Exercise Profile
  • Target Muscle Group
  • Exercise TypeStrength
  • Equipment RequiredBarbell
  • MechanicsCompound
  • Force TypeHinge (Bilateral)
  • Experience LevelIntermediate
  • Secondary Muscles
    Abs, Adductors, Calves, Forearms, Glutes, Lats, Lower Back, Quads, Traps, Upper Back
Target Muscle Group

Hamstrings

Hamstrings Muscle Anatomy Diagram

American Deadlift Overview

The American deadlift is a deadlift variation used to build the muscles of the posterior chain. While the American deadlift does primarily target the hamstring complex, it also is great for strengthening the glutes through a focused contraction at the top of the lift.

The American deadlift allows one to keep a more straight and neutral spine when compared to other straight legged deadlift variations.

American Deadlift Instructions

  1. Set a bar at just below hip height and load your desired weight.
  2. Hinge forward slightly and grasp the bar with a double overhand, shoulder width grip.
  3. Stand up by extending your hips and knees and take two steps back from the rack.
  4. Unlock your knees, push your hips back, and hinge forward until the bar is just below your knee cap.
  5. Drive through the whole foot and focus on pushing the floor away.
  6. Finish the movement by squeezing the glutes and posteriorly tilting the pelvis.
  7. Once you have locked out the hips, reverse the movement by pushing the hips back and hinging forward.
  8. Return the bar to the floor, reset, and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

American Deadlift Tips

  1. Do not allow the bar to drift away from your body during the lift.
  2. Powerlifters may sometimes refer to these as “Dimel deadlifts”.
  3. In the words of Bret Contreras, “You can think of the American deadlift as a glute-centric RDL”.
  4. Keep soft knees and ensure the movement occurs primarily at your hips. There shouldn’t be any movement within your spine - don’t focus on arching your back.
  5. Neck position is highly individual - Some prefer a neutral neck position (i.e. keeping the chin tucked throughout the lift) while others do well with looking slightly up. Here’s some factors to consider:
    • If you’re someone who is more globally extended (i.e. athletic background), then you will likely be able to keep a neutral position more effectively by packing the chin.
    • On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you tend to be more flexion dominant (especially in your thoracic spine - upper back) then it would behoove you to look up slightly as this will drive more extension.
    • Experiment with each and see which one works best for your individual anatomy and biomechanics.
  6. Do not worry about retracting your shoulder blades, this is unnecessary and doesn’t carry over to your deadlift.
  7. Make sure you wrap your thumbs around the bar and don’t utilize a false grip. Squeeze the bar as tight as possible like you’re trying to leave an imprint of your fingerprints on the bar.
  8. When you hip hinge, you should naturally notice a weight shift to your heels. However, don’t shift your weight so aggressively that your heels come up.
  9. To follow up on my previous point, if you focus on keeping the weight entirely on the heels, you won’t be able to effectively recruit your quads at the beginning of the lift and thus you’ll be slow off the flow. So, to combat this, you should focus on driving through the whole foot - you want 3 points of contact: big toe, little toe, and heel.
  10. Ensure the elbows stay locked out. Don’t actively flex the triceps but make sure that your elbows doesn’t break neutral.
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