Deadlifts and Your Biceps & Triceps

You can develop strong biceps by adding curls to your deadlifts.
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Deadlifts have long been a bodybuilding staple. They are one of the best strength-training moves you can do to develop the muscles in your lower back, hamstrings and glutes. When it comes to targeting your upper body during deadlifts, however, it takes a little more creativity. But with the right combination moves, you can get a powerful workout for both your lower and upper body -- specifically your biceps and triceps -- through either conventional or Romanian deadlifts.


Deadlifts can be done in a number of different ways. Conventional deadlifts are done with a barbell or set of dumbbells and primarily work the lower back as you grasp a bar or set of dumbbells and lower and lift your body in a movement similar to a squat but with an emphasis on bending at your hips more than your knees. Another of the basic deadlift variations is the Romanian deadlift -- sometimes called the straight-leg deadlift – which focuses on the hamstrings. Instead of bending your knees, you keep your legs slightly bent but stiff throughout the lowering and lifting motion and your back remains straight while all of the bending comes from the torso. Typically the biceps and triceps are not greatly engaged in the movements other than to hold the weight.

Deadlifts and Biceps

If you want to work your biceps in tandem with your deadlifts, the best way is to incorporate a biceps curl at the end of the lifting motion. For both conventional and Romanian deadlifts, lift the weight as you normally would, but continue the motion once you’ve reached the upright position by curling the weight to your chest. Lower the weight back down to the extended position and then repeat another deadlift and curl. The main obstacle with this combination is finding the right weight. You might be able to deadlift a higher weight than you curl, so your weight total may have to be reduced.

Deadlifts and Triceps

When performing deadlifts, the triceps aren’t as easy to target as the biceps, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. The best way to combine a triceps move with your deadlifts is to add on a triceps kickback as you are lowering the weight. From the standing position, bend slightly your torso and perform kickbacks with your dumbbells and then lower into your deadlift returning your focus to the lower body. Once you return to the standing position, repeat the motion. Again, because the triceps may not be able to lift as much as your lower body, you may have to reduce the amount of weight you use. And due to the nature of the movement, you will have to use dumbbells instead of a bar.


Because these moves are less conventional, you will need to perform them with caution. Maintain good form throughout the motion and keep your core engaged to prevent excess strain on your lower back. If you experience pain during your deadlifts, stop the set and consult with a trainer or your doctor. Never use more weight than you can safely handle and consult with your physician before beginning this or any new workout routine.

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