Here is a beginner deadlift workout routine to get you started. The truth is that even if you are not a beginner, this is still an excellent routine.
The warm-up is very important, not only to loosen your muscles. But to get your body ready to deadlift safely. As well as to help you get stronger in the deadlift.
If you do not have time to warm-up, you don't have time to deadlift.
Deadlift Workout Warm-Up
Afterward, use a foam roller for self-myofascial release stretching on your calves, hamstrings, and quads. Now you can get into the warm-up exercises themselves.
The first warm-up exercise you will do is good mornings.
Why are good mornings good for your deadlift workout?
First off, the good morning will get your hip hinge going and warm up your entire posterior chain. The hip hinge is very critical for a successful deadlift.
Good mornings will help you create the all-important neuromuscular connection of the hip hinge. Essentially, you stand straight with good posture, keep your head and chin tucked a bit to maintain a neutral spine.
Keep your legs straight and push your hips back. Think of moving your hips back. This hip hinge will automatically result in your upper body bending forward. You must keep your upper back straight and flat like a table.
Do not under any circumstances keep your upper body soft like a jellyfish. Instead, you want to brace your upper body and keep it tight. Just as when you will deadlift, your body is tight, so too it is tight when you warm up.
Second, Good mornings will warm up your entire posterior chain. These are the muscles that you cannot see in the mirror. The muscles that are routinely ignored because we cannot see them. But, when you do good mornings, the entire backside of your body is fully engaged.
Barbell or Banded Good Mornings
You can do good mornings with a barbell or using bands. Here is a video of using a barbell for good mornings:
And here is a video of good mornings using a resistance band:
You will do 3 sets of good mornings. A good rep range for this warm-up is 12 – 15. But, do your best to hit 15 reps of each good morning set.
Before you begin the good morning, make sure that your upper body is tight. Just as your body will be when you deadlift. Therefore, you want your chest to be out, your lats and core tight.
When you push your hips back, maintain this bracing. As you hip hinge, your glutes are relaxed. Now when your upper body is parallel to the floor, you want to stand up again.
How are you going to stand up again? Are you going to try and lift your upper body? Or are you going to drive your hips forward?
The answer is driving your hips forward. You need to squeeze your glutes together and drive your hips forward.
Just as if you are doing a deadlift. Whether you are doing resistance band or barbell good mornings, do 15 repetitions. Keep your upper body tight, break at the hips, hip hinge back and then squeeze your glutes to power the second half of the good morning.
Maintain a smooth rhythm and body position. Now you are ready for your next warm-up exercise – the Farmers Walk.
Unilateral Kettlebell Rack Carry
In between each of your good morning sets, you will alternate with one more exercise. The farmers walk or unilateral rack carry with a kettlebell.
Kettlebell carries are a great way to improve your strength and conditioning training. And they are another way to avoid focusing on just one body part. Instead, you concentrate on a total body workout.
When you walk the length of the gym or your basement home gym, you will feel the effects. If you do the kettlebell carry with the right form. And right means that you keep your body tight.
Bracing, or keeping your body tight is not particularly comfortable. But, it is not supposed to be. Bracing your core keeps you safe and gives you more power.
Take a kettlebell that you can handle, for example, 20 or 25 pounds. Hold the kettlebell near your shoulder. Walk the length of the gym with the kettlebell against one shoulder and your other arm out. Keep your body tight the entire way.
Turn around and walk back. Here is an example of the unilateral rack carry in this video:
Believe me, after your warm-up with good mornings and farmers walk, you will have already had a great full-body workout.
Alternate between good mornings and unilateral kettlebell carries. Some people also refer to these as farmers walk with a kettlebell. Do sets of each and 15 reps of each good morning set.
Touch and Go or Stop and Go?
Before you start lifting, decide whether you are going to do touch and go or stop and go deadlifts. With touch and go, you are going to touch the weight to the bottom but not let it reach a full stop.
Instead, you will bounce the weight slightly off the floor and continue to your next deadlift repetition.
A dead stop and go deadlift is as the name says. You deadlift, lower the weight to the floor and let it come to a dead stop. Then you reset and perform another deadlift.
