How many calories do you burn with deadlifts ?

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Last updated on January 30, 2024

Calories Burnt whilst Deadlifting

The deadlift is one of the best exercises for building power, strength training and muscle growth. It’s also great at improving functional movement patterns that translate into better mobility and sports performance. As part of the big three weight training exercises alongside the bench press and squat, deadlifts are often a training staple of powerlifters, bodybuilders, and recreational gym-goers.

Whilst the benefits of deadlifts are well-known, the amount of calories burned is not. In this article I explain how many calories are burned whilst deadlifting, the muscles worked, common mistakes to avoid, and deadlift variations.

Short Answer –

The deadlift is an effective exercise for calorie burn. On average you can burn between 3 to 10 calories for each rep depending on how much weight is lifted and the deadlift variation.

The is range is explained by Harvard Health.

 

Using the MET equation below can give you a good idea of how many calories you burn for each rep at a given body weight. If you’re an 80 kg individual deadlifting for 30 minutes, you’ll burn around 240 calories.

How Many Calories Are Burnt when Deadlifting?

A standard deadlift is a compound exercise meaning it involves multiple muscle groups working together to perform each repetition correctly. This makes the deadlift a high-intensity exercise and a great way for your body to burn calories and ultimately achieve fat loss.

The calories you burn when deadlifting can depend on several factors including the volume, intensity, the deadlift variation, and your metabolic rate.

Your Weight

Although this doesn’t seem very logical, the heavier you are the more calories you burn. As a heavier individual, it takes more energy to move a larger amount of mass than it does for someone smaller. Therefore, you burn more calories. The same applies to moving through the deadlift.

Your Basal Metabolic Rate

Your metabolic rate is the amount of energy you are expending at any given point in time. More specifically, it can be the minimum amount of energy needed to sustain vital body processes at rest or the amount used when exercising.

Factors influencing your metabolic rate include your age, gender, muscle-to-fat percentage, and hormone levels.

Alongside this, your body needs to restore oxygen, remove lactic acid, and create more energy after deadlifting. This is known as your excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. This takes energy and therefore calories and varies between individuals.

Deadlift Type

Multiple types of deadlifts exist which vary in movement pattern and therefore muscle recruitment. Whilst there isn’t much difference in calories burned, it’s still worth mentioning.

Deadlift Intensity

Changing the intensity of the deadlift will undoubtedly change the amount of calories you burn. If you load more weight onto the bar, you need to work harder to perform the same movement and therefore burn more calories.

The same goes for if you add volume. You’re performing more work for a longer period meaning that you’ll use more energy.

How to Calculate the Number of Calories Burned

Before you can calculate the number of calories burned when deadlifting, you need to know what the MET value is. Met stands for ‘The metabolic equivalent of a task’ which simply means how much energy you expend when doing an activity or exercise.

Calculating the MET value of a deadlift can then tell you how many calories you burn per hour of deadlifting for each kilogram of body weight. A single MET can be defined as the amount of oxygen used at rest which is approximately 3.5 ml per kilogram of body weight (3.5 ML O2/ KG BW) each minute.

According to the compendium of physical activities which gives the METs of different exercises, vigorous physical training such as powerlifting, bodybuilding, and weightlifting has a MET value of 6. This means that the MET value of a deadlift is 6.

Now that you know the MET value, you’ll need your weight in kilograms. To do this, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2:

Weight (lbs) ÷ 2.2 = Weight (kgs)

Time should be classed as follows:

1 hour = 1

30 minutes = 0.5

15 minutes = 0.25

Once you have these values, all you need to do to work out the calories burned in your deadlift session is put the values into the equation below:

MET X KG X Time = Calories Burned

E.G. An 80kg male deadlifting for 30 minutes =

6 x 80 x 0.5 = 240 calories 

If you want to calculate how many calories your body burns for every deadlift rep, divide the number of calories burned over the deadlift period by the number of sets by the number of repetitions performed.

The equation for the same 240-calorie session above would look like this:

240 calories ÷ 3 sets ÷ 8 repetitions = 10 calories

How to Deadlift?

The deadlift is simply one of the most effective weight lifting exercises in the gym. While it gets a bad rap for being unsafe or causing injuries, it will only do this if you don’t use the proper form below. The deadlift is the king of compound exercises, utilizing most muscles and demands a great deal of respect.

 

Deadlift with a Barbell, Conventional

This is the one we most often see in the gym and online. A great place to start, and something that you can easily overload and progress on for years to come.

  1. Grab a barbell (and weight if you’d like) and place it on the floor, adding safety clips to the sides of the weights if you choose to use them.
  2. Stand with your feet slightly underneath the bar, shoulder width apart. Your shins should not be touching the bar.
  3. Bend down, and grab the bar shoulder width apart. Make sure to grip the bar firmly.
  4. Contract the scapula by pulling your shoulders back, chest out.
  5. Contract the lats by pulling the shoulders down, sort of “closing your armpits”.
  6. With your feet pointing slightly out, press through your legs and lift the bar off the ground.
  7. Continue lifting until you are upright. Do not overextend the hips, and do not bend your arms.
  8. Lower the bar by bending back down in the same manner, and set it down. That’s one rep.

