Deadlifts are one of the best compound strength training exercises out there. Resistance bands can help build the strength you need to maximize your deadlift max.
Virtually every muscle group in your body is activated during a traditional deadlift. But to get the most benefit from the exercise, it’s essential to do it with the right form.
Whether you’re already a pro trying to make deadlifts more challenging or a newcomer with a lot left to learn, deadlifting with resistance bands can help you achieve your goals. Read on for the full rundown of banded deadlifts and how to do them with perfect form.
There’s no feeling like lifting that bar off the ground. Besides the sense of accomplishment, it also gets the adrenaline pumping and makes any lifter look like an absolute beast.
But that’s not why so many bodybuilders and lifters fixate on the deadlift. Even for a compound exercise, deadlifts are almost unparalleled. You’d be hard-pressed to find a move that activates more muscle groups throughout your body.
Traditional deadlifts have been practiced by strongmen and powerlifters for a couple of centuries. The conventional deadlift has developed into many variations in that time, but they all have the same advantage of activating tons of muscles.
What Muscles Do Deadlifts Work?
Activation of the erector spinae, hamstrings, glutes, traps, quads, and lats is caused by deadlifts. Your entire posterior chain, which is all the muscles on the back of your body, is strengthened. Deadlifting also builds core strength, which is important for many gym rats who mistakenly concentrate only on their ab muscles instead of building true strength in their entire core.
Strength isn’t the only benefit of deadlifts, though. Putting all these muscles to work also improves stability and posture, not to mention prevents injury in some of your body’s most important muscle groups.
Helpful Hint: Build up your deadlifting muscles with our Strength Gains Fitplan!
How to Deadlift With Proper Form
Before we get into resistance bands and other variants of the exercise, let’s talk about what exactly a conventional deadlift is. First, you’ll need a barbell with as much weight as you can lift to thigh level. Then you can follow these steps to perform a perfect deadlift:
Step Up to the Bar:Your feet should be about halfway underneath the bar. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart.
Grip the Bar:Place your hands just outside your legs. You can take an overhand grip with your palms down, or a mixed grip with one hand overhand and the other underhand with the palm facing up. Real pros use a hook grip where the thumb is between the fingers and the bar so the lifter can handle more weight.
Bend your knees so you can lower your arms and get the bar in the grip of your choice. This is your starting position.
Set the Bar:Keep your back straight, your head up, and try to push your chest out as if you were showing it to the wall in front of you. Pull up on the bar until you hear it clink against to top of the weight plates.
Lift the Bar: Making sure your back stays straight, engage your core, and move your hips forward so that you can lift the bar to your knees. Everything above this point is called lock-out. Once it’s there, keep going until it’s in front of your thighs.
At this point, you might want to drop the whole thing, but most gyms have a rule against that. You’re better off just reversing the movement to lower back into the starting position and then place the barbell back on the ground.
How to Use Resistance Bands for Strength Training
Resistance bands are the perfect way to get a good home workout without having to invest tons of money into expensive equipment. They’re lightweight, portable, and versatile. You can do tons of bodyweight exercises with nothing but a band.
You can also combine the constant tension provided by resistance bands with strength training that uses barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, or free weights. Using both will put even more pressure on your muscles, which should strain them more and increase hypertrophy.
Helpful Hint: Add resistance bands to the exercises in our Titan Challenge Fitplan for a heavy-duty workout!
There are a few ways you can add resistance bands to strength training exercises. You can wrap the band around parts of your body that aren’t getting activated like your lower body. If that’s not quite what you’re looking for, you can also attach bands in various ways to add more resistance.
For example, if you were doing a bicep curl, you could loop one end of the band around your foot and another around the weight. This way, each time you go through the concentric part of the move (lifting the dumbbell), the band will pull back against the motion and give you more of a workout.
The same principle applies to banded deadlifts. Since the barbell is bigger than the kettlebells or dumbbells typically used for a biceps curl, you’ll probably need to use two bands. But you can still anchor them to your feet for more resistance.
Health Benefits of Resistance Band Training
Because their elasticity kicks in at different places in a given workout, bands allow for something called variable resistance. If you’re just doing a simple pull apart, there is much more tension at the top of the move when your arms are further apart and less at the beginning, with a steady increase and a decrease on the back half.
Resistance training has many health benefits on its own. It promotes bone growth, boosts your cardiovascular function, staves off muscle loss, reduces body fat, and improves insulin sensitivity, among other things.
Adding resistance bands for more tension increases all these benefits. It’s kind of like adding more weight to your lift, but because of the variable resistance, you’ll be building more functional strength than you would be with standard weights alone.
Bodybuilders use this extra tension to get over plateaus in their muscle growth. Since deadlifts are a full-body workout, performing them with resistance bands will build muscle better virtually everywhere.
How to Prepare for a Banded Barbell Deadlift
Since deadlifting is such a unique compound exercise that has your upper body and lower body working together, it takes a full-body workout routine to efficiently build deadlift strength. Build training sessions with a few of the following exercises to build up the most important deadlift muscles if you’re trying to get to that first successful deadlift:
Single-Leg Deadlift with Kettlebell:The single-leg deadlift will work your core, quads, hamstrings, glutes, traps, and stabilizers in your back and shoulders.
Begin with the kettlebell on the floor a short distance away from you. Stand on your left foot and hinge at the hips so that you bend over toward the kettlebell. Your right leg should go out behind you.
Once your right leg and torso are parallel with the ground, you can pick up the kettlebell in your right hand. Return to the starting position and then continue the same hinging movement with the kettlebell in your right hand. Make sure you switch sides after you’re done with the reps on the other one.
