Dumbbell Deadlift: The Techniques, Variations, and Benefits of This Full-Body Compound Exercise

Written by: Stuart Carter,

Dip. PT, Precision Nutrition 1
C.O.O., The Fit Father Project

Written by: Stuart Carter,

Dip. PT, Precision Nutrition 1
C.O.O., The Fit Father Project

dumbbell deadlift tutorial
The deadlift is a staple of many exercise routines. Have you always done them with a barbell? Then it's time to learn why you should do the dumbbell deadlift instead!

The dumbbell deadlift will improve your grip strength and increase the engagement of your lats, scapular, and your unilateral control much more effectively than the barbell deadlift.

There are actually two types of dumbbell deadlifts: the stiff leg and the classic. This tutorial will talk you through the right method of doing both of these variants.

The dumbbell deadlift is designed to strengthen your legs and your back. Specifically, you will feel your glutes working, along with your quads and hamstrings. The stiff-legged dumbbell deadlift will place more emphasis on your hamstrings.

dumbbell deadlift

To really ensure you're working your muscles as hard as possible, choose a heavy weight that you are comfortable with. You will not be able to lift as much with dumbbells as you can with a barbell. You should bear this in mind when choosing your weights.

You need plenty of room when undertaking the dumbbell deadlift; this means 3-4 feet of space all around you. But, since you're doing this exercise with dumbbells, you can do it virtually anywhere.

In this tutorial and related video, we'll show you the proper technique of the exercise, so you can complete it with confidence and safety. Completing the exercise properly will mean the best results for you, while avoiding the potential of injury.

Dumbbell Deadlift: A Step-By-Step Guide

    • Step 1: Spinal alignment is very important in this exercise. You need to start with your feet shoulder-width apart. You need to be relaxed and stand straight, not leaning forward or back, while your weight is evenly balanced.
    • Step 2: Bend down and position the dumbbells on each side of you. The grip should be in line with the middle of your foot. This will ensure the weight is distributed evenly through the center of your foot.
    • Step 3: You now need to assume the starting position. For this, grasp the dumbbells in each hand and lower your bottom to the floor while raising your chest. Your thighs should be parallel to the floor and your back angled upward.
    • Step 4: The weights will almost be coming off the floor at this point. Now you simply need to push down through your feet and move into a standing position. Your arms remain straight and will now be at your sides, just below your waist. Squeeze your glutes as you straighten and grip the weights tightly.
    • Step 5: Slowly lower your body back down to the starting position by bending your knees; the dumbbells should just touch the ground. Take a deep breath and push back up again.
    • Step 6: The stiff leg deadlift has a different starting position. The dumbbells need to be in front of your feet, one dumbbell over each foot. Your legs are only slightly bent for this starting position; your back should be flat and you should feel the tension in your hamstrings.
    • Step 7: Take a deep breath and slowly move into a standing position. Again, move slowly down but ensure your knees are bent just a little; your legs should be nearly straight; 15 or 20 degrees is perfect.
    • Step 8: Repeat steps 3-7 for the prescribed number of reps.

Pro Tip 1: This is a primary compound movement. You should use dumbbells in the 80-100 pound range if you are able to lift these without injuring yourself. Ideally, complete 6-8 reps with 2-3 sets. You can include them in any exercise routine.

Pro Tip 2: Adjustable dumbbells are best; you will be able to add weight as your strength improves. This will ensure you continue to challenge your body and build muscle.

Pro Tip 3: Use your arms just like cables. They must remain straight and tight throughout the entire exercise.

Check out this video tutorial to learn the fine-form points of the dumbbell deadlift.

Want more? To learn more exercises that you can use in your training, visit our complete exercise library on the Fit Father Project YouTube Channel.

Stuart Carter, Dip. PT, Precision Nutrition 1
C.O.O., The Fit Father Project

Stuart gained his Diploma in Personal Training & Sports Medicine through Premier Global, back in 2001. In 2018, he completed his Level 1 Precision Nutrition qualification.

Throughout his career in Fitness, Stuart has trained hundreds of clients, worked in almost every position in the industry, and ran his own successful training studio.

After a hiatus away from the Fitness industry, working in Corporate Management and Finance, Stuart returned to what he loves… Fitness! This return led to a chance meeting with Dr. Balduzzi, and a place in the Fit Father Project team.

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Written by: Stuart Carter,

Dip. PT, Precision Nutrition 1
C.O.O., The Fit Father Project

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