Dead weight

Content of the article:

As we did with the squat earlier, in this article we’ll look at one of the fundamental exercises in muscle and strength development in general: the deadlift.

Premise: This article is also not intended to explain how to complete this critical exercise! If you want to know how to do this or monitor your results, I suggest you trust a good personal trainer / trainer.

Is deadlift an exercise for everyone?

Let’s start by answering this question: the answer is NO, simply because we are talking about an exercise that is not only difficult in terms of coordination, but also other factors that contribute to the difficulty of doing this exercise, such as flexibility and mobility. joints, presence or absence of problems with the muscles of the spine or back, etc.

If we pay attention to the “minimum requirements” for this exercise, we can analyze which method will be most appropriate for our physical conformation and our goals.

Is it” for the back “? Or “for the legs”?

A classic question. Often, the average user is more likely to divide their program into muscle groups that will be affected one or more times a week (depending on the type of workout); hence the need to understand where to insert the traction, or, more precisely, with which muscle groups.

Well, we can say that a landslide is one of those exercises (if not “exercise”) that allows us to lift very important loads. This is because the deadlift is a collaborative exercise; in fact, they are involved in many joints such as the hip (hip joint), ankle, knee, and partly the shoulder joint (shoulder and shoulder blade).

Excursions of joints are clearly permitted when using multiple muscle masses (large and small). To mention some of them: quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteal muscles, erector of the spine, dorsalis major, trapezius, abdominal muscles. As well as the calf, and sometimes the femoral branches; not to mention the muscles of the forearm.

Returning to the question, now we can conclude that the answer is simply banal: cravings come with everything! But this does not mean that there is no different percentage of internal stress associated with the affected muscles!

Internal load refers to a pound of weight lifted (relative to total weight) relative to a particular muscle.

Banalization of the concept: at 100 kg, if muscle X is loaded with 60 kg, this means that all other muscles involved in this exercise divide the remaining 40 kg.

Therefore, the internal load in relation to muscle X will be 60% of the absolute load (i.e., the total lifted load is 100 kg).

Bone length and internal load

Given a reasonably good execution technique (which never stops getting better), even with deadlifts, we can establish how body proportions affect muscle mass in different ways.

In the deadlift, the parameters that affect the success of the performance, as well as the involvement of muscles, are approximately 3: the length of the lower limb, the length of the upper limb, and the length of the bust. strong

Since only one of the parameters changes in relation to the others, the type of execution changes, and the internal load on the muscles is divided.

On average, the athlete most “fit” for a normal lift should use the erector spine as little as possible and use the legs as much as possible, and for this it is important that the spine is as parallel to the ground as possible.

The back will tend to be less parallel to the ground if the athlete’s arms and shoulders are long and flexible enough to allow the athlete to reach the bar in advance.

Not only that: the length of the lower limbs should also allow the pelvis not to move too far from the balance line.

If they were relatively long, the greater the distance between the pelvis and balance will also lead to a fall of the shoulders, which will increase the degree of work of the erectors of the spine (lumbar square, very long back) for subsequent flexion of the trunk.

For this reason, the legs should also be long enough to keep the spine as vertical as possible.

In all but this case (where, on the other hand, muscle gain is almost true and there are no significant differences between muscle groups), the internal loads will be distributed differently.

  1. In the case of a subject with the same characteristics, but with a greater length of the lower limbs (my case), the height will not only be more complex, but it will also represent differences in a biomechanical sense, like the back stretched forward with the shoulders. Closer to the bar and beyond. In this case, the lever arm will be larger, and the load that will fall on the muscles of the spinal exciter will be the same as above. Lumbar lordosis will be more difficult to maintain under high loads. It will be necessary to have excellent lower back muscle strength in order to maintain technique and posture and to avoid the risk of accidents. the gluteus muscles will undergo discrete lengthening, which, along with the ischio-sacral muscles (the flexors of the hip leg), will be instructed to position the chest and extend the hip. The work of the quadriceps muscle will be less, but it will be engaged and will allow you to extend the leg during the push phase.
  2. When analyzing the case of a subject with short hips, it would be possible to bend more, as if squatting, to do the deadlift, since the pelvis would be closer from the bar. In this case, the muscles of the quadriceps muscle and the trapezium will be subjected to a discrete internal load.
  3. In the case of subjects with relatively short arms or relatively long bust compared to arms and legs, the shoulders will still need to fall forward and the torso should bend to allow your arm to reach the bar. Also, in this case, we will get into the ischiocerebral muscle, which will be greatly lengthened, and into the gluteal muscles. To ensure the stability of the spine (which will be almost parallel to the ground) and to allow the lift, but above all, the support of the barbell, in this case the most used trunk muscles will be the excellent dorsal> (in fact, the shoulder will be more extended to reach the bar), the adductors (i.e. diamond major and minor, lower trapezoid) and main round.

Traction options for aesthetic purposes and performance

There are several solutions that allow the athlete to improve their own execution and performance, or if our goal is special hypertrophy, let’s try to redistribute the internal load to our liking and hit the muscles that interest us.


Typically, performing sumo pulls allows a subject with relatively long legs or relatively short arms to bring their pelvis closer to the bar; consequently, the spine will be more inclined and more vertical than the base, reducing the work of the spine fitters and increasing the load on the muscles of the lower extremities, especially the gluteal muscles, which will be lengthened due to the starting position with the hip widened; the trapezoid (middle and top) will also be emphasized.

Even fours will be more stretched and engaged than normal traction, in fact the knee will be more flexed in the initial phase. Research also shows that in sumo deadlifts, the side will be the strongest broad muscle.

According to EMG studies, the anterior tibia is also more involved than with normal detachment.

