Why should you deadlift to lose weight? Well, I have done the research and identified several benefits of deadlifting for weight loss. The deadlift is a classic compound exercise that works the biggest muscle groups in your body.
The 4 key benefits of doing deadlifts for weight loss are they:
Work several muscle groups promoting high-level fat loss
Increase primary anabolic hormones that stimulate fat loss and muscle growth
Burn more calories compared to running
Increase cardio endurance if programmed properly
Let’s dive into these benefits more to learn why every program aimed to change your physique, lose weight, and build muscle should include the deadlift.
1. Deadlifting works several muscle groups promoting high levels of fat loss
In general, lifting weights and resistance training burns more fat than just dieting or dieting with cardio exercise alone.
Deadlifting is a compound exercise that utilizes several muscle groups, including your:
Adductor magnus (inner thigh)
During these muscles contract together in order to help maintain the correct posture and move the load from point A to B.
An exercise like the deadlift that uses multiple muscle groups triggers a high level of fat loss by burning a large number of calories. This is because it simply requires more ‘energy’ to perform.
Additionally, the deadlift can be used to increase hypertrophy (muscle growth) if the workout variables, such as the sets, reps, and weight, are structured properly. This is important because muscle growth boosts the resting metabolic rate (RMR). Meaning you will burn more calories long after your workout while you’re at rest.
You can perform a deadlift using any weight you prefer such as dumbbells, barbell, trap bar or kettlebell. The two most common deadlift variations, however, are the conventional deadlift and sumo deadlift using a barbell. You’ll recruit the most musculature possible with these styles.
Whatever equipment or style you choose though, know that any combination of the deadlift will have a positive effect when it comes to weight loss. So pick a deadlift variation that you feel comfortable doing, and make sure you lift heavy enough where the effort is meaningful.
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2. Increases primary anabolic hormones that stimulate fat loss and muscle growth
Deadlifting generates a neuroendocrine response.
Wait, what does that mean?
A neuroendocrine response is a reaction that involves the nervous and endocrine (hormone) systems in the body.
It has been shown that natural hormone levels such as testosterone and growth hormone increase following a heavy deadlift session. These hormones have effects such as influencing muscle growth, body fat and bone strength.
Let’s take a look at these hormones now:
Testosterone plays a role in muscle repair, growth of additional muscle tissue and inhibiting the generation of new fat cells.
Studies have set out to determine whether compound exercises like the squat and deadlift can positively impact hormonal levels compared with machine isolation exercises such as leg press. It has been shown by Shaner et. al (2014), that compounded exercises with short rest periods can increase your production of testosterone.
The protocol used 6 sets of 10 reps @ 80% of your 1 rep max on 2-minutes rest. On paper, this is a pretty grueling workout, but it would certainly drive the muscle-growth process, which in turn would increase caloric expenditure.
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Growth hormone is responsible for tissue healing, bone strength, muscle growth and fat loss.
Growth hormone is further stimulated during intense weight training sessions. Studies have shown that reduced growth hormone can result in obesity due to its metabolic effects on fat cells. However, in the presence of growth hormone the body will breakdown fat cells and stimulate your liver to produce insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), which promotes muscle growth.
3. Burns more calories compared to running
Compound exercises such as deadlifts are energy-demanding exercises.
As I mentioned before deadlifting trains different muscle groups that require a substantial amount of energy. This results in a greater expenditure of calories burned long after a deadlift session.
Let me explain:
The Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) is the amount of calories your body burns after a strength-training workout to return your body to its original state. Your body has to restore several processes such as oxygen levels, create new energy stores and remove any lactic acid build up.
Studies have found that doing deadlifts between 15-20 reps with loads up to 50% of your 1 rep max can burn up to 60 calories in the EPOC process alone. This equates to the amount of energy you would burn running a mile (if you weigh 130 lbs) or half a mile (if you weigh 260 lbs). These studies calculated the energy expenditure strongly correlated to the amount of work conducted.
