This week I’ll be introducing you to the famous deadlift in today’s post in the best butt exercises series. The deadlift is well known as a classic bodybuilding exercise (which incidentally, is absolutely great for the butt), but there are a few different versions out there and it can get confusing. In this feature, we’ll look at the American deadlift variation, as it specifically works into the glutes by incorporating a slight variation on the movement.

Best Butt Exercise #7: American Deadlift

Deadlift butt exercise
photo credit: KoreyStanley via photopin cc

The deadlift is definitely up at the top of the list when it comes to the best bodybuilding exercises. This compound exercises works many muscles, but mainly the hamstrings, glutes and back.

It is typically performed with a barbell as a weight-lifting exercise, but if you are a beginner and new to weight training, then I recommend you start out with this exercise without any weights (performing the movement with just body weight until you master the move is fine), or with light dumbbells to begin with. As you improve you can work your way up to a barbell and start to add additional weight.

There are a few different versions of the deadlift out there, not to mention the multitude of variations that come into play when you start considering different grips on the bar. Just some of the common versions are:

  • Conventional deadlift
  • Sumo deadlift
  • Stiff legged deadlift
  • Romanian deadlift
  • American deadlift

We’ll look at the American deadlift variant, which incorporates a pelvic tilt a the end of the movement – the secret behind why this variant is a great choice for working the glutes specifically.

Exercise: American Deadlift
Muscles worked: Glutes, Hamstrings, Back.
Jolie Recommends: Beginners: Bodyweight only, sets of 10 reps. Advanced: Weighted, sets of 5-10 reps.
Difficulty rating: 4
Effectiveness rating: 9

Initial Positioning

Stand with your feet approximately shoulder width apart, toes pointing forward, angled slightly out for comfort.

Practice with a broomstick, length of dowel, or if you are stuck for equipment, simply mimic holding a barbell in front of your body and just resting on the front of your thighs. Your arms should be fully extended down.

Grip the bar with both hands approximately shoulder-width apart. There are many different hand grips, but I recommend starting with a standard grip with the palms of both hands facing towards your body.

Your head and neck should remain in line with your back the whole time throughout the majority of the lift, with the exception of at the top of the movement when you will be tilting your pelvis and squeezing the glutes to thrust forward.

The Move

Holding the barbell (or substitute) in front of you, hinge forward at the hips, allowing the knees to bend slightly.

Keep the back tight, with a slight arch in your lower back.

The bar should track down in a straight line vertically as you hinge at the hips and drop your upper body down, being sure to maintain the arch in your lower back.

Once you feel a maximum stretch in your hamstrings (your hands would be at your knee level or slightly below at this stage), you want to engage the glutes and hamstrings and drive up to a standing position again.

As you reach the top of the movement, tilt your pelvis backwards, tucking your tailbone under and forwards. Your spine may round slightly at the top and bottom as you do this. Squeeze the glutes powerfully as you perform the pelvic tilt – this is where your butt will really be doing most of the work.


Perfecting Your Form

  • To work into the glutes optimally, ensure you remain aware of what they are doing throughout the entire move. They should also be working to keep you stable as you hinge from the hips when you bring the weight down.
  • Keep the back and core tight throughout the entire move. Letting some parts of your body go slack during this move will most likely lead to injury if you plan on lifting with any kind of weight.
  • Really focus on performing the pelvic tilt at the top of the movement by contracting the glutes hard. This is what makes this deadlift so effective as a great butt exercise.
  • Keep the head and neck in line with your spine as your tilt forward.

Reppin’ It

Beginners – Bodyweight or light dumbbells or a resistance band

If you are just starting out with this move, perform it at bodyweight only using a broomstick handle or other length of rod that you can substitute for a barbell until you get the hang of the move. You’ll want to be able to perform this deadlift with perfect form and ensure you are activating all the right muscles before adding weight. You can then add weight in the form of dumbbells until you work your way up to a barbell (olympic barbells, which are the type available at most gyms, can be 44lbs or 20kgs – that’s just the bar itself without any added weight plates!).

For those doing bodyweight or lightly weighted dumbbell american deadlifts, I recommend doing 3 sets of 10, with a slow 1-2 second drop down, and explosive or firm upward motion as you rise up out of the deadlift. Squeeze the glutes firmly at the top and hold this contracted position for 1 second before going into the next rep.

A resistance band with handles can be shortened to a workable length by looping excess band on the ground and anchoring it with your feet.

If you’d like to try these with a resistance band, shorten the working length of the band by looping it on the ground, and anchor this in place by standing on it with both feet. Perform the deadlift by pulling up against both handles.

Advanced – Weighted barbell

If you’d like to incorporate the American Deadlift into your weightlifting program, try 3 to 5 sets of 5-10 reps each, at a suitable weight such that you don’t sacrifice form, but the last rep is difficult. As with any weighted exercise, you’ll need to pay particular attention to keeping perfect form, as any sloppy technique has a greater potential to lead to injury once you add weights into the equation.

Using a weighted workout bar can also be an alternative to using a proper barbell.

Remember to always train using progressive overload in order to see results!

Best Butt Exercises: American Deadlift

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