Leg Exercises

The Deadlift: Step-by-Step for Optimal Results

Learn the basics of this classic lift to maximize poundage and avoid injury.



Still looking for that elusive "magical" exercise? You know, the one move that holds the key to building maximum muscle? As a beginner you probably spent time scouring muscle magazines and querying longtime gym rats, only to find a tremendous difference of opinion as to what works best.

But if you were to ask champion bodybuilders and the world's top strength coaches, they'd agree that the deadlift is, in fact, among the top exercises you can do to pack on size. In terms of adding quality mass, it's the one move you can't afford not to do.

Texas pro Johnnie Jackson, winner of the 2006 Montreal Pro Classic and 2007 Atlantic City Pro and considered one of the sport's strongest men, credits the deadlift as the definitive key to his densely muscled physique.

"I gained the bulk of my size when I trained like a powerlifter," says Johnnie, who deadlifted more than 770 pounds before he became a pro bodybuilder. "I developed so much thickness in my back, legs, and even my chest and shoulders through deadlifting. It's a total-body exercise.

12 Pointers for Correctly Performing the Deadlift

1. Inhale

Take a deep breath and hold it as you start the pull off the floor. This increases torso stability by bracing the spine and helps generate greater strength of the muscles involved when you're lifting heavy.

2. Bar none

Keep the bar close to your body (actually touching) throughout the range of motion. "You never want the bar to be off your body," IFBB pro Johnnie Jackson says.

3. Start the pull

Pull the weight off the floor by straightening your legs, keeping your back flat and the bar close to your body with your arms straight. Your shoulders and hips must come up at the same relative speed; don't let your hips "kick up" before your shoulders move. "People will commonly start rising up with their hips first instead of extending their hips, knees and trunk simultaneously," says David Sandler, CSCS, owner of StrengthPro, Inc. and consultant on National Geographic Channel's Super Strength. Think about pushing through the floor with your feet as you drive to stand upright.

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