How are deadlifts a compound/leg exercise?


It seems like the “prime mover” muscle in a dead lift is the lower back.
Everything else in a deadlift appears to be stationary, or “isometric contraction” at most (I think). Please tell me if im wrong!

In: 2

Compound exercises use the muscles at two or more joints to complete the lift. In order to be a compound exercise both joints must move at the same time so that the load is shared.

In a deadlift the joints are the knees and the hips. The lifter focuses on pushing the ground away (using their quads to extend the knee joint) while driving their hips forward (using their glutes & hamstrings to extend the hip joint). At no point should you focus on using your lower back.

When done correctly, the legs initiate the movement, the back remains static until after the bar passes the knees, then the hips come forward, back shifts upright and knees lock out (but not completely). Almost as if you just standing up from squatting position.

What most people also do no realize is that, the core muscles are the connection between the hips, leg and back. If the core isn’t properly utilized, the deadlift is done incorrectly, when moderate to heavy weights are used.


Former power lifter competitor, and current world record deadlift holder (for my age group and weight class).

Also am a ACE certified national personal trainer.

First off, I think it’s important to note that there are different types of deadlifting, but between conventional and sumo, deadlifts use %85 of muscles in your body when done correctly.

As already noted above, hips and knees drive the movement, and the load is shared throughout %85 the body (at different times throughout the movement). ~%45 of this should be your core, as it should be engaged the entire lift (many people don’t realize this)!

The part of deadlifts being a compound leg exercise is predominantly the moment between picking up the bar from the ground, and performing the hip hinge. This exercises the hamstrings and quads immensely.

Isometric contractions moreso consist of squeezing your muscle area to “activate”/warm up your muscle in an area. Ex. Weak glutes when squatting —> isometrics for glutes before squatting.

Happy lifting!

Prime mover in the deadlift is the glutes and hamstrings. The low back is largely held in isometric contraction.

A compound exercise means that there is significant movement across 2 or more joints. In the cause of the deadlift, the hips and knees.

Compound and “leg” are not the same thing.