Does Deadlifting Work Abs? Yes, Here’s How

do deadlifts work abs

The deadlift is a staple in the sport of powerlifting and is often used to build strength, power, and muscle mass in athletes and recreational lifters alike. It is a popular resistance exercise that works the back, legs, and glutes, among other muscle groups. It is also effective at strengthening the abs and other core muscles.

People often call the deadlift the “king of exercises” because it simultaneously engages so many different muscle groups. It is an excellent exercise for working the rest of the body together with the abs. So whether one is a competitive athlete looking to improve their performance or just looking to get in shape and build a strong and healthy body, the deadlift is worth adding to the workout routine.

How Exactly Does the Deadlift Work the Abdominals?

The answer is that the abdominal muscles do play a crucial role in supporting the spine during a deadlift.

The rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, and obliques are activated to keep the body stable and upright while lifting the weight. Additionally, the abs help transfer power from the lower body to the upper body, making them an essential part of the deadlift movement.

deadlift front view

These muscles are activated during the deadlift to help keep the back from arching while lifting the weight. One way the deadlift works the abs is by demanding a high level of core stability during the exercise. The muscles in the abs and core must work to keep the body in a stable and upright position, which requires the abs to contract and support the spine. This can help protect the spine and prevent injuries during the deadlift.

The abs, or abdominal muscles, are a group of muscles that are part of the body’s core and provide support for the spine.

The rectus abdominis, which is often referred to as the “six-pack” muscles, is a long muscle that runs vertically down the front of the abdomen. They are responsible for flexing the spine and helping to bring the ribcage closer to the pelvis. During the deadlift, the rectus abdominis keeps the spine in a neutral position and prevents it from rounding or arching excessively

The transverse abdominis is a deep muscle located within the abdominal region. It runs horizontally around the waist and is often referred to as the “corset muscle” due to its ability to compress and support the abdominal contents.

In addition to providing structural support to the abdomen, the transverse abdominis also plays a vital role in the deadlift exercise. It helps to stabilize the spine and pelvis during the lift and acts as a link between the lower and upper body, helping to transfer power from the legs to the arms and back. 

The obliques, a group of muscles on the sides of the abdomen, play an essential role in supporting the spine during the deadlift exercise. They help to stabilize and maintain proper alignment of the spine and can help to prevent excessive side-to-side or rotational movement.

deadlift back view

These muscles also assist in the lateral flexion or bending of the spine, allowing the body to move and bend in different directions. In addition to supporting the spine during the deadlift, the obliques also help improve overall core strength and stability, which can have numerous benefits for overall physical health and performance. 

It is worth noting that the abs are not the only muscles in the core that are activated during the deadlift. The erector spinae, a group of muscles that run along the spine, also plays a role in supporting the spine and helping to maintain proper posture. In addition, the glutes, or butt muscles, are also heavily involved in the deadlift, as they help to extend the hips and provide power to lift the weight.

The deadlift works the abs by activating the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, and obliques as they work to support the spine and maintain proper posture. These muscles, along with the erector spinae and glutes, are all crucial to the appropriate execution of the deadlift and help to make it such an effective exercise for strengthening the core.

A study published in the Journal of Physical Education Research found that the deadlift can significantly increase muscle strength and size in the abs and core (Valleser et al., 2017). In addition, the researchers found that the deadlift targeted the rectus abdominis, the muscle responsible for the “six-pack” appearance.

It is important to remember that these studies only measured muscle activation, and more research is needed to fully understand the effect of the deadlift on the growth and strength of trunk muscles. However, these studies’ results suggest that the deadlift is an effective exercise for working the abs and other core muscles.

Varying the types of deadlifts and the resistance levels used can also help to challenge the abs and promote muscle growth, as shown in a study by Martin-Fuentes, et al. Variations such as sumo deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, and single-leg deadlifts can target the abs in different ways. In addition, different resistance levels, such as lighter weights for higher reps or heavier weights for lower reps, can also help challenge the abs.

Are Deadlifts Enough for Strong Abs?

Core work is essential to any strength training program, as a strong core can provide a solid foundation for movement and help prevent injuries. However, the question of whether or not deadlifts alone are sufficient for developing a solid core is more complex. While deadlifts can undoubtedly contribute to core strength, they may not be enough. 

The core muscles are a group of muscles located in the torso that provide stability and support for the spine and pelvis. The core muscles work together to maintain proper posture, balance, and stability and are involved in almost all body movements.

Another critical factor to consider when determining whether or not deadlifts alone are sufficient for developing a strong core is the intensity of the deadlifts. For example, if the deadlifts are performed with heavy weights, they may provide adequate core stimulation. But if the deadlifts are done with lighter weights or bad form, they might not challenge the core muscles enough.

While deadlifts can undoubtedly contribute to core strength, they may not be enough on their own to fully develop the core muscles. It is generally recommended to include a variety of core exercises in a well-rounded strength training program to fully develop the core muscles and improve overall core strength and stability.

Some examples of core exercises include planks, Russian twists, bicycle crunches, and mountain climbers. These exercises work the abdominal and oblique muscles well and also engage the muscles of the lower back. They can help improve the strength and stability of the core as a whole.

Final Thoughts

The deadlift is a great exercise to add to any workout routine, whether the goal is to build a strong core or to improve one’s overall strength and fitness. Make sure to use proper form and start with a weight appropriate for your fitness level to avoid injury. With consistent training and the right form, the deadlift can help individuals get in shape and build a strong, healthy body.

  1. Valleser CW, Santos Jr GS. Effect of deadlift training on core strength in previously-Untrained males. Silliman Journal. 2016;57(1).
  2. Martin-Fuentes I, Oliva-Lozano JM, Muyor JM. Electromyographic activity in deadlift exercise and its variants. A systematic review. PLoS One. 2020 Feb 27;15(2):e0229507.
  3. Hamlyn N, Behm DG, Young WB. Trunk muscle activation during dynamic weight-training exercises and isometric instability activities. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 2007 Nov 1;21(4):1108-12.