The deadlift is an excellent type of workout for targeting a large number of different muscles in your body. Indeed, the deadlift is commonly used as part of workout plans for this exact reason; there are many different muscles that are used in the deadlift, and understanding how these muscles are worked when you do a deadlift will help you to tone up and get stronger.
How Each Muscle is Activated
The deadlift is well known for engaging and activating many different muscles in the body. However, the different muscles in each of your limbs is activated in a different way when you do a deadlift.
Here are the muscles used in the deadlift:
- Erector Spinae
- Latissimus dorsi
Lets discuss how each muscle is activated.
There are many muscles in the legs that are engaged when you do a deadlift. The major muscles in the legs that are used to achieve a deadlift are the quadriceps. The quads work to help extend and straighten the knee, making them an essential part of the workout.
In particular, the Rectus Femoris, as one of the prominent quadricep muscles, is worked out especially hard during a deadlift.
Other muscles that will also benefit and get strengthened from the deadlift include the Vastus lateralis, Vastus intermedius, and Vastus medialis. Each is activated in a different way but each is essential for helping you to achieve a full deadlift.
The vastus muscles are located in the thigh and are important for helping to provide the power needed to straighten the leg and raise the body during the deadlift.
The hamstrings are important tendons that are located at the back of a person’s leg, between their hip and their knee, and are imperative in regards to knee extension and strength.
This naturally makes them an important part of the deadlift and the hamstrings thusly plays a critical role; however, it is important to take care during deadlifts so as not to tear the hamstrings, as they are highly prone to getting damaged and injured when a deadlift is not carried out effectively.
During the deadlift, the hamstrings are important for helping to support the knees and help them to move. Their role is lesser than the role played by the glutes, however, it is still important and still worth considering.
There are three primary tendons that are important in a deadlift in the hamstrings. These muscles are the Semitendinosus, Semimembranosus, and the Biceps femoris. Together, they work together to form the hamstrings, which contract to a smaller degree during a deadlift.
Unsurprisingly, the arms are worked quite heavily during a deadlift, especially depending on the weight that you are attempting to lift.
The most heavily used muscles in the arms in a deadlift are the biceps branchii muscle, the long head, and the short head.
When used effectively together, these muscles can be incredibly effective for helping you to lift heavy weights during your deadlift.
When lifting during the deadlift, the biceps are not necessarily the most used muscle in your body; this title surely has to go to the muscles in the legs. However, there can be no denying that the arm muscles go through a lot during a deadlift.
The biceps branchii muscle is found at the top of the arm and serves an important role in allowing the arm to flex and rotate.
Toning the biceps is well known to be one of the trickier ways to tone up, however, arm curls and deadlifts can be a good way to get started on building this muscle up
In addition to this, the long head and the short head of the arm are also worked out during a deadlift. These both play a role in the shoulder, or the scapula, and end at the end of the arm in the forearm.
They help a person to strengthen their biceps overall and are incredibly powerful muscles, especially when they have been trained and toned up properly; during a good deadlift, the muscle should be fully extended and contracted in order to get the most from the exercise.
The hips are an important part of the deadlift, due to the strength and stability that they provide during the movement.
The muscles that are worked most during a deadlift in the hips include the Gluteal muscles: the Gluteus maximus, Gluteus minimus, Piriformis, and the Superior gemellus.
Most people will have heard of the gluteus maximus and the Gluteus Minimus, however, the other two may be a little more unclear.
Simply put, the Gluteus Maximus and the Gluteus Minimus are found in the buttocks and are among the biggest single muscles in the body; the Gluteus Maximus in particular is especially powerful, and forms the distinctive round shape of the buttocks.
In fact, it is due to the Gluteus Maximus that we as a species are able to stand up erect on two feet; as such, there can be no doubting the fact that they have a pivotal role in the deadlift during both the rising and the standing phases.
In addition to the glutes, there are also two other hip muscles that are activated during a deadlift. The Piriformis is responsible for allowing the hip to rotate freely, while the Superior gemellus helps to rotate the thigh laterally when it has been extended.
There are numerous muscles in the arms that help with the deadlift, but the most important in the forearms is the Flexor digitorum profundus.
This muscle is critical as it is the one that controls the fingers; without it, you would be unable to grip and hold the weight in the first place!
Different Deadlift Variations Muscles Worked
The Sumo Deadlift is a better option than the conventional style deadlifts that powerlifters use. This deadlift variation gives you a more upright torso while placing more stress on the legs, especially the glutes and quads.
Researchers found out that the sumo deadlift produces a significant increase in electromyographic (EMG) activity in Vastus Medialis, Vastus Lateralis, and Tibialis Anterior. This is because your thighs are much closer to the floor when doing the sumo deadlift. Your trapezius muscles are also more engaged in the sumo deadlift.