Sumo Deadlifts

Instead of standing with your legs shoulder-width apart and your arms outside of them, a sumo deadlift involves a wide stance with your arms gripping the barbell on the inside which places more emphasis on your glutes.

  1. Assume an ultra-wide stance with your toes facing outwards. Make sure your shins are perpendicular to the floor.
  2. Grip the barbell with your arms just inside of shoulder width. With your chest up and head looking forward, brace your core and take the slack out of the bar.
  3. Much like conventional deadlifts, drive your heels through the floor and pull the barbell up your shins whilst keeping the same back and chest position.
  4. Once your knees are fully extended, pause briefly and return to the starting position.

Romanian Deadlift

Unlike the conventional deadlift, the Romanian version uses less knee flexion meaning more emphasis is placed on your posterior chain muscles (glutes and hamstrings).

  1. Assume the same starting position as the conventional deadlift with your feet shoulder-width apart and pointing slightly outward.
  2. Make sure the barbell is directly underneath your body close to your shins.
  3. Push your hips backward and go to grip the bar. You should feel a stretch in your hamstrings.
  4. With your core engaged, push your hips forward whilst bringing the barbell up your shins.
  5. Pause briefly at the top and return to the starting position whilst keeping a slight knee bend. Your chest should be up at all times and you should feel a stretch in your hamstrings throughout the movement.

Deadlift with a Dumbell

Dumbbells can be very useful in the way that they’ll show imbalances in your body easier than a barbell would.

  1. Place two dumbbells on the floor, as you stand slightly further than shoulder width apart, dumbbells between your feet.
  2. Bend down by bending your legs and grab the dumbbells firmly.
  3. Contract the scapula by pulling your shoulders back, chest out.
  4. Contract the lats by pulling the shoulders down, sort of “closing your armpits”.
  5. With your feet pointing slightly out, press through your legs and lift the bar off the ground.
  6. Continue lifting until you are upright. Do not overextend the hips, and do not bend your arms.
  7. Lower the dumbbells by bending back down in the same manner, and set it down. That’s one rep.

Muscles worked in the Deadlift

A deadlift is a hip-dominant movement that works your posterior chain. This consists of the muscles at the back of your entire body which are your glutes, hamstrings, erector spinae, lats, and posterior delts. Other secondary movers such as your quads and upper body are engaged at parts and can depend on the deadlift variation.

Quadriceps

Help with the initial pull off the ground. Decrease engagement as the barbell rises up

Hamstrings

Work alongside the glutes to help push the hips forward and keep your body upright throughout the movement

Glutes

Function to push the hips forward as you pull the barbell up

Core Muscles

Work to create intra-abdominal pressure, keeping a tight body position and reducing stress on your lumbar spine

Lats

Work alongside your traps and rhomboid to keep your body upright and shoulder girdle stable

The reason a deadlift is so demanding is because it requires multiple lower body muscles and some upper body muscles to coordinate together to perform the movement correctly. Alongside this stabilizer and accessory muscles also play smaller but important roles.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

here are a lot. Yes, the deadlift is the king, however if done with the correct form it could have dire consequences. Here are some things to watch out for:

Rounding of the back

While a normal curvature of the back is acceptable, a sudden change in back angle is asking for an injury.

Not engaging the core

Keeping a tight body position by bracing your core prevents you from placing too much load on your lumbar spine region. Make sure to brace your core before pulling and keep it engaged throughout

Lying back too much

When pulling the bar off the ground, aim to push your heels through the floor. This allows you to generate as much force as possible and helps you to engage the relevant muscles before lifting.

Wearing the wrong shoes

If you struggle with mobility, a weightlifting shoe with a heel lift may help you to develop the correct lifting technique whilst you work on it.

If you prefer to feel contact with the ground which is the better option when deadlifting, go with a flat-soled shoe.

Too much weight too soon

Make sure to perform an appropriate warm-up before adding weight to the bar. Include the relevant hip mobility exercises and don’t add heavy weights too soon to prevent injury. Do heavy deadlifts when you have mastered the previous weight.

Straightening the legs too soon

Keep your legs bent until the bar passes halfway up your thighs.

If the deadlift is a relatively new exercise you are doing or you are planning to challenge yourself and increase the amount of weight you deadlift, you may want to consider using a personal trainer for a few sessions to ensure you perform the exercise correctly so that you get better results when you are doing the deadlift on your own. Furthermore, always ensure you have sufficient rest time between sets for recovery.

Conclusion

The traditional deadlift is one of the best compound movements to workout major muscle groups and should form a staple part of your workout routine. The calories you burn when deadlifting depends on several factors including your weight, body composition, age, and deadlift variable. The MET equation above is the best way to work out the approximate amount of calories burned for each deadlift workout session. This will allow you to plan your weight loss goals and achieve the lean body mass you want in a realistic timeframe.

Make sure you know the proper technique for a deadlift to avoid injury, for example lower back pain, which will be more serious when you do heavier weights. Always start with lighter weights to perfect your form.

Steve Theunissen has qualified from the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) and is a certified Personal Trainer and Nutritionist. He has over 30 years experience in fitness and nutrition and currently working with famous fitness professionals. He is currently living in New Zealand with is wife and daughter.

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