If your aim is to pack on as much muscle mass as possible, deadlifts are your best friend. In this article we explain the importance of this great exercise and also proper deadlift form.
So what makes deadlifts so great? Along with barbell squats, the deadlift is one of the most effective weight lifting exercises you can possibly have in your workout routine.
They require huge amounts of strength and energy to perform, and will stress your entire body like no other lift. The main muscles worked during deadlifts are the lower back, upper back, and your thighs, but they will also work almost every other muscle group you have so you will see muscle gains everywhere.
Also, just as with doing squats, performing heavy deadlifts will force your body to produce extra growth hormone and testosterone since they stress the body so much (this is a good thing). This will increase your strength levels on other exercises such as the bench press and barbell row.
So if they are so good for you, why isn't everybody in the gym deadlifting? Simple put, they are perhaps the most uncomfortable and painful exercise to perform. They requrie a lot of willpower and dicipline. Just like with doing squats, people will make excuses to steer clear of including the deadlift in their routine.
Those with the determination to achieve the best muscle building results will do deadlifts without hesitation, and learn the proper deadlift technique. You simply won't get the same muscle building results without them in your arsenal.
Ok, here I will explain how you should be performing deadlifts correctly. There's a few different variations of the deadlift, but I will be explaining how to perform a standard, bent-legged deadlift.
Before starting, place the barbell on the ground. Stand in front of the bar with your shins as close to the bar as possible. Your feet should be roughly shoulder width apart.
Grip the bar about shoulder width apart. You can grip it with either an overhand grip, or an alternate grip with one palm facing out and the other palm facing in. Choose whichever is more comfortable to you.
Get into a squat position and make sure the bar is close to your shins. Now, whilst keeping your back as flat as possible, your abs tight, and your head looking upwards, lift the bar up off the ground by pushing with your legs. This is important, lift with your legs, not your back!
You should lift the bar up like this until you are in a standing position. Here's a tip: when lifting the weight up, think of pushing your heels through the floor.
Ok now that you are standing with the bar, lower it back down to the starting squat position by following the same path as when you lifted it up.
You can rest the bar on the ground for a second or two, and then lift it up back up again. Repeat this until you get to your desired number of reps or until your deadlift form starts to slip. Don't continue with poor form because you have a high chance of injury, especially if the weight is heavy.
You need to be careful with deadlifts, a lot of back injuries occur with lifters doing them with poor form. It's absolutely critical that you exercise with good deadlift technique, otherwise you will be out of the gym and into a wheelchair in no time!
When you're just starting out with the exercise, or practicing your form, remember to use light weights. When you begin to get the hang of good deadlift form, then you can start lifting heavier weights.
If I had to repeat something to you about correct deadlift technique, it would be:
Always remember to keep your back flat, abs tight, and look straight/upwards slightly.
You may be wondering how many sets you should do and how often you should do them. I would recommend that you perform deadlifts once a week. 2-3 heavy sets should do the trick for you. Remember to do a few warm-up sets with a light weight first, and you might want to add some streching before and after too.
Now you understand the importance of the deadlift, and you know the proper deadlift form, you have no excuses not to add them to your weight training routine. You will be able to pack on more muscle mass than ever before!
Hopefully this article helped, but always remember to never get stuck in research land. Information is great, but what's infinitely more important and the only thing that actually matters to get results and change your life is to be hitting the gym week in week out, with a properly-structured, intelligently-crafted and well-balanced strength training and nutrition plan that's based on actual scientific principles of building muscle mass (not bro science like you'll see practically everywhere you look online).
But here's the thing:
You don't just randomly stumble upon a highly-effective program that's designed specifically for hardgainers by simply browsing a popular mainstream bodybuilding/fitness magazine, site, or forum (or asking your average run of the mill trainer at a local gym who is highly likely to be just repeating the same old ineffective, incomplete mainstream advice they learned in a classroom).
To truly build that strong, ripped, lean muscular body that you want - and to not just leave it to chance and hope/pray that you'll get results - your training and eating program needs to be solid. Otherwise, you'll be wasting a ton of time in the gym for little return, which is unfortunately what happens to most guys who start hitting the gym as they eventually start spinning their wheels and getting nowhere due to a lack of knowledge and awareness of what actually works most effectively.
So the question remains, how do you ensure you're implementing an effective bulking program that will 100% get you the results you seek? You basically have three paths to take here, so choose whichever fits your situation best.
Path A: Design Your Own Effective Bulking Program (Recommended for Some Beginners & Intermediates)
If you're the patient type who also likes to know how every little detail works, and are willing to spend the time and effort necessary to study the most effective muscle building training and nutrition strategies out there right now to strategically piece together the best information that you find from credible sources to sculpt your own custom bulking program, consider the DIY path of creating your own program from scratch.
However, if you're a beginner, or intermediate lifter who hasn't been getting the results you want, you'll want to make sure that you get your advice from sources and people who understand what it's like to gain muscle starting out as a skinny hardgainer, which is a different beast compared to building muscle as a more naturally bigger guy with more favourable genetics. You also ideally want someone more experienced to look over your program just in case, because there are various things you could miss or do wrong, such as creating an imbalanced program that will lead to posture issues, muscular imbalances, or worse (injuries).
Up for the challenge? To get started planning your own muscle building program from scratch check out our full introduction to building muscle mass as a hardgainer which covers some important basic principles, strategies, and tips.
Path B: Follow A Proven Time-Tested Bulking Program (Recommended for Most Beginners)
If instead of creating your own program from scratch you'd rather follow an already-made complete program that has been proven to work for others in your shoes (ie skinny hardgainers) this is the path for you. Spending the few bucks to get your hands on a well-crafted, respected program that's specifically been designed with hardgainers in mind can really save you time and effort having to design your own program, and it ensures you don't miss out on the various important details that makes a good program.
This is what I'd recommend if you're just starting out or quite inexperienced in the gym, as you'll get off on the right foot to kick-start great results. Although this is also a smart path for intermediates, because if you've been training for a while and not getting great results, getting your hands on a fresh new program created by a natural bodybuilding expert could be the game-changer you need to spark the best results of your life. Sean Nal's Body Transformation Blueprint Program is currently the most comprehensive, polished bulking program for beginners on the market, and is the program that actually helped me the most when I first started out as a newbie so I can't recommend it highly enough if you're new and wanting to all but guarantee great results over the next few months and beyond.
There are other good premade mass gain programs out there that were created specifically (and scientifically) for hardgainers, but there's also a lot of overpriced, overly-marketed and low-quality programs that you should avoid out there so be on your toes when looking for the right program to follow to avoid wasting your money. I've personally used a ton of different programs and I compiled the best, highest-quality ones that I can comfortably recommend in my list of the best comprehensive bulking programs for hardgainers here.
Path C: Find a (Good) In-Person Trainer
This isn't going to be for everyone as a quality trainer who knows what they're doing, and most importantly has got great results themselves (ideally starting out in similar shoes to you) can be quite costly. This is the path you should probably consider if you have any type of injury or health problem, or obviously if you have the money to burn and want someone to carefully monitor what you're doing in the gym and be able to give you specific feedback.
Whichever path you choose, never forget the single most important thing: never give up, and your success in transforming your body, strength, health, posture, and self-confidence will simply be a matter of when, not if. I'd say good luck, but if you really understand that last sentence, you're not gonna need it, friend. I wish you nothing but success.
Mad-Scientist of Hardgainer-to-Hero Transformations for 12+ Years
Last and Definitely Least: Certified Fitness Instructor (real-world experience > school)