can lead to an increased calorie-burn after your workout is over, AKA the after-burn effect or EPOC (excess exercise post-oxygen consumption): the body’s effort to restore itself to a resting state after exercise is performed.

RESILIENCE

Like any heavy lift, deadlifting requires focus, determination, and perseverance. Pushing through the challenge can build mental resilience in and out of the gym, which can enhance your confidence and discipline in other areas of life. Each successful lift, especially when pushing past previous limits, creates a sense of progress and mastery over physical challenges. This builds self-efficacy (belief in your ability to succeed) while increased muscle definition can contribute to improved self-esteem.

VERSATILITY

One of the greatest aspects of deadlifting is its versatility. Whether you’re using a rack, free- weights, or even your child, there are several variations of the deadlift that can target different muscles and add variety to your workouts. Some of our favourites include the Romanian deadlift, the trap-bar deadlift, and the sumo deadlift. Each variation can target specific weaknesses or imbalances while addressing possible physical restrictions.

FINAL WORDS

Deadlifts build full-body strength, improve functional fitness, enhance overall athletic performance, and promote fat loss. Whether you’re lifting for strength, aesthetics, or health, they’re a valuable addition to any fitness routine.

That said, some should approach this exercise with caution or avoid it altogether. Those with lower-back conditions – such as herniated discs or chronic lower back pain – might find that deadlifts place excessive stress on the spine. Those with poor form or insufficient strength in their core and lower body also risk injury if they attempt deadlifts without proper technique and preparation. If you’re looking for guidance, “it’s important to speak with a certified personal trainer to develop the best type of training plan for your strength goals” (Nike, 2023).

If you’d like help incorporating deadlifts into your routine – or with any other fitness goals – we’re here for you. We offer in-person training in Toronto, Collingwood, Ottawa & Hamilton and virtual personal training everywhere. First workouts are zero pressure and always free – you can book yours here.