Do Deadlifts Work Glutes?

January 8, 2023

Deadlifts are a popular exercise known for targeting the glutes and building strength in the lower body. But do deadlifts really work the glutes as effectively as we think?

Deadlifts work the glutes significantly and can be an excellent exercise for glute development. However, maximizing the deadlift for the glutes takes slowing down the eccentric portion.

If you need to modify the deadlift for better glute gains, are there better deadlift variations for targeting the butt?

Do Deadlifts Work Glutes?

Deadlifts do work the glutes significantly. It is considered the holy grail of posterior chain exercises targeting the glutes, hamstrings, and entire back musculature. The largest glute muscle, the gluteus maximus, is the primary muscle involved in hip extension, which falls under the deadlift movement pattern [1].

Further, the contributions from the glutes increases as the load lifted increases during the deadlift [2]. For example, glute contribution increases by 33% from 10% to 80% 1RM [3]. But muscle activation data only gets us so far.

One drawback of using the deadlift to get a bigger butt is that there is no eccentric portion. Typically, eccentric-concentric exercises (e.g., the Romanian deadlift) have better outcomes on strength than concentric-only exercises [4].

But making a slight modification to the deadlift can make all the difference in your glute growth.

Add Tempo During The Eccentric

To nail the glutes, you can perform your regular deadlift and then lower for a count of 3 to 5 seconds. This is how you can further target your glutes for growth. But it’s not the only benefit of doing this.

You’ll find your deadlift numbers skyrocket from strengthening the various positions during the deadlift.

Which Type Of Deadlift Is Best For Glutes?

Which Type Of Deadlift Is Best For Glutes

The best type of deadlift for giant glutes is the Romanian deadlift or the staggered stance Romanian deadlift. Both place the glutes through a full range of motion and loaded stretch maximizing the muscle-building response.

You can have a slightly greater knee bend to emphasize the glutes over the hamstrings. This will allow you to “sink” into the deadlift using the glutes instead of placing the hamstrings under a significant stretch.

Are Deadlifts For Glutes Or Back?

Deadlifts are for the glutes and back. But you’re probably asking this to know if you should place deadlifts on your back or leg day. Typically you will squat on a leg day, so placing the deadlift with the squat can be very taxing.

Therefore, you may place the deadlift on back day. However, as someone prioritizing physique development, you may not use the deadlift at all. Instead, you may use other variations, such as the rack pull, for overloading the back.

Are Deadlifts Better Than Squats For Glutes?

In my experience, while deadlifts are a hip hinge exercise, the squat is better for glute development because of the extreme stretch in the deep squat position and the eccentric contraction.

That doesn’t make the deadlift useless. But prioritizing the squat over the deadlift and using other variations like the Romanian deadlift is a better choice. Now, this may not be true for you. Some individuals have body structures that make their squats all quadriceps.

In this case, the deadlift may be a better option over the squat for the glutes.


The deadlift is a staple exercise for glute development. But if glute size is your primary goal, slowly lower the eccentric for 3-5 seconds and use other variations emphasizing a greater hip hinge. Such as the Romanian deadlift.


1. Neto, W. K., Soares, E. G., Vieira, T. L., Aguiar, R., Chola, T. A., de Lima Sampaio, V., & Gama, E. F. (2020). Gluteus maximus activation during common strength and hypertrophy exercises: A systematic review. Journal of sports science & medicine19(1), 195.

2. Beardsley, C., & Contreras, B. (2014). The increasing role of the hip extensor musculature with heavier compound lower-body movements and more explosive sport actions. Strength & Conditioning Journal36(2), 49-55.

3. Swinton, P. A., Stewart, A., Agouris, I., Keogh, J. W., & Lloyd, R. (2011). A biomechanical analysis of straight and hexagonal barbell deadlifts using submaximal loads. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research25(7), 2000-2009.

4. Dudley, G. A., Tesch, P. A., Miller, B. J., & Buchanan, P. (1991). Importance of eccentric actions in performance adaptations to resistance training. Aviation, space, and environmental medicine62(6), 543-550.

About the Author

I am a professional strength & conditioning coach that works with professional and international teams and athletes. I am a published scientific researcher and have completed my Masters in Sport & Exercise Science. I've combined my knowledge of research and experience to bring you the most practical bites to be applied to your training.

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