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Are Deadlifts a Back Exercise?

blog Dec 09, 2023

 Are Deadlifts a Back Exercise?


When it comes to deadlifts, whether you're performing a conventional deadlift, a Romanian deadlift (RDL), or even a trap bar deadlift, it's important to recognize that you're engaging your back muscles in the process. However, it's essential to understand that deadlifts might not be the optimal choice for targeting your back muscles effectively.

Deadlifts work your Back Isometrically

While deadlifts do engage your back muscles, they primarily involve isometric contractions, meaning your back muscles work to stabilize your spine rather than moving through their full range of motion. This raises a crucial point: if your intention is to focus on your back muscles, deadlifts might not provide the best outcome.

What is your Primary Goal with Training?

Your training goals play a significant role in determining which exercises are most suitable. If your aim is to build well-defined back muscles, you'll want to concentrate on movements that allow your back muscles to work through their full range of motion. This points towards exercises like pulldowns, rows, and reverse flyes, which effectively target your back musculature.

My Favorite Back Exercises… that aren't Deadlifts

When it comes to effective back exercises, deadlifts might not make the top of the list. Instead, consider incorporating exercises that provide better muscle engagement for your back.

  • Chest Supported Pulldowns: This exercise involves supporting your chest on a bench while performing pulldowns. This added stability allows for focused back muscle engagement.
  • Rows: Rows in various forms, including cable rows, dumbbell rows, and barbell rows, facilitate comprehensive engagement of your back muscles through their full range of motion.
  • Cable Rows with Chest Support: Cable rows, when combined with chest support, offer enhanced stability and effective back muscle targeting.

These exercises are aligned with your primary goal of building and defining your back muscles.

Deadlifts just aren't my Go-To Exercise

While deadlifts have their place in strength training and powerlifting, they might not align with your goal of maximizing back muscle engagement. If your objective is to focus on your back, it's advisable to prioritize exercises that work your muscles through their complete range of motion.


When it comes to training, specificity matters. Deadlifts, while effective for overall strength and power, might not be the most optimal choice for targeting your back muscles. To truly emphasize and build your back, incorporate exercises like pulldowns, rows, and reverse flyes, which allow your back muscles to move through their full range of motion and ultimately lead to better results. Remember, achieving your fitness goals involves selecting the right exercises that align with your intentions.

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