The king of all back exercise

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Beginners often overlook the importance of proper back training for one simple reason: They cannot see this part of their bodies. “Out of sight, out of mind.” However, back muscles play an important role in shaping the general massive appearance of the upper body. Your physique cannot be complete without well-developed back muscles. These muscles will make your chest and shoulders look wider, while your waist and hips will look smaller. Let’s see first, what Judd Biasotto Ph. D. has to say about deadlift and why it is the best exercise for increasing back mass.

Judd Biasotto, Ph. D.

Whoever invented deadlift, they apparently had some sadistic tendencies. It is far the most exhausting exercise out of the three powerlifting lifts (see, “deadlift”: Nomen est omen). I remember back then, when I started bodybuilding, my coach said this exercise in fact makes the difference between boys and men. I think he wanted to test me the first time already.

This exercise is deadly, no doubt about it. Not only you will need strong legs and a stone-hard back to be a good deadlifter, but a whole lot of heart, too. I have seen several times, how this exercise made some guys crack up, even though they had plenty of mental strength. This is a cruel exercise; you must be hard as steel if you want to make it a part of your regimen.

However, deadlift is just as effective as difficult. It can give you the essential trinity of mass, strength and symmetry. There is no other exercise that would be more effective. Some believe that deadlift mostly goes for the lower back, while others say it is more of a leg exercise. They are all right to a point, as it actually works all the major muscle groups: the lower back, the abs, the arms and the neck, too. Moreover, even your forehead and temples will bulge out.

Arnold Schwarzenegger once said, if he had to name only one thing that made him succeed in his career, it would be the deadlift. Alright, these might not exactly be the words he used. But he definitely agrees that there is no better exercise for developing the overall mass of the body. And so do former Mr. Olympia winners like Franco Columbu, Dorian Yates or Lee Haney. To cut a long story short: If you want mass and strength, do deadlifts.


There are several things you should know about deadlift before you incorporate it into your regimen. First, you will need a pair of lifting straps, of course. See further rules below:

  1. Always make sure you are doing it correctly. In the case of deadlift, proper form is really essential. One small mistake, and you may sing soprano for the rest of your life. So take your time to pick up the correct technique. Before you even do one single repetition, you should have control over the move. You cannot start your first set until you are 100% sure about it. Doing so, you will not only get the most out of your potential but you will in fact spare yourself from your spine being torn out.
  2. You should train in an exemplary manner. Warm up before workout and stretch before and after each exercise. This will enhance your performance and reduce the risk of injury. Most injuries result from the lack of elasticity and flexibility. Increase intensity and the amount of weights gradually during workout. If you have never done deadlifts before, you should rather practice with smaller weights until you pick up the proper form. Do not hurry. Remember: You want to develop your body, not to destroy it.
  3. Do not kill yourself off. This is the first basic rule of weight lifting. Believe me: Deadlift might kill you if you are not careful; but it may cause serious injury, that’s for sure. If your body says “no”, don’t push it any further. In other words: “If it hurts, stop it”. Pain is a warning that something is wrong. If you are in pain while deadlifting, stop right away and do not start again until the pain is gone. And never ever train if you have an injury. Deadlift is a great exercise, but it can be dangerous as well. Therefore it demands your full attention. Weight lifting should be an activity you can pursue in your whole life and not something that cripples you for your whole life.


In the light of the above, make sure you give a fair chance to deadlift. It can make you more than good-looking: It can make you really massive. So it is worth all the time you devote to it.


Although deadlift is one of the hardest exercises, it is actually a very simple move. Even your little sister could make it. (Provided that she has anything in common with Lenda Murray.) It’s just a matter of proper form.

As you might know, there are two deadlift techniques: The traditional and the sumo technique. If you do deadlift for bodybuilding purposes, I recommend that you should go for the traditional form. But if you have powerlifting ambitions, the sumo technique might be worth a try. Generally, if you have a longer trunk and longer limbs, the traditional technique may be more suitable for you. But if you have a super strong lower back and legs and short limbs, you may give a try to the sumo technique.

The sumo technique is also useful if your back is not that strong. Using this technique, the deadlift is more like a leg exercise; you lift most of the weight using your legs instead of your back.
In the sumo technique, your hands are placed between your legs. Most athletes grab the barbell so that their hands reach halfway into the rough parts of the bar. The closer your hands are to each other, the shorter the distance of moving the weight. On the other hand, the closer your hands are to each other, the more difficult it is to keep the movement of the bar under control. Plus, if you grab the bar outside of the rough parts, you might have difficulties with the grip. Reverse grip can help you with that; it can help you prevent the bar from tipping out of your hands.

Similarly to squats, optimal leg positioning may vary individually. However, there are some general rules: Your feet should point slightly outwards; thighs should be slightly above parallel to the ground and you should keep your back straight, with your face looking ahead. The most difficult part of the deadlift is starting the move; that is, starting to pull the weight up from the ground. If you can get over this point, you basically have the move, especially if you can keep your hips down.

You should really be aware of that. Many athletes tend to lift their hips and tilt their back forward as they are starting to feel the weight getting heavy. The problem with this is not only that it makes it practically impossible to lift the weight any further from this point, but it is dangerous as well. Remember: This is now a leg exercise, not a back exercise.

Another important thing to remember: Always keep the bar close to your body. The further the bar is from your body, the smaller power you can exert to lift the weight, so the move will get more difficult. I heard once that each centimeter you place the bar closer to your body will enable you to lift 15 more kilos. I’m not sure whether these numbers are correct, but the basic concept definitely is.
And now, let’s see the traditional form. As I have mentioned, I rather recommend this version for bodybuilders. And if you have long limbs and a strong back, this version is definitely for you. Here too, your legs play an important role.

Similarly to the sumo technique, you can use reverse grip in this case, too, in order to prevent the bar from tipping over. However, in this form your hands should be placed outside of your legs, thus shortening the distance of moving the weight. Similarly to the sumo technique, your feet should point slightly outwards; thighs should be slightly above parallel to the ground and you should keep your back straight, with your face looking ahead. It is a common problem that the thighs are positioned too high when starting the move. This can cause serious problems when the bar reaches above the line of your knees: It can actually break your career, not only your back.

After taking the proper position, lift the weight with a smooth movement. Do not jerk the bar off the floor. Remember: You should lift the weight by using both your thighs and back. This means, both muscle groups will be flexed together at the top position. Flex your head backwards while pulling up the weight. The rest of your body will follow your head. By flexing your head backwards, you will force your shoulders to flex backwards, too, and your chest will rise, while your hips will stay down.

Well, so much for deadlift in a nutshell. As I said, it’s a simple exercise. However, you should be very careful. You might beat this exercise, but it might beat you as well.

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