Do Bodybuilders Deadlift?

The gym can have hundreds of complicated exercises that are difficult to really keep track of.

Powerlifters tend to lift heavier, focusing on things like deadlifts, squats, and bench presses- but ignoring some of the more tedious things like endless sets of bicep curls that bodybuilders do.

So, what do bodybuilders do? Do bodybuilders deadlift?

Yes, bodybuilders deadlift! In fact, it’s one of the most critical lifts bodybuilders regularly do. It builds legs first and foremost, but also builds a ton of back muscle- which is particularly difficult to build in bodybuilding. Furthermore, it builds forearms and overall grip strength, building the bodybuilder entirely.

Well, since that was a lot of information, let’s break it down.

Do Bodybuilders Deadlift?
Do Bodybuilders Deadlift?

What are Deadlifts?

Let’s quickly cover what deadlifts are. I won’t take up too much of your time on this section- but if you already know what deadlifts are, feel free to head to the next heading.

Deadlifts are a ‘compound’ movement- meaning they activate a ton of muscles, and don’t just target a single muscle group. As you can guess, this is important in weight lifting.

Deadlifts themselves are the act of picking up a bar with a ton of weight off the ground, and lifting it up to your hips. It’s that simple, you literally just lift something heavy off of the ground.

This is my FAVORITE exercise to do in the gym, because with deadlifts it’s really easy to lift a TON of weight, even if you’re really small. So, even when I first started lifting and was tiny, it felt really good to know I could pick up 250 pounds over and over.

Here’s a video of a deadlift being performed. It’s a movement you really need to focus on form with, because you can easily mess up your spine if you want to be an idiot when performing these. But, if you use common sense, you have little to worry about.

What Muscles Do Deadlifts Target?

Deadlifts are kind of a confusing lift. You’re lifting with your legs, but pulling with your arms and upper back- and also you’re squatting to standing? Like, what muscles do deadlifts target?


For the most part, deadlifts target the leg muscles. Simply put, you cannot lift that much weight with your upper body alone- ever.

Your leg muscles are HUGE and can lift hundreds, even thousands of pounds by themselves.

While it targets other muscles (which we will get to in a moment), you will typically find that your deadlifts are on your leg days for the program. And when you do deadlifts, you’ll be feeling all of the weight in your legs.

So, when it comes down to it, think of this as PRIMARILY a LEG exercise.

While deadlifts primarily work out your legs, they are critical in many other muscles in your body too. Let’s cover the bigger muscles they work.

Your Back Muscles (HUGE)

Deadlifts also target your back muscles, and this is a huge reason why deadlifts are performed so commonly.

Look, if we wanted to target our legs more, we probably would just do more squats or lunges, right?

But deadlifts work out ALL of our leg muscles, while working out our entire back, which is difficult to do.

One of the harder muscles to target is the lower back and upper back. They are both beasts of a muscle to grow, and that’s why the deadlift is so important.

You grow your lower back when you do deadlifts because you ‘hinge’ the weight up through your hips which activates your lower back to stabilize your hips.

Furthermore, your upper back HOLDS all of that weight and pulls it up. While your legs actually are ‘LIFTING’ the weight off of the ground, your back is ‘HOLDING’ it.

Think of this like a crane, while there is a big engine that is actually doing the ‘lifting’, the main ‘hook’ still needs to be very strong to keep that weight and move it around.


Forearms are TOUGH to grow in the gym. How many of you have given up on trying to grow your forearms? I know I gave up in frustration a few times in my bodybuilding career.

Deadlifts are GREAT for building forearms. And it makes sense why, you are putting a TON of weight in them and forcing them to hold this super heavy bar up and down against gravity over and over.

Again, we go back to that crane analogy. Your forearms are kind of like the end of the hook. That hook cannot be a paper hook or made out of some flimsy material, it needs to be a strong and durable metal that won’t break under any circumstances while you hold that weight.

If the crane analogy doesn’t make sense (which it’s kind of confusing because cranes are complicated) I mean just think, would a wooden shovel do you any good? You need a strong metal end to hold and dig into the ground.

Deadlifts are perfect for growing those pesky forearms. And let’s be honest, most forearm exercises are super boring anyways, deadlifts are fun.

Deadlifts Target Important Bodybuilding Muscles

So, let’s recap.

In bodybuilding, you need to focus on how you look, not how strong you are.

This is why powerlifters do deadlifting a little different. Powerlifters often try to do deadlifts for 1 REP ONLY, they typically won’t be seen doing 8+ reps of deadlifts. They are focusing on strength, not aesthetics.

But, deadlifts at that ‘hypertrophy’ rep range (5-8 reps) really helps bodybuilders out because it focuses on that ‘aesthetic’ muscle. And there are a ton of muscles that deadlifts build that are difficult to build otherwise.

Here are the important muscles deadlifts target, that are hard to grow otherwise:

  • Upper Back
  • Lower Back (This is a huge one!)
  • Hips
  • Calves
  • Forearms
  • Grip Strength
  • Traps
  • Abs
  • Legs

So, overall, it’s a very solid exercise. And deadlifts are fun to do and are easy to do. At least, in my opinion, I’d rather deadlift than squat.

Conclusion of Do Bodybuilders Deadlift?

So, yes- bodybuilders do deadlift. They are one of the best exercises for working out many of the muscles you need to look good on stage- and well, everywhere else. They are one of the core lifts for bodybuilders, although they do it a little differently than powerlifters do.

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