7 Greatest Deadlift Muscles Worked That Can Change Your Life

What Muscles Do Deadlifts Work?

Did you ever dream that seven deadlift muscles worked can change your life? The deadlift is only one exercise you might think, how good can it be? The truth is that the deadlift is more than a prescription for looking and feeling powerful. 

You can change your body and your life with the main muscle groups worked by the conventional barbell deadlift.

First of all, the simple deadlift, if done with proper form, can dramatically change your body. And not only if you use heavier weights. Even deadlifting lighter weights can have a profound impact on your health and fitness.

You can transform from a couch potato to lean and muscular. 

Why Are Deadlifts So Powerful?

Targeting all the muscles of your body is the reason that deadlifts are so powerful.

Therefore, a progressive deadlift workout program can change your body even if you’re a beginner. And changing your body is the first step to change your life.

In short, deadlifts build muscle, fight obesity, build confidence, and boost your mood.

You would become fabulously wealthy if you could package the benefits of deadlifts in a pill. But, you do not need medicines, you need to deadlift.

Deadlifts Boost Your Mood Too

Deadlifts are better than any antidepressant out there, I know, I used many. Deadlifting can help you fight obesity faster than you could ever imagine. The deadlift can help you rebuild your life if you are trying to recover from loss, divorce, breakups, or estrangements. 

No matter what your age, you will benefit from deadlifts, even if you are over 80.

The deadlift is a primal and basic lifting exercise that builds muscle, strength, and confidence.

A healthier you will be an enormous asset to yourself, loved ones, and friends. This article will focus on the most critical deadlift muscles targeted. This article explains why deadlifting is an excellent tool for mental and physical fitness.

So, What Muscle Do Traditional Deadlifts Work?

The deadlift works most of the muscles of your entire body from your feet to your head. And most importantly, the posterior chain, all the muscles along the backside of your body.

How the Deadlift Benefits Muscles in Your Lower Body

1. The Glutes

Your glutes include:

  • Gluteus maximus
  • the gluteus medius, and
  • Gluteus minimus
deadlift muscles worked glutes Image Credit holisticbodyworks..com.au

Glutes Image Credit holisticbodyworks..com.au

There are about 640 muscles in the body.²

The most massive muscle in your body is the gluteus maximus.

And the biggest of the three gluteal muscles, the gluteus maximus, is known as the buttocks.

For most adults, the glutes are one of the most significant muscles that are underactive and weak, besides the erector spinae muscles.

The reason your glutes are weak is that you sit too much due to no fault of your own. Between commuting and working in an office, you are bound to sit in your chair between 8 and 10 hours a day.

If you roll your meals and watching TV into the mix, you now understand why your glutes are weak. When you sit, only your hip flexors, the muscles that flex your hips, are activated and engaged.

After many years of chronic sitting, your glutes muscles are lengthened and get progressively weaker.

The deadlift is an excellent exercise to reactivate and train your glutes and hamstrings because your glutes are one of the most powerful muscles worked during a deadlift.

Over time, with a progressive deadlift program as well as flexibility training to release your tight hip flexors, your glutes will once again be firing on all cylinders.

Consequently, keep deadlifting, and you will move better during all functional activities and look a lot better in pants.

2. Leg Muscles

The muscle groups targeted in the legs include your quadriceps on the front of your thigh. As well as your hamstrings on the back.

While the hamstrings only act as stabilizers during the deadlift, the quadriceps are the primary muscles the deadlift works in the legs.

What muscles do deadlifts workout - bodybuilding and powerlifting legend Franco Columbo Deadlifting massive weight

Primary muscle groups used in the deadlift demonstrated by a Franco Columbu deadlift

How Deadlifts Work Your Upper Body

Your Entire Back

Remember, the deadlift is not a squat. Squats will work your legs, specifically your front quadriceps. 

The deadlift is primarily a 

  • push against the floor, 
  • drive your hips forward, and simultaneously
  • pull with your back compound movement, 

which involves your lower back muscles as well as your upper back muscles.