Related Article: How To Build Muscle After Weight Loss (7 Things To Know)
4. Increased cardio endurance
Deadlifting at high intensity elevates your heart rate and maintains it during your workout. Keeping short rest times between sets can feel as though you have had a cardiovascular workout as well. Alternatively, increasing the rest time and you can stimulate a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) session.
HIIT is a form of anaerobic exercise that combines interval training and cardiovascular exercise. HIIT involves short bursts of intense exercise followed by low-intensity recovery periods. HIIT workouts have been shown to burn 25–30% more calories than the other forms of exercise.
So the next time you workout, think about combining HIIT training with a compound exercise like deadlifts.
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Other Deadlifting Benefits
DEADLIFT TO LOSE BELLY FAT
Deadlifting alone cannot help lose belly fat but including it in your workout can definitely help.
The main strategy to lose belly fat is to get your body in a caloric deficit. This usually involves burning more calories through exercise combined with a diet, which creates a caloric deficit based on your total body expenditure.
Using the deadlift as part of a calorie-controlled diet will guarantee belly fat loss results. As deadlifts involve a large number of muscles, this maximizes your energy expenditure helping you to get in a calorie deficit.
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INCREASES MUSCLE STRENGTH AND STABILITY
Deadlifting is a great muscle mass and strength builder. A study by researchers at Texas Tech University found that after ten-week deadlift training, great improvements in strength and stability were observed in both male and female participants – especially women who were relatively new to lifting.
INCREASES CORE STRENGTH AND POSTURE
Poor posture is a very common condition that can manifest as back pain.
Deadlifting can increase core strength, core stability and improve your posture. Deadlifting trains most of the muscles in the legs, lower back and core. These are all muscles responsible for posture, which will help keep your shoulders, spine, and hips in alignment.
Related Article: 17 Dumbbell Exercises For Weight Loss (That Actually Work)
IMPROVES OVERALL PERFORMANCE
Deadlifts have been shown to improve jump performance in athletes, reduce muscle loss in older adults, increase bone density for athletes in contact sports, and is an effective rehabilitation exercise following lower limb surgeries.
As well, the deadlift is a great exercise if you don’t have a lot of time to work out, as it will recruit a lot of musculature in a short amount of time.
Related Article: Hip Adductor Exercises: 10 Must-Do Exercises
Frequently Asked Questions
SHOULD YOU DO HIGH REPS OR LOW REPS WHEN USING DEADLIFTS FOR WEIGHT LOSS?
For weight loss, there are two main options. Heavier weights and lower reps (6 – 12 reps per set) will increase muscle mass. This will increase your metabolism, making your body more efficient at burning calories. Lighter weights and higher reps (15-20 reps per set) challenge your body to work aerobically. This increases the number of calories burned.
IS THE DEADLIFT OR SQUAT BETTER FOR LOSING WEIGHT?
Deadlifts and squats are effective exercises for gaining strength, burning calories and losing weight. One exercise is not better than the other, but rather, both should be used as part of a well-rounded training program to build muscle and lose body fat. If you’re interested in how squats can help you lose weight specifically, take a look at our article on squat benefits.
Deadlifting is a compound exercise that engages major muscle groups throughout the body. This simultaneously triggers high-levels of fat loss by burning a large number of calories. Deadlifts will also stimulate muscle growth, which will burn even more calories and increase your metabolism. Deadlifting has other benefits, which include increasing cardio endurance, core strength, natural hormone levels, and overall performance.
About The Author
Dr. Bahijja Raimi-Abraham is a pharmacist and Lecturer in Pharmaceutics at King’s College London. Bahijja’s research is focused on Ageing and Global Health. Bahijja is the first graduate of the University of East Anglia School of Pharmacy to be awarded a Ph.D. and more recently won the Outstanding Woman in STEM Precious Award. Prior to her current position as Lecturer in Pharmaceutics at King’s College London, Bahijja held positions at University College London (UCL) as an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) postdoctoral researcher position and at the European Medicines Agency (EMA) as a seconded Quality National Expert. In her spare time, Bahijja plays netball and enjoys working out using Fitbod. She also likes street art and trying new recipes.