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The deadlift in bodybuilding

The deadlift in bodybuilding


Like the bench press for pectoral muscles or squats for thighs, the deadlift is one of the benchmark movements in the world of bodybuilding. These movements are practised by strength athletes and bodybuilders alike, as well as by a large number of athletes in a variety of disciplines.

The deadlift is an exercise primarily used to train and strengthen the lower back, and particularly the lumbar region. However, many people forget that this bodybuilding movement can also be used to build strong, thick hamstrings.

The great champion Ronnie Coleman used this movement and these exercises. Today, we all know just how much his back, and particularly his lumbar region, has developed!

The deadlift

The deadlift exercise "for the back" differs from the one used to work the ischios, which has an impact on the load used. In fact, the lumbar muscles are very powerful, enabling you to move heavy loads. Technique must be scrupulously respected to avoid injury. The technique for working the back involves bending the legs, which is not the case when the hamstrings are targeted.

How to perform the deadlift

- Classic deadlift

Stand facing a loaded barbell on the floor, feet hip-width apart, slightly under the barbell. Bend your legs into a squat position and grasp the bar with a shoulder-width grip.

For perfect technique during the exercise, it's essential to keep the shoulders in line with the arms, passing through the middle of the feet.


This body position enables the lumbar vertebrae to be properly stressed without unnecessary strain.


From this position, align your spine so that your lumbar vertebrae are in line with your spine, as well as your neck. Your feet are level with your hips. The aim of the exercise is to lift the barbell and the weight while straightening your back. This involves very strong sheathing of the abdominal-lumbar muscles, pushing on your thighs so as to straighten your back completely.

For maximum contraction of the lumbar muscles, go as far as a slight hyper-extension during your exercises. Like a squat. Once you've reached this position, return to the starting position, taking care to maintain lumbar, spine and neck alignment. stop before the bar and weight touch the ground.

Depending on the objective set for these exercises (muscular strengthening, development of lower-back mass or strength), the load and number of repetitions will vary. In fact, to build body muscle, the load should enable sets of 20 to 30 repetitions to be performed. For lumbar mass, the load used should enable sets of 12 to 15 repetitions. For strength training, heavy sets of 3 to 8 repetitions are recommended.

Once again, I'd like to stress the importance of impeccable technique, as the deadlift is a demanding bodybuilding movement where injury can happen very quickly. Pay attention to your body.

Let's move on to a variation of the deadlift, this time targeting the hamstrings and glutes.

- The straight-leg deadlift

The technique of this movement differs from the deadlift for the back, in that the latter is performed with the legs slightly bent. What's more, in the upper part of the movement, there's no lumbar lock, which keeps the ischials under tension.

Straight-leg deadlift technique:

The start of this movement is similar to the traditional deadlift, which will prevent injury when the bar is first raised. Once up, slowly lower the bar and weight along the front of the thighs, then the shins. On the way down, bend the knees slightly and push the glutes backwards slightly, to accentuate the stretching sensation in the hamstrings.

the alignment of the lumbar vertebrae, spine and neck must be maintained throughout the exercise. The back should not be rounded, as this would weaken the lumbar region.


The barbell and weight must not touch the ground, as this would cancel out the stress applied to the hamstrings. As the body rises, strongly contract the glutes and hamstrings to create maximum muscle contraction and stimulation. On the way up, stop when the bar reaches knee level. This keeps tension in the ischials, so as not to transfer it to the lumbar vertebrae. Keep your legs slightly bent throughout the exercise.

For even greater stress and stimulation of the hamstrings, you can also perform this exercise on a step or cast-iron disc. This elevation will allow the bar to be lowered without touching the ground, and thus provoke greater stretching and travel.

For the "stretched legs" deadlift, you don't need to be heavy to get good muscle stimulation. However, you should remember to contract your hamstrings and glutes throughout the entire phase of raising the bar.

Now you're ready for one of the "king" movements in bodybuilding. This movement and these exercises have relieved many a sufferer of low-back pain due to a lack of toning and strengthening of this muscle area. Just as it has enabled the best athletes to build powerful backs and strong lumbar muscles.

Author Alexandre CARPENTIER

Bodybuilding Champion N.A.C 2012

Alexandre shares his bodybuilding experience with MegaGear blog readers