All of your back muscles. 

As a result, you build a more muscular back and can prevent back pain.

Back pain is the most common type of chronic pain in adults in the United States.¹ Therefore, use the deadlift to strengthen your back, not to injure your back.

So, you must deadlift with the best form possible. Keep your back straight and neutral when you deadlift. Never perform a deadlift with a rounded spine.

3. Erector Spinae Muscles

The Erector Spinae muscle consists of three columns of muscles:

  • Iliocostalis,
  • Longissimus, and
  • Spinalis

Each muscle column runs parallel on the outer sides of the vertebra. They extend from the lower back of the skull down to the Pelvis.

‘The Erector Spinae provides resistance that assists in bending forward at the waist. Also, they act as powerful extensors to promote the return of the back to the erect position.’ Source CreditLearn your erector spinae muscles

upper body deadlift muscles worked diagram of the erector spinae

Image Credit: custompilatesandyoga.com

Muscles used in the deadlift diagram – erector spinae muscles
One of the main muscle groups engaged in the deadlift is the erector spinae muscles.

These are powerful muscles, which help you to bend forward as well as return to a standing position. The spinal erectors run down your back, from the base of your skull to the lower vertebrae. When you deadlift, you are working your entire posterior chain, from your hips and knees up to your head.

Warning: You must maintain a neutral back, a flat back, throughout the deadlift. From when you lower your hips to grip the barbell through your deadlift and return to the floor.

4. Latissimus Dorsi Muscles

Besides the erector spinae muscles, the deadlift also works your latissimus dorsi muscles. Having strong lats helps to give you the coveted V shape in your back.

Anatomical image of the latissimus dorsi muscle which should be heavily engaged in the deadlift exercise

The deadlift builds your latissimus dorsi muscles 
See for yourself how the deadlift will transform your back muscles credit: Saiyan Aesthetics

5. Arm Muscles

The deadlifts muscles trained in the arm region include many of the muscles in your arms. For example your, flexor digitorum profundus (forearms) and finger flexors (grip).

Strengthen your grip

The deadlift will tax your grip muscles like no other weight training exercise. As the deadlift weight increases, your grip strength will increase as well. There are two basic ways to grip for the conventional barbell deadlift:

  1. The pronated or overhand grip where both palms are facing you.
  2. The alternating grip where one hand is overhand and the other is underhand.

As your deadlift weight increases, you will likely begin to use the alternating grip. The change in grip is necessary to prevent unwanted rotation of the barbell. However, you need to be careful not to injure your biceps when using the underhand grip. The best way to avoid injury to your biceps is to keep your elbows locked and arms straight.

Never, ever try to pull the bar up using your arms alone.

The deadlift starts with:

  • hip hinge
  • bending your knees
  • hips still higher than your knees (the deadlift is not a squat)
  • keep a neutral back by lifting your chest
  • hip width grip
  • leg press off the floor
  • bar close to your shins (which is why you need adequate shin protection)
  • hip extension and drive when the barbell reaches your knees
  • Final pull by your entire back muscle groups.

6. Shoulder Muscles

The deadlift also targets the medial deltoid of your shoulders. You develop stronger shoulder muscles as you continue to deadlift. You pull your shoulders back and work your trapezius muscles in the completion phase of the deadlift. World record dead lifters usually have tremendous trapezius and shoulder development.

Anatomical rendering of the trapezius muscles of the upper back

The deadlift also activates the trapezius muscles.

7. Deadlift Muscle Groups used include your Abdominal Core

The deadlift activates almost every muscle in your body, including your abdominal muscles, as well.

According to Jody Braverman, a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Writer – ‘During a deadlift, the rectus abdominis and the obliques are both hard at work. The rectus abdominis is a pair of long muscles that extend the length of the torso. The obliques extend along either side of the torso.’

Therefore, you stabilize your spine in the deadlift with your abdominal muscles.

