Are Deadlifts & Pullups All You Need?

The pullup is a challenging body-weight exercise.
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Deadlifts and pullups are staple exercises in any strength-training or muscle-building routine. They can even be part of your fat-loss program and help you sculpt the ultimate beach body. The two exercises hit many of your major muscle groups, so if you choose only two exercises to perform, choose deadlifts and pullups. Ideally, however, you should have a few more exercises in your routine.

Muscles Worked

    Deadlifts and pullups are both back exercises. Deadlifts hit the lower part of your back along with your glutes, hamstrings, adductors and core, while pullups work your upper back, traps, forearms and biceps. This covers a huge portion of your body, but your quads, chest and triceps don't get much of a workout, meaning you will need other exercises unless you want a brilliant back but a flabby front.


    Deadlifts are possibly the queen of strength exercises. No other exercise builds functional strength like the deadlift, writes trainer and powerlifter Nia Shanks in her article "Ode to Deadlifts." Forget running on the treadmill or a circuit class; that feeling of ripping a heavy barbell from the floor and hearing the plates crash down on completion of a successful rep is guaranteed to get you grinning from ear to ear. Not many women can perform strict pullups, and if you can do so, you will be the envy of the gym. Performing body-weight pullups should be a goal for any gym-goer, according to Sally Moss, strength coach at Ultimate Performance Gym in London.

Missed Muscle Groups

    You need to work your chest, writes trainer Shannon Clark on Doing so improves your upper-body appearance and can help prevent injuries. You don't need a ton of exercises -- pushups, bench presses or dumbbell presses all work your chest. Your quads get no stimulation from pullups and only a little from deadlifts, so add in squats, lunges or step-ups to bring your quads up to par. Performing exercises for your quads and chest will give you a much more balanced physique and reduce your risk of injuries. Do one chest- and quad-focused session each week with two exercises for each muscle group; perform each for three sets of eight to 12 reps.


    If time is of the essence, a routine containing deadlifts, pullups, one chest exercise and one quad exercise can give you a fantastic physique with minimum training time. Perform this workout three times per week with a day of rest between each session. Start with three sets of eight to 12 repetitions on each. Do pullups on an assisted machine if you can't manage full body-weight versions of the exercise. Aim to increase the weight you lift or the number of reps at each workout.

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