What muscles do deadlifts work?  Well first and foremost, let's just put it straight out there; deadlifts are, without a doubt, the king of exercises. 

They are an extremely powerful compound exercise that engages multiple muscle groups when executed correctly.  Deadlift muscles include your largest and fastest growing muscle groups as well as other smaller yet equally important muscle groups.  And by the time you're done reading this post, you'll appreciate the hell out of them!

To begin with, it’s probably easier to show and then tell, so see deadlift muscles worked below:


Deadlift muscles worked

*Secondary for all deadlifts

What muscles do deadlifts work in sumo stance?

This is an excellent question because it should be noted that while all deadlifts are awesome; they are not equal.  

In fact, each deadlift variation places additional emphasis on a different set of muscle groups.  This is beneficial because it allows you to alter your workouts to fit your desired outcomes.

To put this variation into perspective; sumo deadlifts will place far more emphasis on your legs, namely your quads, hamstrings and of course your glutes. 


Sumo deadlift

The above illustration tells us that sumo deadlifts are an excellent choice for anyone who is keen to build additional mass on their legs.  Particularly their quads, glutes and hamstrings as we have previously mentioned.

What muscles do deadlifts work: Romanian deadlift?

Finally, the Romanian deadlift also known as a ‘stiff legged deadlift’ places additional emphasis in the posterior chain.  In short; this is all of the muscles that run down your back, particularly your glutes, hamstrings and lower back.

Romanian deadlift muscles used are highlighted and listed below…


Romanian deadlift

The Romanian deadlift is an excellent back strength builder.  Therefore, if you adopt this deadlift style, it will go a long way towards building your strength and power on many other exercises. 

Furthermore; the Romanian deadlift is potentially the most superior deadlifting technique for both functionality and strength. 

Check out; Romanian Deadlift: Why You Shouldn’t Neglect This Power Move for a more detailed explanation.

Deadlift muscles used conclusion

And there you have it.  The answer to the question; what muscled do deadlifts work? 

In summary:  Most of them! 

And in hindsight, it would have been far simpler to answer the question; what muscles do deadlifts not work?!  

As a final and side note, it is worth pointing out that the muscles highlighted on the variations above are the primary muscles targeted for that particular variation.  All deadlifts will recruit multiple secondary muscle groups as per the first illustration on this post; consider the secondary muscle groups a bonus!

Ultimately, deadlifts are an extremely powerful move, no matter which variation you choose. 

With that said, we recommend you do them all, at some point.  Because there are few other exercises that will allow you to heavily load any of the above mentioned muscle groups in the same way.  So take advantage of this opportunity and use it to its full potential!