Deadlift Muscles Worked Summary:

  • Gastrocnemius (calf muscles – lateral and medial)
  • Soleus (under your calf muscles)
  • Quadriceps (front of your thigh)
  • Hamstring complex (back of your thigh)
  • Gluteus muscle group (minimus, medius, and Maximus – your butt, the most massive muscle of your body)
  • Abdominal complex
  • Erector Spinae (lower back)
  • Latissimus dorsi muscles
  • Trapezius muscles (lower, middle and upper)
  • Arm muscles (shoulder and forearm – warning: don’t try to lift the bar with your biceps, ever)
  • Grip muscles

In summary, the deadlift works all the major muscle groups of your body. Therefore, the deadlift is the best exercise for overall body strength. 

Deadlift Gear for Beginners

As far as deadlift gear goes, deadlifting requires a small area and a minimum amount of equipment. All you need is an Olympic barbell and bumper plates and weights. These are available in most gyms that have free weights.

On the other hand, you can ditch the gym and set up a small area of your basement or garage with minimal weightlifting gear. At the least, I recommend that a deadlift beginner gets the following items or something similar:

#1. Nike Metcon 4 Cross-Training Shoes

Nike Metcon 4 are great CrossFit and deadlift shoes. They keep you low to the ground, provide foot stability, and prevent knee sprains.

Before the Metcon, I wore typical rubber gym shoes and sprained my knee doing squats. Don’t let that happen to you. Since I started wearing Nike Metcon 4 cross-training shoes, my knees have felt great.

Wear the best shoes for squats and deadlifts.

See why the best deadlift shoes are so critical.

#2. Weightlifting Shin Guards

THEFITGUY Weightlifting Shin Guards can go over your skin, socks, or training pants. They provide shin protection for deadlifts, CrossFit, snatches, cleans, box jumps, and rope climbs.

Best of all, with THEFITGUY shin guards, you do not need to remove your shoes, saving you valuable time.

See the best deadlift shin guards for 2020.

#3. Moxy Deadlift Socks

Moxy deadlift socks will prevent shin scraping and keep your knees, and lower legs warmed up. 

I suffered many shin scrapes and bruises until I started wearing proper shin protection for deadlifting. 

These deadlift socks provide excellent shin protection and are why I continue to use Moxy socks for more than five years.

I highly recommend Moxy premium deadlift socks.

#4. Dark Iron Fitness Weight lifting belt

Dark Iron Fitness Genuine leather weight lifting belt for men and women provides strong support for squats and deadlifts, which both require bracing your core. 

A weight lifting belt helps you learn how to brace, besides protecting your lower back.

This belt is an IPF sanctioned powerlifting belt.

This certification means you can use this belt in any powerlifting competition sanctioned by the International Powerlifting Federation.

I would not leave home without a weight lifting or powerlifting belt on a squat or deadlift workout day.

#5. Starting Strength

Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe is the Bible of basic barbell training.

Learn how to squat, deadlift, and bench press, the basic powerlifting lifts, and foundational 3×5 workout plan.

Watch this video for the five biggest mistakes you must avoid when deadlifting:

Related Deadlifts Blog Articles

Romanian deadlift muscles worked vs. stiff-legged deadlifts muscles worked – why you need both

What Muscles Does a Deadlift Work?

The deceptively simple conventional deadlift will work the largest muscle groups of your body.

The bottom line is that these seven muscle groups used in a deadlift include most of the muscles of your body!

The short answer to the question of what muscles do deadlifts target is ‘all of them’!

If you only have time for one exercise, do the deadlift. Deadlifts will add a layer of metabolically active muscle that burns fat everywhere.

You will change your body. And you can even save your life.

In a Crossfit Journal article on the importance of deadlifts, Greg Glassman, the creator of CrossFit, made the following statement:

“The deadlift is unrivaled in its simplicity and impact while unique in its capacity for increasing head to toe strength.”

