The barbell deadlift is the king of the jungle in the case of pulling workouts. It’s a major motion with the potential to maneuver essentially the most weight. Plus, it’s a contest elevate in powerlifting, together with the again squat and bench press. The basic deadlift will at all times be fashionable.

But in case you’re searching for a deadlift variation that’s simpler on the backbone, builds muscle in your higher and decrease physique, improves posture, and helps to spice up your barbell deadlift, commerce the bar for a pair of dumbbells. 

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The dumbbell deadlift is an neglected train that may improve muscle and power whereas offering much less compressive load in your backbone. It lets you prepare the identical motion sample with decreased decrease again pressure in comparison with the barbell train.

Here’s a better have a look at the dumbbell deadlift together with how and why it’s finished, what to not do, programming ideas, and extra. errors to keep away from. It’s time to be reminded why “the deadlift” shouldn’t be all in regards to the barbell.

How to Do the Dumbbell Deadlift

Here’s a step-by-step information for performing the dumbbell deadlift with protected and efficient method. This motion is carried out “suitcase-style” with a pair of dumbbells by your sides.

Step 1 — Nail the Setup

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Stand up straight with a dumbbell in every hand, going through your hips along with your arms down by your sides. Pull your shoulders down away out of your ears, puff your chest up, and firmly grip the weights. Begin along with your legs straight however not absolutely locked out and grip the ground along with your ft to create pressure in your glutes.

Form Tip: Starting this train with good posture is important. Pinch your shoulder blades collectively to open your chest and create a impartial backbone. Stand “tall” wanting straight forward.

Step 2 — Control the Descent

person in gym doing dumbbell leg exerciseCredit: MDV Edwards / Shutterstock

Push your glutes towards the wall behind you and hinge at your hips. Keep your arms straight and permit the weights to “slide” alongside your legs. Keep your shoulders again and down — don’t enable the weights to drag your arms out of place.

Focus on feeling your hamstrings stretch as you decrease the weights. As the weights method your knees, bend your legs to achieve a decrease place. Don’t drive your technique to the underside or sacrifice type, however in case you can contact the weights to the bottom with out shedding your posture, that’s a superb objective.

Form Tip: The barbell deadlift has no important eccentric contraction (decreasing part), however the dumbbell deadlift is all in regards to the eccentric. Feeling pressure in your hamstrings is essential as a result of, in case you are not, it means the motion isn’t coming from the goal muscle mass.

Step 3 — Pull and Lockout

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Push your ft via the ground to reverse the motion. Drive your hips ahead and preserve your shoulders pulled again to “un-hinge.” Ensure you end on the prime by squeezing your glutes, not your decrease again. The dumbbells ought to stay close to the edges of your legs all through the repetition.

Form Tip: When returning upright, keep away from merely “standing up” like a squat. Imagine squeezing your armpits collectively to make sure a impartial backbone and to forestall your hips from taking pictures up too shortly.

Dumbbell Deadlift Mistakes to Avoid

The important factor to recollect with the dumbbell deadlift is performing a hinge, not a squat. This requires utilizing your glutes and hamstrings as meant, and holding your physique within the correct place. Lifting out of place creates most issues.

Squatting the Weight

There is nothing “wrong” with doing a dumbbell squat, until you truly meant to do a dumbbell deadlift and carried out a squat by accident. You find yourself altering the train focus and never attaining your objective.

long-haired person in gym squatting with dumbbellsCredit: lunamarina / Shutterstock

Some lifters have a tendency to maneuver the burden by squatting with a deep knee bend and an upright torso. Instead, you ought to be hinging on the hips and getting your torso practically parallel to the bottom whereas holding their knees solely barely bent. When the dumbbell deadlift is carried out accurately, it’s a glute and hamstring train. When it’s carried out incorrectly, with a squat, it turns into an train for the quadriceps.

Avoid it: Pay consideration to the muscle mass you’re feeling stretching and contracting throughout every repetition. Your hamstrings and glutes ought to be doing far more work than the quads on the entrance of your thighs. Performing this train sideways to a mirror, or recording a video of your coaching, may provide help to decide whether or not you’re squatting and never hinging.

Losing Tension

Maintaining muscular pressure is the important thing with most power workouts, and the dumbbell deadlift is not any completely different. Keeping your higher again engaged, sustaining a impartial backbone, and feeling your ft screwed into the ground are keys to a correctly carried out dumbbell deadlift.

muscular person in gym doing dumbbell back exerciseCredit: MDV Edwards / Shutterstock

As you decrease and elevate the burden, the complete again aspect of your physique ought to really feel tense — out of your ft up via your hamstrings and glutes, to your abs, decrease again, and shoulders.

Avoid it: Squeeze your arms to your sides, such as you’re bringing your armpits collectively via your physique. This will interact your higher again and lats, which helps to maintain your higher physique in a robust place. Trying to grip the ground along with your ft, even once you’re sporting footwear, will even assist to offer a secure base with good total-body place.

