top of page

Barbell Deadlift 101 Video Tutorial

Gym Main Variation Strength


Barbell Deadlift
Barbell Deadlift

Exercise Synopsis

Target Muscle Group




Force Type

Hinge (Bilateral)

Required Equipment


Fitness Level












The Barbell Deadlift stands as a foundational compound exercise renowned for its comprehensive engagement of various muscle groups. Targeting primarily the hamstrings, it serves as a multi-joint movement with an extensive range of secondary targets, including the abs, adductors, calves, forearms, glutes, lats, lower back, middle back, quads, traps, and upper back. Executed with a barbell, this exercise involves lifting the weight from the ground to a fully upright position, emphasizing hip hinge mechanics and activating muscles throughout the posterior chain. Proper form is crucial to reap the benefits and prevent injury, making the Barbell Deadlift an integral component in strength training routines for enhancing overall muscular development, particularly in the hamstrings, and promoting functional strength across various muscle groups.

How to Perform

  1. Begin the Barbell Deadlift by positioning the barbell over the top of your shoelaces and adopting a hip-width stance, ensuring a stable foundation for the lift.

  2. Initiate the movement by pushing your hips back and hinging forward until your torso is nearly parallel to the floor. This hip hinge is crucial for engaging the hamstrings and activating various secondary muscle groups involved in the exercise.

  3. Reach down and securely grasp the bar with a shoulder-width, double overhand grip, establishing a firm connection before lifting.

  4. Inhale and pull up slightly on the bar while allowing your hips to drop, effectively "pulling the slack out of the bar." This preparatory step optimizes tension and sets the stage for a powerful lift.

  5. Simultaneously drop the hips and pull up on the bar, emphasizing lat engagement by imagining squeezing oranges in your armpits. Ensure that your armpits are directly over the bar, maintaining proper alignment throughout the lift.

  6. Drive through the entire foot and concentrate on pushing the floor away as you extend the knees and hips, engaging the glutes and hamstrings for a controlled and powerful upward movement.

  7. Maintain a straight bar path to ensure optimal biomechanics as you lock out the hips at the top of the lift, fully extending the body.

  8. Reverse the movement by pushing the hips back and hinging forward, guiding the bar back to the floor with control.

  9. Return the bar to the starting position on the floor, reset your stance, and repeat the entire sequence for the desired number of repetitions. Paying attention to form and maintaining a smooth, controlled tempo is crucial for maximizing muscle engagement and minimizing the risk of injury during the Barbell Deadlift.


  1. Ensure optimal bar path by keeping the crease of the armpit over the bar and maintaining midfoot position to allow linear movement.

  2. Remember that the deadlift is a hinge, not a squat, and avoid setting the hips too low to prevent biomechanical disadvantages and maximize lifting potential.

  3. Focus on squeezing the lats to keep the bar close and maintain a linear bar path; cues like "squeeze oranges in your armpits" or "put your shoulder blades in your back pockets" can aid in this.

  4. Achieve a proper hip-to-shoulder position by keeping the hips lower than the shoulders, emphasizing a "chest up" posture, and initiating the lift with locked-in lats.

  5. Experiment with neck position (neutral or slightly up) based on individual anatomy and biomechanics, considering factors like global extension or flexion dominance.

  6. Emphasize a vertical shin ideally, considering individual spine and limb length, and experiment with toe angle to find the most comfortable stance for your hip anatomy.

  7. Avoid retracting shoulder blades as it's mechanically inefficient and limits arm range of motion; maintain a secure grip with thumbs wrapped around the bar, avoiding a false grip.

  8. Scraping the shins may not always be necessary, especially with correct armpit positioning; focus on a vertical bar path to minimize contact with the shins.

  9. Drive through the whole foot, maintaining contact with the big toe, little toe, and heel to effectively recruit all muscles and ensure a powerful lift.

  10. Keep the elbows locked out to prevent bicep tears, and avoid actively flexing the triceps; dropping the bar from lockout is suitable for single repetitions but control the descent for multiple reps.

  11. Stacking the knees over the feet is crucial; avoid a wide foot position, as it may lead to valgus knee movement or require a larger grip width, affecting efficiency.

  12. Address weaknesses with specific variations: use rack pulls, RDLs, or pulls against chains/bands for lockout issues, and incorporate paused/deficit deadlifts for weaknesses off the floor. Include supplementary work for the upper back and glutes to enhance overall strength.

How Not to Perform

  1. Avoid Rounding the Lower Back: To prevent mistakes and reduce the risk of injuries, refrain from rounding your lower back during the Barbell Deadlift. Maintain a neutral spine throughout the lift to protect the lumbar region and effectively engage the targeted muscles.

  2. Do Not Overextend the Hips: Avoid overextending the hips at the top of the movement, as this can lead to hyperextension and unnecessary stress on the lower back. Instead, focus on achieving a straight line from head to hips and maintain a controlled, upright posture.

  3. Refrain from Using Excessive Weight: To prevent wasting energy and ensure proper form, avoid using weights that are excessively heavy. Gradually progress in weight to allow for controlled movements and optimal muscle engagement without compromising technique.

  4. Avoid Leaning Backward at Lockout: Refrain from leaning backward excessively when locking out at the top of the lift. This can strain the lower back and shift the emphasis away from the targeted muscles. Maintain an upright position to maximize the effectiveness of the exercise.

  5. Do Not Neglect the Lat Engagement: Avoid neglecting the engagement of the lats. Ensure that your armpits are directly over the bar and focus on squeezing your lats throughout the movement. This prevents the bar from drifting away from the body and maintains a linear bar path.

  6. Avoid Rapid Movements: Refrain from performing the Barbell Deadlift with rapid, uncontrolled movements. Quick and jerky motions can compromise form, increase the risk of injuries, and hinder the overall effectiveness of the exercise. Prioritize controlled and deliberate movements.

  7. Do Not Neglect Breathing Technique: Avoid neglecting proper breathing patterns. Breathe rhythmically, exhaling during the lifting phase and inhaling during the descent. This helps maintain intra-abdominal pressure, supporting the core and protecting the lower back.

  8. Avoid Locking Out the Knees Too Early: Refrain from locking out the knees too early in the lift. Maintain a slight bend in the knees until the hips and shoulders are fully extended. This ensures a smooth and controlled extension, optimizing muscle engagement and reducing strain on the joints.

  9. Do Not Allow the Bar to Drift Forward: Avoid letting the bar drift away from your body, as this can compromise form and increase the risk of injury. Keep the bar close to your shins and maintain a straight bar path throughout the lift.

  10. Avoid Neglecting Proper Foot Position: Refrain from neglecting proper foot positioning. Ensure that your feet are hip-width apart and avoid excessive toe-out or toe-in angles. Experiment to find the foot position that feels most comfortable and stable for your anatomy.

  11. Do Not Neglect Warm-Up Sets: Avoid skipping warm-up sets. Gradually increase the weight to prepare your muscles and joints for the heavier lifts. Warm-up sets help prevent injuries and optimize performance during the Barbell Deadlift.


Variations of fitness exercises refer to different ways of performing a specific exercise or movement to target various muscle groups, intensities, or goals. These variations aim to challenge the body differently, prevent plateaus, and cater to individuals with varying fitness levels.


Alternative exercises in fitness refer to different movements or activities that target similar muscle groups or serve the same training purpose as the primary exercise. These alternative exercises can be used as substitutes when the original exercise is unavailable or challenging to perform due to various reasons such as equipment limitations, injuries, or personal preferences.