I’m sure those of you training for hypertrophy want to know, “Are Deadlifts Necessary For Aesthetics?”
Firstly, deadlifts are a fantastic exercise, of that there is no doubt.
However, do they really play a role if you’re training purely for aesthetics?
There are a few schools of thought on this.
So, I’d like to discuss these in further detail.
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Are Deadlifts Necessary For Aesthetics?
Deadlifts are not necessary for great aesthetics. In fact, there is no “one lift” that is absolutely necessary to produce a fantastic physique. Deadlifts are primarily performed to build strength. They provide a poor range of motion in many of the major muscle groups. Plus, conventional heavy deadlifts offer no eccentric phase to the lift. When it comes to aesthetics and building muscle, range of motion and the eccentric phase are extremely important. Furthermore, there are better options to train the posterior chain that are less demanding on the body.
1. Deadlifts Are Primarily a Strength-Builder
You’ll typically hear many different views on the importance of deadlifts.
There are those who wouldn’t dream of not performing the deadlift on a regular basis.
Whereas, there are others who simply can’t come to grips with the conventional deadlift.
However, one thing’s for sure, deadlifts are a great compound lift.
By this I mean, there are few exercises that will hit as many muscles of the body at the same time.
With that being said, due to the demands on the body and the Central Nervous System, you wouldn’t generally want to perform deadlifts for high reps.
This is why they are viewed primarily as a strength exercise.
Deadlifts work great in a 5 sets of 5 reps, 6 sets of 4 reps, or 8 sets of 3 reps, format.
Basically, you’re trying to lift as much weight as possible, while keeping your reps low.
Now, I wouldn’t view building strength and building muscle as two entirely different entities.
You can definitely strength-train and pack on a LOT of muscle.
However, your muscles will not usually be as well-defined if you focused more on specific exercises for hypertrophy.
2. Deadlifts Provide a Poor Range of Motion
Now, I definitely don’t want to bash deadlifts, they happen to be one of my favourite exercises.
Plus, they certainly hit a huge number of muscles in the body.
However, from a purely aesthetical point of view they may not hit the muscles well enough.
By this I mean that there are other exercises that will hit the major muscle groups to far greater effect.
More on this in a moment.
But, the one thing when it comes to muscle-building is that deadlifts provide a poor range of motion.
And if you’re looking for an eye-pleasing physique then you want to go through the full range of motion with most exercises.
Okay, I accept that half-reps, forced-reps, negative-only reps have their part to play in building muscle.
But, in the main you would want to complete both the lifting and lowering phase of an exercise to fully work a muscle.
If we look at some of the major muscle groups you can see where deadlifts fall short.
For both the mid-back and traps you simply perform an isometric contraction.
Therefore, there is no range of motion from deadlifts for these muscle groups.
The quads and the lats only receive a very short range of motion.
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So, in effect, some of the biggest muscles in the body, those which are vital for an aesthetically-pleasing physique, will not be trained as well as they could be.
3. There is No Eccentric Phase With Deadlifts
I’ve just mentioned that taking an exercise through its full range of motion will involve a lifting (concentric) and lowering (eccentric) phase.
However, when it comes to deadlifts there is no eccentric phase.
In the main, you pick a heavy load off the floor and then drop it back down again.
When it comes to performing any exercise it is the eccentric phase that actually builds muscle.
This is why you should always concentrate on just as much on the negative portion of a lift if you’re training for hypertrophy.
Far too often I see lifters have a smooth and controlled lifting phase, only to drop the weight back down.
Unfortunately, you are leaving a huge amount of muscle growth out of the equation by doing this.
It doesn’t matter if it’s the bench press, squats, bicep curls, or pull ups, you should always control the negative.
When it comes to deadlifts there is definitely no controlled eccentric phase.
Your aim is simply to pull as much weight as possible off the floor, and then your job’s done.
Importance of The Eccentric Phase of an Exercise
4. No “One Lift” is Necessary to Build a Great Physique
I’m just going to come out and say it, there is no “one lift” that is absolutely necessary to build a fantastic-looking physique.
You don’t have to bench press.
There’s no need to squat.
No-one is forcing you to do rows.
Who said you have to overhead press?
And there’s definitely no requirement to deadlift.
I’ve just mentioned what are probably the 5 greatest compound exercises.
Pound-for-pound these movements will give you the biggest bang for your buck/
However, you still don’t have to perform any or ALL of them to produce an awesome looking physique.
The question you should pose to yourself is, “Am I getting better results when I deadlift?”
If you answer in the affirmative then carry on doing them.
But, if you feel you’re not getting much out of them, or they’re hampering your progress, then drop the deadlift from your repertoire.
There is no “must-do” exercise out there, and every movement has an equally fantastic alternative.
5. There Are Other Options to Work the Posterior Chain
I’ve already mentioned that deadlifts hit a huge number of muscles in the body.
Okay, some only through a short range of motion, whereas others only go through isometric contraction.
However, deadlifts definitely hit the posterior chain extremely well.
They are mainly seen as a hip-hinge exercise that focuses on the glutes and hamstrings.
Now, let me tell you something for nothing, the posterior chain, and especially the glutes and hamstrings, is where it’s all at if you’re looking for an aesthetically-pleasing body.
When it comes to looking good there is far too much emphasis placed on the show muscles at the front of the body.
Go on, admit it, you probably bench and bicep curl far more than you should.
However, the glutes happen to be the largest muscle in the body.
So, no matter what you’re trying to achieve physique-wise, it makes sense to train the biggest muscles.
This is true if you’re trying to lose weight, burn fat, gain strength, or build muscle.
With that being said, I think there are some far better alternatives if you want to perform hip hinge exercises that will hammer your posterior chain.
Plus, most of these exercises won’t be as exhausting for the body and Central Nervous System as conventional deadlifts.
Some of my favourites include:
- Power Cleans
- Power Snatches
- Romanian Deadlifts
- Good Mornings
A good mixture of explosive power and muscle-building movements here.
Not only will these exercises train the hip-hinge movement and the posterior chain, they’ll make you look damn good.
Hip-Hinge Based Exercises
So, as you can see, deadlifts certainly aren’t necessary if you’re training for aesthetics.
Yes, they’re a fantastic exercise, but deadlifts typically focus far more on strength than hypertrophy.
This is evidenced by their poor range of motion and the lack of an eccentric phase of the lift.
It’s also important to realise that there is no lift that is absolutely necessary for you to perform.
It’s more a case of whether an exercise provides you personally with some benefit.
Plus, if you’re looking to work your posterior chain there are other alternatives that won’t completely wipe you out.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.