I do not recommend the touch and go deadlift. The reason is simple. Because of the touch and go, I ended up with lateral epicondylitis, also known as tennis elbow.
Sure, who would believe that you can get tennis elbow from lifting weights? But it happened. And if you get tennis elbow from weight lifting, you can kiss the next 3 months or even 12 months of training goodbye. So, I do not see any benefit from the touch and go.
If you do have tennis elbow, from weightlifting or tennis, I highly recommend that you use the following products to heal as quickly as possible:
- Freeze sleeve – ice till numb plus another 5 minutes after your training. If you cannot train because of tennis elbow, then use once in the morning and once at night.
- Theraband Flexbar – do 3 sets of 15 reps daily. I am still using this flex bar for insurance.
As far as I am concerned, the only way to go is the dead stop deadlift. But, of course, you have to do what fits your body type and training objectives. And there are situations where the touch and go could be more optimal.
So, let's hear from the experts on when if ever to use the touch and go deadlift:
Important Cues for the Deadlift
Your starting position head posture for the deadlift should be consistent with that of a squat. In the beginner squat workout for powerlifting and fitness, you learned that it is advantageous to keep your chin tucked. In order to do that, you want to keep your eyes looking down, towards your feet in the mirror or to the floor itself.
Keeping your head down will help you keep a neutral spine. And maintaining a good back position is critical for safety and power.
So, keep in mind the following:
- Keep your head and therefore your spine neutral.
- To do this, avoid looking at yourself in the mirror.
- Instead, look at your feet or at the floor in front of you.
- You always want to maintain a neutral spine.
- Since you will reset at the bottom, it is fine for you to let the weight drop a bit faster.
- Don't bang the weights, but do not lower the bar too slowly. Otherwise, you will be tiring yourself out on the eccentric phase.
- And the point of the deadlift is the lifting phase.
- When you set for the deadlift, make sure to brace.
- Bracing is critical and this is why even in the warm-up, you worked on bracing your upper body.
- Squeeze your core and activate/tighten your lats.
- Always start the deadlift with a ‘vertical leg press' by driving your feet into the floor.
- And complete the deadlift by driving your hips through to the bar when the barbell reaches your knees. This is what you practiced with the good morning part of the warm-up.
- Last but not least, make sure you have:
- You do not need a lot of gear, but those are the minimum.
See the best deadlift tips for beginners for more helpful lifting strategies and cues.
Start Your Deadlift Workout
After the good mornings and kettlebell carry, you should have already had a pretty good workout. But, you are just getting started. Now you are ready for the strength training and muscle building benefits of a deadlift workout.
To start, you are going to do a few sets of deadlifts with lighter weights. Estimate your one-rep max and then use 50 to 60 percent of your 1 rep max.
For example, if you believe your one-rep max is 200 pounds, then do your first set of deadlifts with 100 pounds. Bumper plates are an excellent tool for using lighter weights while keeping the correct height of the barbell.
In this example, you can use 100 pounds or up to 65 percent or so of your 1 rep max. That would be 130 pounds. In either case, do 5 repetitions at whichever weight you choose.
Do another couple of warm-up sets increasing the weight to 75 percent of your 1 rep max.
So in this case, where your estimated 1 rep max is 200 pounds, you can first increase to 70 percent or 140 pounds. And then to 75 percent or 150 pounds.
As you increase the weight, lower your reps to 3 reps so you do not tire yourself out too much.
At this point, you have done two or three warm-up sets. Now you can do one or two working sets. If you have time, three is fine as well. But the interesting thing about the deadlift is that even one work set helps you gain muscle mass.
This is because the deadlift works for so many muscle groups at the same time.
That is, as long as you push yourself a bit more than last time. Oh, how are you going to remember what you lifted last time? That is where you must get disciplined enough to keep a record or journal of your workouts.
Writing down your workout is the key to making progress. Don't rely on me, look what Ed Coan, who many consider the greatest powerlifter of all time says about recording your workout:
Ed's number one tip is to record every single set, rep and weight for every exercise you do. This is a big difference between people who ‘workout' and those who ‘train'. Working out has no particular goal, whereas training needs continual measurement.