The sumo deadlift is generally well suited for objects with long legs or long bust, so it will be difficult to keep the spine steady and upright.

2. Rod

Of course, there are endless variations of sumo deadlift when it comes to walking between the legs – we’re also talking about extra sumo deadlift wide where the foot tips almost touch the discs and where the shin lines fall to the ground .

I recommend this option for subjects with fairly short arms or relatively short bust compared to the lower limbs.

It is also suitable for all those whose goal is to increase glute work by considering strong abduction of the humerus or strengthening of the adductive component of the thigh (large, small and medium adductor).


Another option: narrow sumo stance , that is sumo deadweight, as opposed to the extra width , in which the distance between the feet will be reduced to a minimum by keeping the hands between the legs.

The angle of flexion of the knee at the beginning will be a maximum of 90 °, and sometimes less, a sufficient angle for good extension of the lower leg, that is, the quadriceps muscle, which will take up most of the work together with the buttocks, which are also pre-stretched.

In my opinion, this option is more suitable as a “complement” for working with other types of deadlift or for increasing hypertrophic work on the quads and glutes, especially in subjects with rather long hips.

Nothing prevents you from using this type of position , even for performance reasons.


Another option is to increase the distance between the legs, with the heels slightly beyond the line of the shoulders, clearly keeping the hands on the sides of the legs (we are always talking about traditional deadlift).

I think this option is suitable for those who have good leverage in their lower limbs and who are more focused on performance than hypertrophy or strength gains in the spine and humerus extensors.

Thus, it will be like “simulating” extreme traction when the pelvis is closer to the balance line, and this, as we said, will allow the back to be less extended forward and less subject to stress and strain in the lumbar region. In addition, in this way we will better use the trapezium and muscles of the lower extremities, while maintaining the work on the spinal erectors


Don’t underestimate the option of a normal deadlift deficit or a deadlift deficit in which we start at a height below the feet to model the lower limbs for longer.

Thus, it will clearly emphasize the greater demand for the muscles of the spinal erectors, gluteus muscles (and quadriceps muscle, if it is sumo style) and ischio-rural for the lower extremities: the large dorsal, lower trapezium, rhomboids and deltoid processes in the posterior bundles. p>

Personally, I would recommend this method for anyone looking to improve performance in conventional deadlifts.


In this mode, in order of importance, the spinal erectors, the ischiocerebral and buttocks are the protagonists, as they cooperate in the final phase of the pull, that is, hip extension and spinal opening. Possibly both sumo and casual.

Its activation will also depend on the initial height we choose, but also on our conformation, which will change its lengthening state: if the height is higher, the involvement of the sciatic and gluteal muscles will be less.

Very useful for improving both the strength of these muscles (for carrying in the main exercise) and their hypertrophy, if our goal is aesthetic.

Personally, I have used this option in conjunction with sumo performance not only as a training option for performance purposes, but also as aesthetic exercise for certain types of objects.


The final option commonly used by women to hit the buttocks and / or hamstrings is the straight leg pull.

In this exercise, the activation of the spinal erectors is strong. Ischiocerebral activation is directly proportional to the degree of knee extension. The more it flexes, the more the buttocks will stretch and load from the hamstrings, and vice versa.

Muscles such as the upper back also play a role in stabilizing the spine and arms.

This is not really a deadlift, as the bar will never touch the ground between reps. It is used as a supplement and therefore plays a role in muscle development of the posterior kinetic chain.

Is it right to focus on one type of traction?

“NO”. It depends on the goal of each person!

If we are interested in improving loads and progress in terms of performance and technique, I advise working with at least two types of traction: more intense, with the type of traction we have chosen according to preference and which we would like get better; and, more technically and as a finish, another type of traction.

Example: If I want to improve the strength of the spinal cord and in accordance with my structure, I prefer to use sumo, I could consider using sumo to increase performance and insert into my programs the usual deadlift, performed with isometric stops in critical lifting points to improve the strength of the aforementioned muscles.

If our goal was purely aesthetic, we might think about inserting only one type of deadlift and only in some periods of our training program, or two types: one for working muscles in itself, the other for improving strength (more low repetition ranges) and other parameters that will allow us to acquire better muscle recruitment skills over time.

Example. If I wanted to improve gluteal hypertrophy (which is of great interest to women), and I had the physical structure to handle small deadlift work, I might consider switching to sumo . p>

In this case, we could think of the deadlift as an additional exercise in our programming, the sole purpose of which (or almost) is to increase the load in the rep range or execution modality to hypertrophy, perhaps with more TUT (time under tension) , more reps, etc.


As we have seen, there are clearly many options for this exercise, and there is a lot of freedom to create programs that depend on the relationship between target and physical morphology.

The purpose of this article is to present ideas and set out more or less general principles, but it is important to always remember to try and experiment on the ground.

Personally, I would always put the pull from the ground, taking care of the execution above all, without worrying about looking for too many sensations at the muscle level, which often risk “denaturing” a technical gesture.

The benefits that an athlete can gain from this fundamental exercise go beyond simple muscle development. In fact, deadlift is a suitable exercise for improving intermuscular and intramuscular coordination and synchronization between muscle fibers.

After choosing the execution method and type of traction, I advise you to execute the execution as smoothly and naturally as possible.

Especially in the case of traction (which itself is not born as an exercise for developing a particular muscle, but for building the body as a whole), the muscles that need to be activated for that particular movement will be activated if done correctly.

Never get tired of experimenting and understanding what is right for you, changing the width, distance and inclination of the limbs (always within the correction and especially the protection of the spine to maintain lumbar lordosis).

Each of us is unique in its diversity, so it would be good to never depend on what others are doing, but to understand what is best for us!

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