Looking for a fancy way to work your hamstrings, glutes and lower back while burning a ton of calories at the same time?
The dumbbell deadlift, a less-celebrated take on the much-vaunted barbell version, has your name on it.
Dumbbell deadlifts can be just as effective as the barbell version and, like the move’s flashier cousin, you can work up to lifting bigger weights when you do it correctly and build up slowly.
Here’s how to look your textbook-perfect.
How to Deadlift Dumbbells
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a pair of heavy dumbbells in front of your thighs, palms facing you.
- With your back flat, shoulders back and core engaged, push your hips back and simultaneously bend your knees to reach your waist (imagine closing a car door with your butt).
- Lower your torso until it’s almost parallel to the floor and/or you feel a deep stretch in your hamstrings. Place the dumbbells within an inch or two of your feet.
- Pause, and then slowly reverse the movement to return to a standing position.
Form tip: “In the dumbbell deadlift, you want to focus primarily on bending at the hip joints,” says Billy Anderson, NASM, instructor at The Life Time Academy. “Think of moving your hips forward and back, moving your chest up and down.”
What muscles does the dumbbell deadlift target?
All deadlift variations are on focus Posterior chain – Muscles in the back of your body, which stretch from your heels to the nape of your neck.
This grouping includes your largest, strongest muscles — those primarily responsible for jumping, sprinting, and other athletic movements.
Glutes: Your hip muscles, (Gluteus maximus, middle And minimum), Bring your hip joints out of flexion into a straight position, thereby pushing you straight.
Hamstrings: The muscles at the back of your thighs stretch deeply in the bottom position and help straighten your hips as you stand.
Lower back: Muscles that line your spine (upper spine) Keep your lower back flat and your torso tight throughout the movement.
A similar exercise to the dumbbell deadlift
Want to target the same muscles with a different exercise? Try this option.
Stiff-Leg (Romanian) Deadlift
To perform the stiff-leg deadlift, you do the same move but with a minimal bend in your knees.
It puts more stress on your hamstrings and is an overall easier movement pattern than the more detailed conventional deadlift.
- Stand up straight, holding a barbell or pair of heavy dumbbells in front of your thighs with your knees slightly bent (ie, not locked).
- With your back flat, shoulders back, core braced, and the barbell or dumbbells within an inch or two of your feet, push your hips back toward your waist until you feel a deep stretch in your hamstrings and/or your torso. The floor is almost parallel. (Technique tip: Imagine you’re closing a door with your butt—this is the best “hip hinge” movement.)
- Pause, and then reverse the movement to return to the starting position.
Single leg deadlift
This move works your butt, hamstrings, spinal erectors and calves and is a balance and coordination builder.
To perform this move, you stand on only one leg.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell at your left side at arm’s length, palms facing your body.
- Shift your weight onto your right leg and lift your left leg a few inches off the floor behind you. This position begins.
- With your right leg slightly bent, your back flat and your core engaged, push your hips into a hinge and lower the weight until your torso is almost parallel to the floor, raising your left leg behind you. Keep the weight close to your body throughout the movement.
- Pause, and then lower your left leg to return to standing position. Perform equal reps on both sides.
Dumbbell sumo deadlift
To perform the dumbbell sumo deadlift, you stand with your feet slightly shoulder-width apart and your toes turned out.
- Widen your stance, turning your toes outward.
- Lower the dumbbells to the floor between your feet. Keep your back flat while bending at the hips.
- Pause, and return to the starting position.