There was a day when bodybuilders were characterized by thick massive torsos, tumbling traps, and sweeping lats that hung like boxcar doors from broad-beamed shoulders. All this came about from slapping as many iron plates as possible onto a barbell and dead lifting it off the ground in whatever manner it took to get the weight up.
The deadlift will work you from finger to neck to toe. It is a raw, basic power movement and will literally stress every single muscle in your entire body to some degree. The main areas of stimulation are the back (lower and upper) and thighs, but once you start deadlifting on a consistent basis you’ll see gains just about everywhere. The high intensity nature of this basic lift will also force your body to secrete higher amounts of powerful anabolic substances such as testosterone and growth hormone. This causes what is known as a "spill over effect", and will result in new, total body size and strength gains. For example, after a few weeks of heavy deadlifting you should notice that your other lifts, such as the bench press and barbell row, will suddenly increase.
The deadlift is the oldest of all weight training exercises and is one of the most effective exercises for overall body development. Deadlifts are not pretty and neither are the men who hoisted them, but this movement made their physiques the biggest, thickest, and strongest in the world.
The deadlift is a compound movement that works all of the major muscles in the body, with most of emphasis on the traps, spinal erectors, hips, glutes, and hamstrings. The remaining muscles are involved in stability control.
It is the purest single test of strength because it is one of the few lifts where you lift a dead weight off the ground. In most other lifts the weight changes direction or starts from the top position and you can use reverseal strength and momentum to rebound and assist in lifting the weight, as in the squat and bench press.