How to Progress the Dumbbell Deadlift

The key to the dumbbell deadlift and most different power workouts is including extra muscle-building pressure and offering progressive overload (regularly difficult your self by doing extra work). Here are a number of methods to progress apart from including weight or doing additional reps.

Bodyweight Hip Hinge

If you’ve gotten but to grasp the hinge motion, return to body weight coaching earlier than including the dumbbell deadlift. Using a wall as a reference level is an effective technique to discover ways to lead along with your hips.

This simple-looking drill will assist educate your physique the distinction between a real hinge motion and a squat. Focus on pushing your hips again and holding your fingers sliding alongside your legs whereas holding your backbone stiff.

Tempo Dumbbell Deadlift

Every repetition of an train has 4 elements: the eccentric or decreasing portion, the stretched place, the concentric or lifting portion, and the lockout. Manipulating how lengthy every element takes is known as tempo lifting, and it may be an efficient coaching methodology when the dumbbells at your fitness center solely go so excessive. 

For instance, carry out a dumbbell deadlift with a 4-3-3-1 tempo. You take 4 seconds to decrease the burden, maintain the underside place for a three-second pause, take three seconds to face upright, and pause for one second. This places your glutes and hamstrings via an extended time underneath pressure which may improve muscle progress. (1)

Single-Arm Suitcase Deadlift

Holding the burden in a single hand does two issues. First, you could prepare both sides independently, which suggests extra alternatives to strengthen any imbalances between sides and, hopefully, add extra total muscle and power.

Second, you add an anti-rotation, anti-lateral flexion element to the train as a result of the single-sided load with attempt to pull, rotate, and shift your core towards the burden. Resisting this pull and sustaining a secure torso can enhance core stability and power.

B-Stance Dumbbell Deadlift

Single-leg deadlifts are difficult since you should have nice stability to carry out them effectively. Enter the B-stance dumbbell deadlift, which helps your stability and stability whereas nonetheless placing extra deal with the entrance working leg.

This modified stance delivers all the advantages of a single-leg deadlift with out having to fret about shedding your stability. Focusing the work on every leg individually will even assist to deal with any power or muscle discrepancies between sides.

Benefits of the Dumbbell Deadlift

The dumbbell deadlift can ship some huge advantages when the train is carried out as a constant a part of your coaching program. Here are some causes to seize the dumbbells as an alternative of the barbell.

Better Hinge Technique

The dumbbell deadlift helps develop the hinge method utilizing comparatively lighter weights as a result of some lifters battle to take care of a impartial backbone as soon as the load will get heavy. Dumbbell deadlifts could make you extra conscious of any type deviations, like when the dumbbells’ path might change.

The dumbbells act independently versus the barbell deadlift, which retains you extra conscious of your physique’s place all through the elevate. This develops higher total-body consciousness and management.

Increased Upper Back Engagement

The dumbbell deadlift requires rock-solid higher again power as a result of the dumbbells can swing and trigger you to lose place. Locking in your higher again and shoulder muscle mass can forestall this.

The dumbbell place, with a neutral-grip alongside your legs, could make you conscious of your shoulder and again place in comparison with a barbell. Ultimately, this results in a stronger again and higher, safer deadlift method.

Better Grip Strength

Performing dumbbell deadlifts, particularly for increased reps, can ship positive aspects in grip power. Your grip power is challenged by holding onto particular person dumbbells, quite than so your stronger hand can’t choose up the slack to carry out every rep.

Decreased Joint Strain

Holding dumbbells with a neutral-grip at your sides, as an alternative of holding a barbell with a palm-down grip in entrance of your physique, places your shoulders and higher physique in a extra stabilized place.

This decreases the pressure in your decrease again by lowering the compression and shearing forces. This is an analogous good thing about the lure bar deadlift, however might be completed a lot simpler with dumbbells since not all gyms present a lure bar.

Muscles Worked by the Dumbbell Deadlift

There is sort of no a muscle untouched when performing the deadlift motion, however there are a number of major muscle mass emphasised with the dumbbell deadlift specifically.


The hamstrings help your glutes with hip extension (straightening your legs and standing up straight) through the lifting and lockout portion of the dumbbell deadlift, and their eccentric power lets you management the burden’s descent. Feeling your hamstrings stretch and contract is the precise suggestions wanted to know you’re performing the train accurately.


Your glutes are primarily accountable for extending your hips through the deadlift, bringing your decrease physique straight in-line along with your higher physique. They considerably interact and contract throughout within the higher portion of the motion, as you method a whole lockout.

The glutes work along with the hamstrings, and the higher and decrease again, to make sure good hip hinge method. Driving your hips again and “pushing” them via are essential steps for activating the glutes.

Upper Back

Your higher again — which incorporates the rhomboids, trapezius, and elements of the latissimus dorsi, amongst different smaller muscle mass — is educated nearly as a single unit whereas performing the dumbbell deadlift.

The major perform of the higher again is to maintain a protected and powerful impartial backbone by sustaining a secure thoracic place. The higher again additionally helps to regulate your shoulder blades and retains them pulled again when controlling the burden.

