Deadlifts legit changed my workout routine. I’d spent years developing my skills as a cardio bunny, but after watching a YouTube video about how Chris Evans got ripped for his role as Captain America, I decided to turn to a professional. Until then, I’d tried everything: yoga, pilates, barre—I’d even dipped my toe into lifting weights at my local gym, but my knowledge was a combination of Google searches and a college gym class that produced few results. The first exercise my trainer added to my workout routine? Deadlifts.
I’d never done them before (OK, I’d never so much as touched a barbell), and I was skeptical. Surely a single exercise couldn’t revolutionize my workout in a way years of trial and error had failed? But fortunately, I was (dead, heh) wrong. Deadlifts changed my shape—whittling my waist and giving my butt a much-needed boost—while improving my posture, increasing my overall strength, and making me feel like a confident badass.
So why should you be doing deadlifts?
1. Deadlifts work your entire body.
“The deadlift targets multiple muscle groups in a single lift, offering more bang for your buck than an isolation exercise,” says Zach Mayer, a master trainer at Burn 60 Studios (studio of choice for Reese Witherspoon, Alessandra Ambrosio, and Naomi Watts). “Incorporating deadlifts one or two days a week into a weight training session will develop strength in the hamstrings, glutes, low back, and upper back.”
They also rely on core strength to stabilize your body throughout the lift, which means you’ll be working your abs on top of everything else. As if you needed more convincing, deadlifts often work your glutes more than squats do. According to Mayer, this means you can get faster results on your backside than relying on squats alone.
Building muscle helps increase your metabolism too, which in turn helps you lose more fat long-term.
2. Deadlifts build killer strength.
One study showed that deadlift training generated huge improvements in strength and stability—especially in women who were relatively new to lifting. Because you’re using muscles on both the front and back of your body, deadlifts protect your joints from unnecessary stress and future injury, which is an awesome added benefit.
Even if strength isn’t your main goal (or if you’re afraid lifting weights will make you bulky… which, no, it won’t), this is still a fantastic benefit—especially since it makes you feel like a badass.
3. Deadlifts help improve your posture.
A strong back can absolutely help with your posture, but another way deadlifts help fix bad posture is by helping correct it. To perform deadlifts properly, you need to make sure your form is right—and good form during deadlifts often translates to good posture.
“You can expect a noticeable change in walking upright and sitting without rounded shoulders after regularly performing this lift,” Mayer says, which is especially important for those of us who spend a lot of time hunched in front of a computer screen.
4. Deadlifts can actually make you stronger in real life.
Instead of working on purely cosmetic gains, deadlifts involve movements and muscle routines that are a huge part of our daily lives. This means deadlifts will make it easier for you to perform basic tasks, which directly contradicts the assumption that gym training doesn’t actually prepare you for the real world.
“Deadlifts are highly functional,” Mayer says. “Increasing strength by deadlifting will prepare you for situations like carrying groceries, picking up someone who fell, or helping a friend on moving day.”
5. Deadlifts help to prevent injury.
Some might avoid deadlifts out of fear of back injury, but studies have shown that deadlifts can be beneficial for reducing low-back pain in some cases.
“The deadlift requires total control of the deep abdominals, the hips, and the pelvis, which is paramount in the treatment and prevention of low back pain,” says Nicholas Licameli, a physical therapist at Professional Physical Therapy.
Because the deadlift trains the posterior chain—which includes the spinal erectors, lats, rhomboids, glutes, and hamstrings—Licameli says it helps to prevent injury in muscle groups that are typically ignored.
“In fact, two predictors of tearing the ACL are actually an imbalance of strength in the quads and hamstrings, and gluteal weakness/instability,” Licameli adds. “The deadlift will have you covered.”
Remember that building strength takes time, so don’t jump into too heavy weights or complicated lifts before you’re ready. Be sure to watch your posture and technique to build muscle and ward against injury.
6. Deadlifts will save you precious, precious time.
Compound exercises like deadlifts work more than one muscle group at a time. Instead of working on three different machines, you can work the same muscle groups in less time by performing the deadlift—making it the ultimate time saver.
7. Deadlifts are easy to incorporate into your workout.
You don’t need access to a barbell to use deadlifts, but it definitely doesn’t hurt. Dumbbells or kettlebells can be used to do the exercise, especially variations like the straight leg or Romanian deadlift variation.
“Ask a trainer or coach for his or her guidance,” Mayer recommends. “Your friend who is an ‘avid lifter’ may be well-intentioned, but chances are they don’t know the best way to coach a beginner through the deadlift. While instructional videos may also seem helpful, for novice lifters who are developing body awareness, it is best to work with an experienced professional.”
Basically, deadlifts are the unicorn of the fitness world. They’re a great way to get a whole host of results without spending a lot of time in the gym, and even fitness newbies can utilize them. Still not sure? Watch this badass grandma deadlift 225 pounds like a boss. Let her be your deadlift inspiration and enjoy reaping all of the benefits deadlifts have to offer.
Jandra Sutton is an author, historian, and public speaker. After graduating from Huntington University with a B.A. in history, she went on to receive a master’s degree in modern British history from the University of East Anglia. In her spare time, Sutton enjoys fangirling, running, and anything related to ice cream. Pluto is still a planet in her heart. She lives in Nashville with her husband and their two dogs. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.