Above all, deadlifts helped me improve my mental and physical health and fitness after the age of 55. They can do the same for you, no matter what your age.

Why Deadlift?

Do deadlifts if you want to transform your entire body, even if you’re over 50.

Before and after 6-month deadlift results:

Deadlift muscles worked transformation results image of Hash iMashi - before and after 6 months of deadlifting

Deadlift Body Transformation over 50 in 6 Months

Deadlift Muscles Worked – Final Thoughts

You cannot compare the number of muscles worked by deadlift to most other strength and conditioning exercises. Take the ever-popular biceps curl, for example. Think of the size of your bicep.

Now, think of the size of your back. Although you cannot see the rear of your body, you know your back muscles alone are much larger than your biceps.

If the deadlift only worked your back muscles, the deadlift would still be superior to curls. But, the deadlift works many more muscles than just your back.

  • This total muscle usage of deadlifts is why you should not waste your time only doing only curls,
  • squeezing a handgrip, or
  • the bench press.

(Yes, the deadlift will also work the muscles of your hand and strengthens your grip.)

By now, you know that deadlifts are one of the most potent compound exercises you will ever do.

This post focuses on the muscles worked in the traditional barbell deadlift.

However, there are other deadlift variations to learn about, for example;

The bottom line is that few weight training exercises can match the number of muscles worked with the deadlift. 

What’s Next?

Once you are ready to start deadlifting, you need a solid deadlift workout routine.

Also, it is an excellent idea to pick up as many cues as possible on how to deadlift before you pick up the barbell.

Understanding the most important concepts of a safe and productive deadlift could save you from unnecessary injury.

You are deadlifting to get fit, not get hurt.

Here are the most important posts to read now:

Use this beginner deadlift workout routine and 12-week beginner deadlift program to start your deadlifting journey, and experience the transformative power of the deadlift on your mind and body.

However, if you first need to lose weight, no worries, just follow these five simple steps to lose 20 pounds in 3 months and you will be ready to deadlift in no time.

For more deadlift details like:

  • starting position
  • range of motion
  • hip or shoulder-width, and
  • deficit deadlift tips

See these Top 10 Related Posts:


¹ Conditions most often associated with chronic pain – Verywellhealth

² List of Human Muscles

Please take a moment to share this Deadlift Muscles Worked Infographic which illustrates the main muscle groups targeted by the deadlift:

Deadlift Muscles Worked Diagram
deadlift muscles worked diagram Infographic Credit HashiMashi.com

Deadlift Muscles Worked Diagram by HashiMashi.com – Share with your friends or on your blog

Pin and share the 7 Major Muscle Groups Used by the Deadlift:

Deadlift Muscles Worked Image
Seven major muscle groups used in the deadlift that will change your life

2 thoughts on “7 Greatest Deadlift Muscles Worked That Can Change Your Life”

  1. Hi John,

    Thanks so much for your comment and congrats on your own great progress!

    The fact that your life has changed radically reinforces the idea that if you get fitter and stronger, you will live better, no matter what your age or shape you are in right now.

    By the way John, I think you do have bragging rights!

    Every day I meet men over 50 and 60+ who are taking metformin for type 2 diabetes, are overweight or obese, on high cholesterol meds, and too stiff from sitting too much, and you have broken the mold, well done!

    You should be proud of yourself.

    Please share with other men and help me spread the word.

    And please let me know what other types of article topics you are most interested in reading….

    Thanks so much for writing!


  2. Great article!
    I began lifting one year ago at age 60. I purchased the “stronglifts” app and read the books by Rippletoe. I also bought my own squat rack.
    My life has changed radically! Not bragging BUT
    I have a better body than most 35 year old men!
    I just increased weight very slowly. I am not out to break records but to just lift more each month.
    This site id pure gold. This is the only way I could have gone frim pre diabetic, obese to a happy strong mature man. Kudos Richard! Keep spreading the word. Im signed up for your emails and look foreword to them

Comments are closed.

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