Whether you want to burn calories, strengthen your entire lower body, or just sculpt a better backside, you need to learn how to deadlift. "Deadlifts hit many commonly weak muscles in women, including the hamstrings, glutes, quads, and back extensors," says strength coach Holly Perkins, C.S.C.S., author of Lift to Get Lean and founder of Women's Strength Nation. Plus, they target all of these muscles (and your core!) simultaneously, helping you reap major muscle-sculpting and calorie-burning benefits in just one motion.
While there's one fundamental move (hold a weight in front of your thighs, lower it to the ground, and then lift it back up), there are several different variations, each with its own unique benefits, Perkins says. Here, she shares her three favorites, plus how to deadlift for the body you want.
1. The Classic Deadlift
Benefits: It'll work your entire lower body and core, Perkins says. Master it before you move on to other variations.
- Stand tall, your feet hip-width apart and grab a barbell (the move can also be performed with dumbbells). With your hands shoulder-width apart, let the bar hang in front of your thighs.
- Keeping your knees slightly bent, brace your core as if someone's about to punch you in the stomach.
- Push your hips back so that the bar lowers down your legs. Make sure to keep you back flat and prevent rounding.
- Once the bar approaches your knees, bend your knees so that your hips lower until your upper thighs are nearly parallel to the floor. Focus on keeping your hips back while you bend your knees.
- From here, press into your heels and stand back up, leading with your chest.
- Finish the move by squeezing your glutes and pressing your hips forward, so that your body forms a straight line from head to ankles.
2. Single-Leg Deadlift
Benefits: By using just one leg, this deadlift lets you shore up any strength differences between your left and right sides, Perkins says. Plus, it emphasizes the glute medius (or side butt) which is commonly weak in women and critical to preventing running injuries.
1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, lift your right leg just off of the floor, and push your hips back.
2. Keeping a slight bend in your left knee and your back straight, let your chest fall forward and your right leg lift behind you for balance. Your dumbbells should hang straight down in front of you. Continue until your chest is nearly parallel to the floor.
3. Pause, then squeeze your butt to raise your torso back to start.
3. Romanian Deadlift
Benefits: This variation hones in on your hamstrings and glutes, which is awesome if you're vying for a booty makeover, Perkins says.
Instructions: Perform a classic deadlift, but instead of bending your knees part way through the movement as you lower, keep a slight bend in your knees the entire time. Your hips should drive the whole movement. Focus on pushing them back to lower the barbell until you feel a slight pull in your hamstrings, then thrust your hips forward to raise back to start.