The deadlift, in my opinion, is the ultimate feminine lift. Many would argue the squat is the most feminine because of its booty-building effects but I find the deadlift works the glutes much harder. In addition, the deadlift also builds the back-extending and shoulder-retracting muscles, giving you elegant, confident posture that is seriously lacking in today’s world.
Feminine Benefits of Deadlifts
Deadlifts heavily target the glutes and hamstrings which are active contractions with static contractions of the lower back, upper back, forearms, and calves.
Whether you’d like to build your powerful feminine thighs or minimize them, the contribution from hamstrings can be adjusted on a spectrum as desired (see Tip #1 below).
The static contraction of the upper and lower back are also fantastic for building posture. Better posture not only makes you appear more feminine, elegant, and ladylike on the outside, but also simply correcting your back to have better posture has been scientifically shown to improve your confidence . It’s crazy to think how a simple physical change in body position can have such impact psychologically but even in my own personal experience, I always feel much better about everything when I pick my head up and pull my shoulders back.
The deadlift is also a hugely compound exercise, meaning it works a considerably large number of muscles in the body with one movement. And with the primary focus on the largest muscle groups in the body (glutes, hamstrings, and traps), this exercise burns a ton of calories and builds a ton of muscle. For this reason, this is an excellent exercise for those looking to lose weight.
Tips on starting from the very beginning
If you are just starting out at the gym from a sedentary lifestyle, I recommend reading through my posts on Dead-Glute Syndrome first. In our modern lives, most of us have a very difficult time activating our glutes. Since this exercise is very heavily focused on glutes and can cause significant back pain when not done properly, it’s important that you’re able to activate your glutes during this exercise.
Don’t let the concern for keeping your back in the proper position scare you away. Starting with low weights puts minimal stress on your back. Also, stand next to a mirror for the first few months to check your back position as you go.
Lower back extension:
Back extension is what happens when you tilt your head really far up and back to look behind you and continue that movement into your back. Back flexion is when you bend your head forward and try to touch your forehead to your belly button.
As above, I cannot emphasize enough the need to keep your lower back extended (trying to push your belly button forward). It should ideally be in its neutral gentle curve but it is much safer to over-emphasize the curve than let it flex outward.
Your back works as a hinge and holding the hinge open with your lower back muscles when lifting weight puts the force of the weight safely in the muscle instead of putting the force of the weight into compressing the discs and nerves of your back.
DO NOT continue to lift if you are too tired or drained to keep your lower back extended in a neutral position. You don’t want it flat, you want it curved in. It’s helpful to think about sticking your butt up and out when you first reach down to pick up the bar.
I also always find it helpful to think of making my back as long as possible, pulling my head away from my tailbone as long and as far as it will go. In general, this puts your back in it’s most stable, most neutral position with the proper amount of curvature in your lower back, upper back, and neck.
This was a lot of discussion on proper back positioning but I just want to make this abundantly clear. Lower back pain is such an epidemic in medicine right now and we really don’t have many good options to treat it. Keeping your lower back in the proper position during all lifts and in life outside the gym is the best way to prevent this.
I have two more quick tips for beginners here:
Pull shoulder blades together and down
This lift can be a lot of weight on the shoulder joints as well and so you want to focus on keeping your shoulder blades retracted back and down your back. This again allows most of the force of the weight to be held safely in the muscle and not in the tendons and ligaments of the joints.
“Full body tension”
Since this lift works almost your entire body, there is a lot to focus on during the movement. One trainer once told me to think “full body tension” while deadlifting. I like this idea since you set yourself up with back in neutral-to-slightly-extended position, shoulders back, and think about contracting every muscle in your whole body to keep you in that form while you push your hips forward to stand up.
And finally, what we’ve all been waiting for:
5 Tips to Make it More Feminine
#1: Adjust bend in knees for more glute activation
There are several deadlift variations regarding how much your knees bend during the movement. A “Romanian” deadlift means knees bend substantially and this puts a lot more emphasis on your hamstrings. A “straight-leg” deadlift means you keep your legs mostly stiff (with a slight bend in the knee at the bottom) but this puts the emphasis more on your glutes.
This is where you can tailor the movement to your goals. You can go for maximum knee flexion for about 50/50 glutes and hamstrings. You can just barely bend your knees at the bottom of the movement for the most glute activation. Or anywhere in between! (I usually go for about halfway in between)
#2: Squeeze butt cheeks together as you lift
To get even more glute activation, think about squeezing your glutes together (some people say “try to hold a penny between your butt cheeks”) as you lift. It’s easy to let your hamstrings take over a lot of the movement subconsciously but this keeps the majority focus and tension on your glutes.
Similarly, focus on pushing your hips forward and tucking your pelvis like scooping ice cream (without letting your back flex). This puts more of the emphasis on your glutes to drive the movement.
Another great way to get glute activation is by using a glute band/booty band around your lower thighs while doing the lift. You will focus on pushing your hips forward and knees out into the band as you lift. You might use slightly lower weight this way but so much of the emphasis will be in your glutes, you’ll love it!
I personally have this band and love it for its great quality at a low price but any similar band will do.
#3: Point toes slightly outward for more upper glute work
You will want feet almost parallel for this exercise since the heavy weight makes parallel safest for your knees. However, you can turn toes out slightly to get a bit more external rotation of the hips in the movement and thereby targeting your upper glutes. I would not go more than 5-10° outward or risk hurting your knees. Either way, to protect your knees, make sure your knees are evenly over your ankles, not stressed inward or outward.
#4: Where to grip bar to minimize calluses
I discussed this previously in my post on minimizing calluses from weight lifting but this is one of the movements that can give you some pretty gnarly calluses without paying attention. Hold the bar as in the picture below to distribute the friction on your palms more evenly and you won’t build up calluses bigger than desired.
The deadlift is my all time favorite lift and it offers you so much lean strength, confidence, and femininity. If you’re looking for ways to make your other lifts more feminine as well, check out these other lifts that I’ve discussed here:
- P. Briñol, R.E. Petty, B. Wagner. Body posture effects on self-evaluation: A self-validation approach. European Journal of Social Psychology, 39 (6) (2009), pp. 1053-1064