Muscles Sumo Deadlift Works
These are the specific muscle groups that the sumo deadlift works:
- Gluteus Maximus (Butt)
- Abductor Magnus (Inner Thigh)
- Erector Spinae (Lower Thigh)
- Quadriceps (Upper Front legs)
- Hamstrings (Upper Back Legs)
- Trapezius, upper (Upper Neck Muscles)
Just by looking at these muscles that the sumo deadlift targets you will notice that a lot of emphases are placed on the legs. This means that the sumo deadlift is the exercise needed for developing stronger muscles in the legs.
Romanian Deadlift (Stiff-legged deadlift, straight-legged deadlift)
The Romanian deadlift or the stiffed-legged deadlift is a favourite exercise among women because of its butt shaping benefit. However, athletes and trainers also find this deadlift variation to be useful as it increases strength in the lower back, hips, and hamstrings.
Muscles Romanian Deadlift Works
- Spinal Erectors – the spinal erectors are those long muscles that are found on both sides of your lower back. These muscles are responsible for maintaining good posture. When performing the Romanian deadlift, the spinal erectors give the back power, prevent the back from rounding and work every time you lean forward.
- Hamstrings – in the Romanian deadlift your knees must keep slightly bent. This allows your hamstrings to be more active. As your hamstrings cross your hip joint it helps to pull your torso straight as you stand up with the weight and stretch on the way down.
- Abdominals – the Romanian deadlift prevents your abdominal from folding in half by contracting the main muscles in your abdominal in an isometric manner. This means there will be no form of movement for you to feel pain and your chest will not meet your pelvis.
- Trapezius – the trapezius is the large muscle that is found in the upper back. This muscle helps to maintain proper posture and the position of your shoulder blades during the lift.
Hex or Trapped Bar Deadlift
The hex deadlift, also refers to as the trapped bar deadlift, is used to develop strength, power and overall fitness. It increases muscular hypertrophy (volume of muscle strength) and general pulling strength.
Muscles Hex Deadlift Works
- Gluteus Medius and Maximus – these are the key muscle groups that work in lower body strength and power. During the hex deadlift, the glutes increase in strength, hypertrophy, and functioning.
- Hamstrings – the trapped bar deadlift variation works the hamstrings but not as thorough as the Romanian deadlift due to an increase in quadriceps activity.
- Quadriceps – during the trapped bar or hex bar deadlift the quadriceps are targeted to a higher degree because of the increased knee flexion.
- Erector Spinae – Most deadlifts, if not all, target the erectors which are the lower back muscles. However, the trapped bar deadlift will increase the amount of loading placed on the erectors due to a more upright torso and increased knee flexion.
- Trapezius – Like other deadlift variations, the trapped bar deadlift also builds serious strength and muscle mass to the trapezius and back muscles. It provides less strain to the back muscles and places emphasis on the development of the middle and upper back.
Snatch Grip Deadlift
The snatch grip deadlift variation works multiple muscles throughout the entire movement. Some of the main muscles work are the gluteal muscles, hamstrings, and posterior chain. More details about the primary muscles that are work while performing the snatch grip deadlift variation are discussed below.
Muscles Snatch Grip Deadlift Works
- Glutes – in most deadlift variations, like the snatch grip, the glutes are always active. The glutes help to maintain proper position while pulling as well as help to extend the hips at the finish.
- Forearms – On the grip muscles, the snatch grip deadlift is quite challenging. This is because the hands are placed wider on the barbell. Therefore, when the lifter increases the width of the grip, the back and forearms become more active in this deadlift variation.
- Erector Spinae (Lower Back) – Lower back strength also increases with the snatch grip deadlift because of the wider grip placement.
- Hamstrings – the snatch grip deadlift works the muscles of the hamstring so that the lifter can stand the weight upwards. However, if lifter needs to concentrate on solely building the hamstrings, the Romanian Deadlifts would be the perfect deadlift variation to use.
Rack Pull Deadlifts/Deficit
The Rack Pull deadlift also called the Deficit deadlift, variation is known for increasing pulling strength, back, and hip development, and increases the overall range of motion that comes with a deadlift.
Muscles Rack Pull Deadlift Works
The primary muscles that are active when performing the rack pull deadlifts are as follows: –
- Quadriceps – The quadriceps, though slightly engaged, is still used when the knee is extended.
- Trapezius and Back Muscles – When performing the rack pull deadlift the trapezius and back muscles become active and help to maintain proper back tension.
- Hamstrings – The hamstrings are not fully loaded in the movement, but they are still active. Moreover, if the starting height is low the hamstring extension and flexion must increase which will result in the greater hamstring involvement.
- Erector Spinae (Lower Back) – Just like the Sumo Deadlift and the Trap Bar or Hex deadlift, the decrease range of motion in the deadlift causes decrease hip flexion for the pull. Therefore, the stress on the lower back is decreased and the demand is placed on the spinal erector muscles.
Wrapping It Up
There are many different muscles that are involved in the standard deadlift, and these each vary in their action and role.
However, if a single one of these muscles get torn or damaged then you will be facing a period of time where you will be unable to carry on deadlifting, and so maintaining your body in top condition and prevent injury is essential.