Lower Back

The erector spinae, a.ok.a. “the lower back,” is definitely an extended column of muscle mass alongside the complete size of your again. This highly effective muscle mass works collectively along with your glutes, hamstrings, and higher again for power and stability through the dumbbell deadlift.

The decrease again muscle mass’ major accountability is stabilizing your backbone, supporting torso, and resisting spinal flexion (bending) underneath load. If you deadlift with a rounded again, you restrict the power and stability of those essential muscle mass and expose them to important (and probably harmful) direct stress.

How to Program the Dumbbell Deadlift

How you program the dumbbell deadlift will depend on your precise objective. Below are some goal-specific set and rep schemes to include the motion into your coaching program.

To Improve Hinge Technique and Deadlift Form

When you wish to enhance your deadlift type, it pays to spend extra time drilling the hinge place. With its decreased load in comparison with the barbell, the dumbbell deadlift is useful for rookies seeking to enhance common method and power the movement-related muscle mass. Perform three to 5 units of six to 10 repetitions, utilizing a managed eccentric and specializing in good posture.

For Hypertrophy

Because it’s not well-suited to shifting tons of of kilos, the dumbbell deadlift is greatest used to construct muscle dimension. This train might be carried out for extra reps and, probably, via an extended vary of movement than a barbell as a result of the diameter of the dumbbells is smaller than barbell weight plates.

Increased coaching quantity and a larger vary of movement results in extra time underneath pressure for hypertrophy positive aspects. Start by performing three to 4 units of eight to 16 reps, utilizing a moderate-to-heavy weight and taking every set near technical failure — the purpose at which you’ll be able to’t carry out one other rep with good type, versus muscular failure when the goal muscle mass can’t management the burden.

For Muscular Endurance

To enhance muscular endurance within the legs, again, and core, coaching within the increased rep ranges for fewer units and shorter relaxation intervals is the secret. Two to 3 units of 15-20 repetitions with lower than one minute between units may have you feeling the burn.

Dumbbell Deadlift Variations

Adding selection to your coaching retains you extra engaged, reduces the chance of selecting up an overuse damage, and provides you methods to progress when you’ll be able to not improve the load. These three variations of the dumbbell deadlift will preserve you guessing and progressing.

Single-Leg Dumbbell Deadlift

The single-leg dumbbell deadlift is without doubt one of the tougher leg workouts, requiring total-body power, stability, and coordination. If, or when, you’ll be able to carry out these with good type, you’ll be able to find yourself with efficiency advantages starting from addressed muscle imbalances, higher stability, and improved glute hypertrophy. (2)

You might have to work on B-stance dumbbell deadlifts, defined above, as an middleman step towards this troublesome workouts. The effort and time is effectively value it.

Dumbbell Sumo Deadlift

The dumbbell sumo deadlift is a wide-stance deadlift that focuses a little bit extra in your quadriceps, alongside along with your glutes and hamstrings, and with out as a lot decrease again stress as a result of you aren’t as bent-over or hinged ahead in comparison with different deadlifts.

The motion might be carried out with a dumbbell in every hand or holding a single dumbbell with each fingers.

Dumbbell Stiff-Legged Deadlift

The dumbbell stiff-leg deadlift minimizes knee flexion and focuses nearly completely on hip flexion to place the hamstring and glutes underneath a little bit extra pressure. This is a perfect train for lifters seeking to emphasize the again halves of their legs.

This easy variation can also be efficient for lifters who’ve “outgrown” the dumbbell deadlift by way of potential load however wish to preserve progressing.


Can I maintain the dumbbells in entrance, like a barbell, as an alternative of at my sides?

This is a matter of non-public desire, as each grips supply completely different advantages. Holding the dumbbells at your entrance, like a traditional barbell deadlift, forces you to remain over the load longer whereas minimizing knee flexion. But that is harder in your grip and it really works your core and decrease again a bit extra.
With the dumbbells by your sides, your higher again place is extra impartial, permitting you to coach the lats in another way. Plus, holding the dumbbells with a impartial grip is a stronger mechanical place and will assist you to eke out a number of extra reps earlier than forearm fatigue.

Do the dumbbells want to achieve the bottom on each rep?

There is not any exhausting and quick rule for depth. Range of movement will depend on your hip mobility, the vary with which you’ll be able to keep muscle management, and your common stage of exercise expertise.
If your objective is hypertrophy, attempt to get as little as you’ll be able to management with out sacrificing type. This will improve the time underneath pressure on the muscle mass. If your precedence is constructing power, use an efficient vary of movement that balances shifting essentially the most weight with the longest vary of movement doable.


  1. Burd, N. A., et al. Muscle time underneath pressure throughout resistance train stimulates differential muscle protein sub-fractional artificial responses in males. The Journal of Physiology, 590(Pt 2), 351-362.
  2. Diamant, W., Geisler, S., Havers, T., & Knicker, A. (2021). Comparison of EMG Activity between Single-Leg Deadlift and Conventional Bilateral Deadlift in Trained Amateur Athletes – An Empirical Analysis. International journal of train science, 14(1), 187–201.

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