Fit Focus: Dumbbell Deadlifting at Home

Deadlifts are most commonly known as a power lift. We see pictures plastered all over in fitness magazines, on pinterest boards, on fitness blogs of men and women deadlifting barbells with crazy amounts of weight. While this is great, and definitely an aspiration for the daily gym-goer, it’s not practical for those of us who workout at home with minimal equipment. I wish I had Olympic weight barbells and a stash of 45lb. plates in my home gym, but I don’t.

So, does that mean we should kick the deadlift to the curb? Heck no. Why?

For starters the deadlift is a functional exercise. It basically consists of two movements that we do daily…bending and lifting. Anyone who lifts boxes, or children, or grocery bags off the floor is familiar with the basic components of the deadlift exercise.

Also, the deadlift is a compound exercise. This means that the deadlift works more than one muscle group in the body. In fact, it works our traps, upper and lower back, our abs/core, hamstrings, quads, forearms, hips, and glutes. That is what I call a worthwhile exercise!

Plus deadlifts are one of the best exercises for toning your glutes, one of the big trouble zones for women, so I say…bring it on!

When deadlifting with a barbell at the gym (or at home if you have one) there are two main types of deadlifts:
1.) the Conventional deadlift and
2.) the Sumo deadlift.
However, there are also other variations such as the Romanian deadlift which I practice a lot with dumbbells to build strength in my hamstrings and stabilize my back. For more information on deadlift variations and some good tips on deadlifting, check out this post.

Now back to our at home exercisers…how can we incorporate the deadlift in to our home workouts and learn to do it safely and efficiently?

1.) Use Dumbbells – since most of us have dumbbells in our home gyms that will be our weight of choice for learning how to properly deadlift at home.

2.) Practice your set up – For a Conventional deadlift with dumbells you will first place your dumbbells on the floor and stand facing them with your toes very close to the handles.


3.) Bending & Lifting – The actual motion of the deadlift begins when you bend at your hips and knees lowering to grab the dumbbells in a double overhand grip. Now, perform a standing up motion with the dumbbells and at the top lock into a standing position, pushing your hips just slightly forward. Once locked in the standing position, slowly lower the dumbbells downward bending at the knees and hips just as you did to get into the starting position.
*Tip: Your arms should be straight throughout the entire exercise as the photos below show. 


4.) Practicing Deadlift Variations – Now that you know how to safely perform the Conventional deadlift with proper form, here are two more variations to try and then add into your workout routine.

Sumo Deadlift – Grab a dumbbell and place it on the floor in front of you. Next spread your feet wider than shoulder width apart with your toes pointing slightly outward. (Like a sumo wrestler would stand when getting ready for a match) Bending your knees squat down to cup the dumbbell in both hands and using your glutes lift yourself into a standing position. Then bend down again letting the dumbbell just graze the floor and lift to a stand again to perform a second repetition.


Stiff-legged Deadlift – Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent, and holding two dumbbells by your sides with your arms straight. Keeping your knees in place lower the weights to just over your feet keeping them close to your shins as you lower. The motion is like you are bending at the waist to pick something up from the floor. As you bend keep your back straight, and exhale. Once you feel a pull on your hamstrings start bringing your torso back up by extending your hips and waist until you are back in the standing/starting position. As you lift your torso up really squeeze through your glutes. This exercise is amazing for the toning of your hamstrings, and glutes and strengthening your lower back.


Single Leg Deadlift – Stand on one leg with your other leg behind, toe resting on the floor, and hold a dumbbell in your opposite hand from the leg you are standing on. With your knee slightly bent bend down hinging at the waist, keeping your back straight and letting your other leg lift straight behind you. Your glutes should be firing on both sides in this exercise. Once the weight is a few inches from the group, extend at your hips and waist and stand back up.


5.) Increasing Weight Safely – When you first begin doing dumbbell deadlifts at home I would suggest starting with a manageable weight. A weight where you can perform 10-12 repetitions with good form. Once you can do this increase the amount of weight that you use. If you can feel your form is suffering at any time, drop your weight. For example: If you choose 20lb dumbbells and you perform 5 repetitions and feel your form is going south, stop, exchange your 20lbers for 15lbers and continue through your set. If you do deadlifts with more weight than you are ready for you can really injure your back, and no one likes injuries. 😦

Now you’re probably itching to try a workout that incorporates deadlifts right?! Here are a few total body workouts that incorporate deadlifts and some combination deadlift with a row moves:

Beach Shape Up Workout 
6s Leg Burner
Get Glutes HIIT
Cardio & Strength Home Workout

Did you learn anything new about doing deadlifts? What? Let me know if you try any of the workouts, I’d love to get your feedback on what you thought!

Have an amazing weekend!


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