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Deadlift Workout | Develop Strength & Power

A fitness trainer completing a deadlift workout.

This deadlift workout has been designed to develop whole-body muscular strength. In addition, it can build superior posterior chain pulling power. But, as you will soon find out, it’s not all about deadlifting.

Body weight and cardio exercises have been enlisted to broaden the scope of the workout. As well as expanding the range of fitness benefits on offer, these exercises also break the monotony of doing deadlifts.

Because let’s be honest, even though deadlifting is a fabulous functional exercise, it can quickly become a bit of a bore. But before we start pumping the poundage, let’s have a look at what this workout can do for you.

Deadlift workout benefits

Widely regarded as one of the best body building exercises, deadlifting delivers a truckload of fitness benefits. Delavier, author of Strength Training Anatomy, sings the praises of deadlifts saying that this single movement ‘works virtually every muscle' and is a specialist at developing ‘terrific hip, lower back, and trapezius muscle mass,’ (Strength Training Anatomy – p70).

Former bodybuilder and fitness author Anita Bean describes the ‘dead lift’ as a ‘fundamental exercise for increasing’ overall size, ‘strength and power in both the lower and upper body,’ (Strength Training | A Complete Guide – p95).

Considering deadlifting confers so many fitness benefits, and there are more than is mentioned here, it makes sense to include this excellent exercise in your workouts.

Strengthen your posterior chain

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, the posterior chain refers to the group of muscles that run the length of the back of your body. Beginning at the hamstrings, the posterior chain also includes the gluteus maximus, erector spinae, latissimus dorsi, and trapezius.

Much has been made of the posterior chain of late because it features prominently in most exercises and many sporting disciplines. Strengthening this group of muscles can enhance performance in a wide range of physical activities.

If you Google posterior chain exercises, deadlift pops up in some shape or form (there are about five different deadlifting variations). But then this shouldn’t come as a surprise when we consider the muscle groups that deadlifting engages. They include:

Hamstrings (link one of the posterior chain)
Glutes (link two of the posterior chain)
Erector spinae (link three of the posterior chain)
Latissimus dorsi (link four of the posterior chain)
Trapezius (link five of the posterior chain)

That’s every link in the chain activated in a single movement. The list of muscles engaged by the deadlift doesn’t stop there though. In The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding, Arnold Schwarzenegger reminds us that doing deads helps build a strong core, shoulders, and arms. As Delavier succinctly put it, this exercise ‘works virtually every muscle’ in the body.

Improved fitness conditioning

Of the many benefits deadlifting boasts, fitness conditioning is not one of them. Fitness conditioning, remember, refers to a training method that aims to promote a wide range of physical attributes such as strength, muscle endurance, and cardio.

However, as I hinted in the introduction, this workout is comprised of other exercises. There are two reasons for this.

First, interspersing deadlifting sets with different exercises banishes the banality of what would other be a monotonous workout. I love doing deads like anyone else, but, as the saying goes, you can have too much of a good thing. Also, exercises that engage anterior muscle groups will provide rest for the posterior chain.

The second reason is to expand the scope of fitness components activated. A session of deadlifting would help improve strength and perhaps power. That’s pretty much it. But throw in a few bodyweight movements and a couple of cardio stations and you’ll double – even triple – the components of fitness activated.

How to do this deadlift workout

The deadlift workout is organised into an ascending and descending ladder. That is, the resistance increases while the number of repetitions decreases.

You’ll also notice that the bodyweight reps and cardio distances increase as you progress through the workout.

Though the session looks a like a circuit, you are not competing against the clock. The objective is to complete the workout as per the plan. As you do so take as much rest as you need between exercises.

Don’t feel obliged to follow the plan to the letter. Use it as a framework or guide or, better still, a training to-do list.

Dead lift workout key points

  • Complete the progressive warm-up prior to picking up that barbell.

  • The workout observes an ascending and descending ladder. So, as the repetitions reduce the resistance increases.

  • The bodyweight and cardio numbers only increase.

  • Remember, it’s entirely up to you how many sets you split those reps across. Either challenge yourself and polish them off in a single stint or take your time and focus on form.

Workout warm up

  • 1000-metres rowing (low-intensity)

  • 1 up to 10 press-ups into air squats

  • 500-metres rowing (medium-intensity)

  • 1 up to 5 deadlifts into air squats

  • 250-metres rowing (medium- to high-intensity)

  • 1 up to 5 deadlifts into press-ups

  • 250-metres rowing (high-intensity)

  • 1 up to 5 deadlifts

A session plan of a Hungry4Fitness deadlift workout. A woman performing a dead-lift with any Olympic barbell.

Deadlift workout hints and tips

I’ll agree, there’s a conspicuous absence of advice concerning the style of deadlift used in the workout. Whenever deadlifting is mentioned most people think of the conventional movement. However, it’s good training practice to mix up your deads. Why? Well, for one, changing the style makes for a more interesting exercise experience. But more importantly, different style deadlifts work the body in different ways. For example, stiff-leg and sumo deadlifts shift emphasis to the quads and lower back. (And don't forget, you don't have to do deadlifts with an Olympic barbell. Try using kettlebells or resistance bands.)

The resistance structure is not set in stone and can be modified to suit your ability. Beginners and intermediate trainers might opt to repeat the third set (75% BW) and forgo the final heavy lift. Advanced trainers could start at 50% (of max body weight) and increase by 25% with each successive set. This would result in a hefty final lift of 125% BW.

Feel free to change the exercises that intersperse the deadlifting sets. As it stands, the workout promotes strength, muscular endurance and cardio fitness. (It’ll also increase power if you include sumo deadlift to high pulls.) However, if you want to focus more on strength, you could replace the bodyweight exercises with compound movements. To avoid fatiguing the same muscle groups used when deadlifting, it’s advisable to select exercises that engage anterior muscles – such as barbell bench press or standing shoulder press.

Related: Need a Compound Exercise?


Enjoyed this workout?

Get your hands on 70 more with the Hungry4Fitness Book of Circuits & Workouts Volume 2.

This deadlift workout concludes with the  This image shows the Hungry4Fitness book of circuits and workouts volume two. Inside the image it identifies the key features of the book which include: Over 70 fully customisable circuits and workouts suitable for all levels of fitness and ability; 4-Week Functional Fitness Training Programme; How to create your own circuits and workouts including essential training principles; Key exercise explanations and tutorials; A complete guide to fitness testing; The 10,000 Kettlebell Swing Challenge; CrossFit-style training sessions including EMOM, AMRAP, and HIIT workouts; An illustrated, step-by-step guide to stretching.


In this text box it says: As we are very interested in user experience here at Hungry4Fitness, we would be very grateful if you could take a few seconds out of your day to leave a comment. Thanks in advance! Blog Author: Adam Priest, former Royal Marines Commando, is a personal trainer, lecturer, boxing and Thai boxing enthusiast.

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