Here is a list of the muscles that get stronger from deadlifts:

  • Quadriceps
  • Gluteus maximus and other gluteal muscles
  • Hamstrings
  • Erector spinae (runs longitudinally along back from sacrum to cranium)
  • Trapezius 
  • Flexor muscle groups of forearms

Deadlifting is an excellent way to build nearly full body strength as it is a compound movement with which you can add significant amounts of weight. 

It’s great for building bone density and muscle mass when done over a long period of time. 

In the remainder of this article, I will discuss in more detail the muscles that get stronger, how that happens, how it’s measured, and why it’s my opinion that most people (if not all) should be routinely deadlifting. 

Table of Contents

    Key Takeaways

    • The deadlift is a compound movement and helps to strengthen many different muscle groups
    • New lifters can see strength increases in terms of deadlift numbers in as little as two weeks. These are called “newbie gainz,” and they are due to nervous system adaptations not more muscle mass
    • Muscle growth and strength plateaus over time but it can take between 6 months to one year (estimates are different for everyone). 
    • To continue to make progress in strength training the most important thing is consistency, adequate protein intake, and progressively increasing volume or intensity with your lifting. 

    How Long Does It Take To Increase Muscle Strength?

    If you are new to lifting strength gains can happen very quickly, in as little as two weeks of training. 

    As a new lifter, you will experience what’s called “newbie gainz,” which basically means that since your body is not used to lifting and then it’s hit with a new stimulus, it will respond in such a way that you make rapid neurological changes to meet the new amount of resistance you are placing upon it. 

    As you continue to workout, these newbie gainz diminish. Once you’ve got approximately 6 months to a year of consistent lifting under your belt you’ll notice a leveling off of strength and that it ends up requiring more effort to increase weight further. 

    Strength gains are exponential at first and then they taper off. 

    That’s the challenge with lifting weights is that the harder you work and the longer you do it, the smaller the incremental gains. But, if you’ve gotten to that point you probably really enjoy it so even if personal records (PRs) are harder to come by, it’s all worth it in the end.

    Strength can be measured in a few different ways which I will discuss below. 

    What is muscle strength and how is it measured?

    Strength is often measured by the general population by how much weight someone can lift in a particular lift such as a deadlift, squat, or bench press. But, this is only one definition of strength. 

    This is not measuring the absolute strength of an individual muscle. 

    The reason that this is not measuring an individual muscle is that each of the motions shared above (deadlift, squat, bench), are compound movements. 

    Compound movements basically mean you are working through multiple joints at one time and that you are thereby working several muscle groups. So, even if the numbers on your lifts are going up, this doesn’t mean that each of the muscle groups are increasing in absolute strength. 

    In fact, especially in the beginning of working out, many of these strength gains as tested by squat or deadlift are due to neurological changes such as better (more efficient) recruitment of muscle fibers in a motor unit (an alpha motor neuron and all its associated muscle fibers). 

    So simply put if you want to increase your overall general functional strength you should do compound lifts, but, you should likely also do isolation exercises to build the maximal amount of muscle and strength in specific muscle groups. 

    Does Increased Muscle Strength Mean You Will Be Able To Deadlift More Weight?

    Theoretically, if you only worked single joint exercises or only worked one muscle group at a time and then did a deadlift maximum, this should assist you in lifting more weight. 

    But, the deadlift is also a skill. It’s a skill that gets better the more that you do it. 

    A combination of deadlifting routinely and also doing isolation type work if a better approach than doing one or the other. 

    An interesting example. I was recently watching a youtube video of a bunch of frat guys performing deadlifts. Whoever could outlift the host of the video would get $100. 

    Upon looking at some of the people competing I had an idea of who would win, however, I was actually really surprised that one of the guys I chose from the beginning, lost. 

    The guy who I thought was going to win had massive quadriceps that looked like he could move a semi-truck.


    He got up to around 450 pounds and then couldn’t lift anymore. The guy who did end up winning was definitely big, however, his quads were not as big as the other guy. 

    What the guy did have who won is that he was clearly a powerlifter. 

    I’m a powerlifter myself and I know when I see someone who has trained as a powerlifter based on their setup, their demeanor, and just overall appearance during the lift. 

    This is just a good example that the biggest guys aren’t necessarily always the strongest on a specific lift as those lifts take significant skill to complete, too.