The first rule of success in the deadlift or any other goal in life is to write a plan.
See more of the best Ed Coan deadlift program tips here.
On the final two or three sets, you can shoot for 80 to 90 percent of your one-rep max. If your 1 rep max is 200 pounds, then your working sets will be with 160 to 180 pounds. Do 5 reps of each working set.
But, don't get hung up on the amount of weight you lift. You can make tremendous gains even if you do not lift heavy. You do not need to lift heavy to dramatically transform your body.
I know because I do not lift heavy weights and the deadlift still completely changed my body.
If you think you lift heavy but want some humble pie and motivation at the same time, you must see what Shirley Webb deadlifts at the age of 80.
Deadlift Assistance Exercises
If you have time after your working sets, do some assistance exercises. Remember that one of the cues is for you to think of doing a leg press off the floor when you start the lift. Therefore, a great assistance exercise is the leg press.
So, you can hop into a leg press and do several sets of leg presses alternating with leg curls as your warm down from you beginner deadlift workout routine.
Using the leg press will help you practice the push that you need off of the floor to power your deadlift. You need to be strong in two phases:
- The push off the floor
- Hip drive to complete the lift
To use the leg press properly, here are a few things to remember:
- Use the same stance of your deadlift on the leg press platform
- Because you are training to power your deadlift
- Likewise, keep your chin tucked down.
- You want to simulate the deadlift as much as possible.
- Another tip to do this is to lower the back portion of the leg press as far as possible.
- Your hips and knees position should also be similar to an actual deadlift.
- Therefore, do not let your hips rise up off of the back part of the leg press. Keep your hips down and presses against the back support.
- And make sure that your knees are tracking over your feet. Do not let them fall inwards.
You will alternate the leg press with the leg curl for balance. By now you have heard how great the deadlift and squat are for the posterior chain. It is no accident that they are two of the three lifts in the sport of powerlifting.
Building a strong posterior chain means you are creating balance. A strong front half of your body is not complete without the back half. And so much of your power for sports and everyday living comes from your posterior chain. See for yourself how the deadlift propelled Allyson Felix to become the premier female Olympic runner of all time.
So, after your leg press which targets your quadriceps, now do leg curls for your hamstrings.
The main cues that are helpful for the leg curl are:
- Do not rest your knees on the pad. Your upper legs, quads, thighs are on the pad and your knees are just off.
- When you lie on the bench, do not round your back. This happens if you completely put your chest down on the bench.
- Instead, keep your back straight and tight, and then curl.
Do 3 sets of 15 reps leg presses alternating with 3 sets of 15 reps prone hamstring curls.
Watch this great Alan Thrall video on how to increase your leg drive off the floor:
Beginner Deadlift Workout Summary
- Warm-up for 5 minutes on a treadmill, elliptical or use a jump rope
- 3 sets of 15 reps good mornings using a barbell or weightlifting resistance bands
- Alternating with 3 sets of unilateral kettlebell carries
- Deadlift warm-up sets starting 1 set of 5 reps with 50 – 60 percent of your 1 rep max
- Two additional warm-up sets of 1 set of 3 reps with 65 – 70 percent of one-rep max
- 2 – 3 working sets of 5 reps using 75 – 80 percent of your 1 rep max
- Warm down with deadlift assistance exercises
- 3 sets of 15 reps leg press alternating with 3 sets of 15 reps prone hamstring curls.
The deadlift is a foundational compound exercise to transform your fitness, fast. Whether you want to compete in powerlifting, be a more powerful athlete or get back into shape. The deadlift is the solution.
If you deeply want to get started deadlifting but are too obese right now. Do not despair at all. I could not reach over to tie my shoe, let alone deadlift when I was obese.
So, do not be discouraged at all.
Check out this guide with a meal plan to lose 20 pounds in 3 months and this beginner squat workout for powerlifting and fitness.
Let me know what you think of this beginner deadlift workout routine. In the meantime, no matter your age or shape now, never give up!