Perhaps you have heard of the deadlift? It may seem like an exercise reserved for professional athletes, powerlifters, or avid gym goers. However, the deadlift is an underutilized and an essential human movement which mimics the act of picking something off of the ground. Therefore, if the movement can be safely performed it has a place in most all fitness programs.


What is the Deadlift?

A hip-dominant hinge pattern, producing high force while the lifter drives through their heels, planted into the ground.

Anatomy of the Deadlift  

The deadlift is a full-body exercise which activates the gluteal muscles, hamstrings, quadriceps, spinal erectors, and core musculature.

Getting Started 

Before you deadlift or take part in a fitness program, you should ensure you are medically cleared and deemed safe, to participate in exercise. 

The deadlift can be performed with many different pieces of equipment found in a gym, some of these include:

  • Hinge with a dowel
  • Kettlebells
  • Dumbbells
  • Trap Bar
  • Barbell

Hinge With Dowel

Before one can deadlift, it is imperative to learn the hinge. The dowel can be a great tool to provide sensory feedback, while one learns the hinge pattern. By maintaining 3 points of contact on the head, mid-back, and buttocks one can learn to flex the hips while maintaining a neutral spine. Think of sending the hips back, while keeping the core engaged and tight. 

Kettlebell Deadlift

You mastered the hinge, great! Now you’re feeling ready for a little weight to build those strong posterior chain muscles. The same rules apply, keep a neutral spine and tight core. As you grip the kettlebell, think of tearing the handle apart to keep the shoulders down and back. This can also be called ‘packing the shoulders.’


Dumbbell Deadlift

The next progression is the dumbbell deadlift. Because there are now two separate weights, it requires a bit more control in the shoulder, core, and back. Allow the dumbbell’s to slowly descend down your legs, as you press back into the hips. Simply bring the hips back to center, as the dumbbells come back up your legs, in the same path they descended. 


Hexagonal Bar

We have learned the hinge, and completed the deadlift with a kettlebell and dumbbells.

Now it’s time to take all that you have learned and apply it to the hex bar. A hex bar allows one to complete the hinge pattern with more load on the quadriceps taking some pressure off of the hips and lower back. When done correctly, it is a fantastic exercise to build lower body strength and power. The grip will be neutral due to the handle placement on the bar. Brace the core, keep the spine neutral, and drive through the ground as the hips extend.


Barbell Deadlift

The barbell deadlift should be completed after the lifter has practiced and feels comfortable with all of the previous mentioned deadlifting techniques. The barbell is the most technically difficult, therefore it is the most demanding on the body and nervous system. When first starting, get comfortable gripping the barbell and feeling the path of the bar and how it may differ from other modalities.

Some quick tips for the barbell deadlift:

During the setup, the barbell should roughly be mid-foot, feet are about shoulder-width apart, with the hands slightly outside the legs. During the pull, keep the chest up as you bring your hips forward to the bar. Keep the core tight and spine neutral as you move into the lockout phase.


If you have made it this far, congratulations! You have learned the hinge pattern and how to deadlift using a variety of modalities. The benefits of the deadlift can help to improve posture and gain tremendous full-body strength.

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