Deadlifts are such a HUGE exercise. They are right up there with squats when it comes to what I consider “must do” exercises. If you are in doubt about how many muscles deads hit, don’t do them for a few weeks and then go heavy. That’s what I did, and now my entire back, my traps, my glutes, my quads and my hamstrings are all on fire after Monday’s back workout. I know a lot of people don’t bother with deadlifts, and I think that’s a big mistake. Many people consider the squat the “king” of all exercises, but for my money the deadlift equals, and maybe even trumps, the squat. Of course I’m a little biased, because I love deadlifting.
If you’ve never done deads before, start very light. The deadlift is not a very technically demanding exercise, but you don’t want to do it wrong. All kinds of bad things will happen if you let your form slip. Keep your head up, your shoulders back and your back straight. Power up with your legs and do not let your back round out. If your back rounds, you’re going too heavy and will injure yourself. “Lock out” at the top of the movement by thrusting your hips out. I keep a slight bend in my knees. When you bring the bar down, keep it very close to your body – many deadlifters (myself included) will actually scrape the bar down their shins.
Of all the back exercises I do, the deadlift is the one that I believe is most responsible for my back development over the years.