If You Could Only Do One Lift For the Rest of your Life… (2015)

If You Could Only Do One Lift For the Rest of your Life… (2015)

If You Could Only Do One Lift For the Rest of your Life…

Besides frequently asked gym questions like; “How much do you bench press?” or “How much can you squat?”, one of the other most popular questions are; If you could only pick one lift to do for the rest of your life what would it be?

While some people may have different views and opinions on this let me say that you would have to be very smart about your decision and pick a compound movement that pretty much hits the full body. The squat is a great option but it targets the lower body to a great degree and the upper body will lag after a while. The bench wouldn’t be smart because your lower body would lag behind along with your back and you will eventually get shoulder problems. Cleans or snatches would be good options because they work the full body as a unit but I would personally pick something else, can you guess it?


The deadlift works the whole body as a unit, nothing gets left behind and the muscles from your neck all the way down to your calves get some stimulation. Now, this doesn’t mean that they will all get stimulated equally because I wouldn’t call the deadlift a chest or bicep exercise but most muscles in the body will get hit.

When I say the deadlift, I ‘m referring to the conventional deadlift where your feet are shoulder width apart and so are your hands. The deadlift is good for developing:

Traps + Upper Back + Neck


Erector Spinae








It is also a great exercise for overall strength and improving your posture. Strong glutes and hamstrings are critical for help you prevent or rehab knee pain too. If you aren’t deadlifting then you are leaving a lot of potential on the table for yoked traps, thick lats and a powerful and thick posterior chain. You see, every exercise is a tool but that doesn’t mean that you have to use every exercise and it’s very hard to go wrong with the basics. I know that not everybody was made to deadlift but there are many variations to choose from, some people like RDL’s, Rack Pulls, Sumo Deadlifts, Snatch Grip Pulls…etc

In the long run I think that the results will be subpar, the important thing is that you pick one deadlift variation where you are able to still go heavy and load up some weight on the bar while still making progress. I honestly think that if all you did was deadlift then you would still have a great body.

I see a lot of new people in gyms nowadays and they say that they want to gain weight but they are doing all of these small isolation exercises that are barely doing anything. When you get too caught up in details you don’t get anything done, you have to focus on the big picture and then focus on the details later on, isolation exercises have their place but they shouldn’t make up the bulk of your program.

Common questions

I am a beginner and I want to deadlift from the floor but I can’t seem to keep a neutral spine, what do I do?

If this is the case, then you can set up the bar higher up in the squat rack at about knee level (like a rack pull) and practice on keeping your lower back straight from there. As you improve you can set the pins a bit lower and after a few weeks you will be able to pull safely from the floor.

How many times can I deadlift per week?

If you are a beginner you can deadlift 2-3x per week (mon-wed-fri) to practice your form and technique but as you get stronger you will have to lower the frequency. If you can deadlift 500lb then chances are that the lift will take a lot out of you and you might only be able to deadlift once per week. Some people who deadlift even more than 500lb deadlift only twice per month!

There isn’t one clear cut answer because it all depends on your recovery abilities. You have to see what works for you and it is up to you to find out what your body can handle and what it can’t.

Can I get a big back without doing pull-ups and rows?

Definitely, I have met people who don’t do rows or pull-ups but they deadlift heavy and they have huge backs! The back has to handle a lot of pounds and it has to find a way to adapt so it has no choice but to grow. On the flip side, you can still get a big back without deadlifts but you would have to get very strong on heavy rows and weighted pull-ups. I say why not include all 3 to get the best of all worlds, some Olympic lifting variations like high pulls are great to add in for upper back thickness as well.

Does the deadlift develop the quads?

To a certain degree yes, but not optimally to give it too much growth. The deadlift is more of a posterior chain movement which works more of your glutes, hamstrings and lower back but the quads are still involved if you use leg drive. The quads may be more involved in other deadlift variations such as snatch grip deadlifts and sumo deadlifts but generally speaking if you want big quads then you should squat. The squat is known as the king of lower body exercises but the deadlift is the king of full body movements (at least in my opinion).


I am not telling you to only deadlift but I am saying that it is a very valuable exercise that doesn’t beat around the bush, when you deadlift heavy you are getting a lot of work done as opposed to going to the gym and just going from machine to machine.

If you have a healthy lower back and healthy joints then there is no reason why you shouldn’t be deadlifting, take advantage because although deadlifts are hard, the results will be worth it. A lot of people over train their chest and arms, but a deadlifter really stands out from the crowd…

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