Resistance Band Back Squat:This bodybuilding classic targets your hamstrings, quads, and glutes. It’s known as the king of leg lifts. If you can handle it with a barbell, go for it. But the banded version is great if you’re still trying to build up back squat strength.
Start with your feet more than hip-width apart on the bottom of a loop resistance band. Pull the other end of the resistance band with your hands and bring it over your head so it’s hovering above the back of your shoulders.
Make sure the band stays on your palms, which should be facing up. Put your hands near your shoulders like you were supporting a barbell. Next, sit back and lower yourself into the squat position. Once your thighs are parallel with the floor, you can rise back to complete one rep.
Helpful Hint: Check out more bodyweight resistance band exercises that build squat muscles in our Strong From Home Fitplan!
Banded Bench Press:If you aren’t already including the bench press in your strength training routine, you need to start. Bench presses turn your pecs into beasts and also the delts, triceps, biceps, and important forearm muscles. Adding resistance bands strengthens these muscles even more.
Banded bench presses are easy to set up, just make sure you have a friend or personal trainer to spot you because the bar comes back down fast when there’s tension on it from a resistance band.
Wrap one end of the band around one end of the barbell past the weight plate, then past the other side of the loop underneath the bench and wrap it around the other side of the bell. Next, get under the barbell and perform your bench press as usual. It’s that simple!
Banded Farmer’s Walk:When you first start doing this move, it might look like you’re just taking a stroll around the gym. But it will still build strength in your legs, core, and shoulder muscles.
Tie a resistance band around the handle of a kettlebell and then pick up the other end of the band so that the kettlebell is off the ground. Next, do as the name tells you and start walking. Take slightly bigger steps than your normal stride.
If you really want to make this move work for you, carry a kettlebell in each hand. You can also add a resistance band around your legs or ankles to get some extra lower-body resistance.
One-Arm Dumbbell Rows:These are a bit simpler than some of the other exercises on this list. All you need is a dumbbell that’s heavy enough to cause your muscles to strain and a bench. One-arm dumbbell rows build your biceps, shoulders, and upper back, which are all important for deadlifting.
Place your right leg and hand on the bench to balance yourself and take the dumbbell in your left hand. Your torso should be bent over and your lower back straight. Make sure your palm is facing your body.
Breathe in as you lift the weight to the side of your chest. At the top of the move, your elbow should be bent to a 90-degree angle. You should be performing this lift with your back muscles more than your biceps or any other muscle.
How to Do Banded Barbell Deadlifts
Once you’ve built the strength necessary to do a regular deadlift, you’ll have tons of time to keep beating your personal single-rep max. Congratulations!
But there will likely be times when you need a slightly more stressful deadlift to build even more muscle mass. The banded deadlift is kind of like how baseball players will take practice swings with a weighted donut on their bat – it’ll make the unbanded version a bit easier.
You can do banded deadlifts in a few ways. The most popular version involves looping two bands around your feet. Follow these steps to execute a banded barbell deadlift:
- While the barbell is on the floor, loop two resistance bands to the bar. Take the other end of the bands and loop them around your feet. Use resistance bands that are just long enough to cover the distance between your feet and the bar when it’s at your knees. That way there will be plenty of resistance on the lock-out portion of the deadlift.
- Put your feet halfway underneath the bar and hinge at the hips. Use your preferred grip to set the bar.
- Continue with a traditional deadlift as you normally would. You should feel the burn on the way up because of the tension from the bands.
Helpful Hint: Our Viking Strength & Function Fitplan will help you build tons of functional strength and killer muscle mass!
Variations of the Banded Barbell Deadlift
Some people prefer to loop the resistance bands around either side of the barbell and then secure the other ends with a rack or some other anchor point. Using this method can potentially add more tension throughout the move, especially the part before lock-out.
Another way to make sure the bands are adding maximum tension is to put the barbell on a raised platform and secure the bands to something on the ground. You can stand on a similar platform to make sure you’re still getting maximum strain out of the deadlift.
Common Deadlift Form Mistakes
Make sure you aren’t committing any of the following deadly sins of deadlift if you want to get the most out of the move:
Poor Foot Placement:Keep your feet somewhere between shoulder-width and hip-width apart. We know the deadlift makes you feel like a beast, but you don’t have to get into a power stance with your legs a mile apart.
Rounded Back & Shoulders:Ideally, your shoulder should be back and your shoulder blades should be together to help you maintain a neutral spine. Your spine should be straight, not rounded or curved forward or leaning backward.
Getting Into Squat Position:The deadlift is a hip-hinge motion, not a squat variation. That hip hinge is what makes deadlifting so effective at working out the posterior chain. Keep your chest up and your shoulders slightly bent, don’t let your butt stick out.
Too Far From The Bar:Your shins should be an inch or two away from the bar max. Your body will have to round its back to complete the move if you’re any farther away than that.
Safe Banded Deadlifts
Many people who are new to strength training exercises like a deadlift with the addition of resistance bands don’t realize how much tension can be created in the bands during the exercises.
You’re going to want to drop the bar back to the floor when you’re straining at the top of the move. Resist that temptation. Not only is all that weight a huge hazard to your feet and lower body, but most gyms will have you chucked out for all the commotion.
Not to mention you’ll be missing out on part of the deadlift. Slowly lowering the bar gives your muscles additional strain on the back end of the move and you don’t want to waste a second of that if you’re trying to make the most of your time at the gym.
Deadlifts are one of the best bodybuilding lifts out there because they work your entire posterior chain and activate muscles throughout your whole body. Resistance bands help add increasing tension throughout the move and make the workout that much more effective.
As long as you can perform banded deadlifts with the right form, you’re sure to see results in both muscle mass and functional strength. Use the tips and strength-building exercises in this guide to increase your lift max and build tons of strength and muscle.