Mastering the Car Deadlift: Unleash Your Amazing Inner Strength
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Mastering the Car Deadlift: Unleash Your Amazing Inner Strength

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What is the car deadlift?

The car deadlift is a challenging strength exercise that involves lifting a car off the ground using only your lower body muscles. It is a popular variation of the traditional deadlift and is often used in strongman competitions to test an athlete’s raw strength. In this exercise, the lifter stands in front of the car, gripping the handles or frame, and lifts it by extending its hips and knees.

The car deadlift is a true test of full-body strength, as it requires a strong grip, powerful legs, and a stable core. It mimics real-life scenarios where you may need to lift heavy objects off the ground, making it a functional exercise that has practical applications outside of the gym.

Benefits of the car deadlift

The car deadlift offers a multitude of benefits for athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike. Here are some of the key advantages of incorporating this exercise into your training routine:

  1. Strength and muscle development: The car deadlift targets several major muscle groups, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. By regularly performing this exercise, you can build impressive lower body strength and develop lean muscle mass.
  2. Functional strength: As mentioned earlier, the car deadlift simulates real-life movements, such as lifting heavy objects off the ground. By mastering this exercise, you can improve your ability to perform everyday tasks that require strength and power.

  3. Improved grip strength: The car deadlift places significant demands on your grip strength, as you need to hold onto the handles or frame of the car throughout the lift. This exercise can help strengthen your grip, which is beneficial for various sports, such as rock climbing, wrestling, and martial arts.

  4. Increased power and explosiveness: The car deadlift requires a powerful and explosive movement to lift the car off the ground. By training this exercise, you can enhance your power output and explosiveness, which can translate to improved performance in sports that require quick bursts of strength, such as sprinting and jumping.

Source: Kalle Beck – How To Deadlift A Car: Featuring Alan Thrall

Muscles worked during the deadlift

The car deadlift is a compound exercise that engages multiple muscle groups simultaneously. Here are the primary muscles worked during the car deadlift:

  1. Quadriceps: Located at the front of your thigh, the quadriceps are heavily involved in extending your knees during the lift.
  2. Hamstrings: Situated at the back of your thigh, the hamstrings play a crucial role in extending your hips and providing power during the upward phase of the lift.

  3. Glutes: The gluteal muscles, including the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius, are responsible for hip extension and contribute to the overall power generated during the car deadlift.

  4. Lower back: The muscles of the lower back, such as the erector spinae, are engaged to maintain a stable and upright position throughout the lift.

  5. Core: Your core muscles, including the abdominals and obliques, work to stabilize your spine and prevent excessive rounding or arching during the car deadlift.
  6. Forearms and grip: The muscles of the forearms, including the flexors and extensors, are heavily involved in maintaining a strong grip on the handles or frame of the car.

Proper form and technique for the deadlift

To perform the car deadlift with proper form and technique, follow these step-by-step instructions:

  1. Position yourself in front of the car: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointed slightly outward. Position yourself in front of the car, ensuring that the handles or frame are within reach.
  2. Grip the handles or frame: Reach down and grip the handles or frame of the car with an overhand grip. Your hands should be shoulder-width apart or slightly wider.

  3. Set your starting position: Lower your hips and bend your knees, keeping your back straight and chest up. This is your starting position.

  4. Engage your core: Brace your core by contracting your abdominal muscles and pulling your shoulder blades down and back.

  5. Initiate the lift: Drive through your heels and extend your hips and knees simultaneously, lifting the car off the ground. Keep your back straight and maintain a neutral spine throughout the lift.

  6. Finish the lift: Once you have fully extended your hips and knees, hold the car in the top position for a brief moment. Then, lower the car back down to the ground by reversing the movement pattern.

It is essential to start with light weights and focus on mastering the proper form and technique before progressing to heavier loads. Performing the car deadlift under the guidance of a qualified strength and conditioning coach is highly recommended to ensure safety and maximize the exercise’s benefits.

Common mistakes to avoid when performing the deadlift

While the car deadlift is a highly effective exercise, it is crucial to avoid common mistakes that can compromise your form and increase the risk of injury. Here are some common mistakes to watch out for:

  1. Rounding the back: One of the most common mistakes is rounding the back during the lift. This puts excessive stress on the spine and can lead to lower back injuries. Focus on maintaining a neutral spine throughout the movement.

  2. Using too much upper body: The primary focus of the car deadlift should be on the lower body muscles. Avoid relying too much on your upper body to lift the car and instead, engage your legs and hips to generate the power needed for the lift.

  3. Lifting with a jerky or uncontrolled motion: The car deadlift should be performed with a smooth and controlled motion. Avoid using jerky movements or momentum to lift the car, as this can increase the risk of injury.

  4. Neglecting proper warm-up: Before attempting the car deadlift, it is essential to warm up your muscles and joints adequately. Neglecting a proper warm-up can increase the risk of strains and other injuries.

  5. Lack of progression: Like any exercise, it is important to gradually increase the weight and intensity of the car deadlift over time. Failing to progress can limit your strength gains and stall your progress.

By being mindful of these common mistakes and focusing on proper technique, you can ensure that you get the most out of your car deadlift training while minimizing the risk of injury.

Progressions and variations of the deadlift

Once you have mastered the basic car deadlift, there are several progressions and variations that you can incorporate into your training routine to continue challenging your strength and taking your performance to the next level. Here are some examples:

  1. Single-leg car deadlift: This variation involves performing the car deadlift while balancing on one leg. It significantly increases the stability and balance demands of the exercise, as well as the strength required from the working leg.

  2. Deficit car deadlift: In this variation, you elevate your feet on a platform or weight plates, creating a deficit between your feet and the ground. This increased range of motion places additional stress on the muscles, making it a more challenging exercise.

  3. Car deadlift with chains: Adding chains to the deadlift increases the resistance as you lift the car off the ground. The weight of the chains gradually increases as you lift higher, making the exercise more challenging at the top portion of the lift.

  4. Car deadlift with bands: Similar to the deadlift with chains, using resistance bands adds variable resistance to the exercise. The bands provide the greatest resistance at the top of the lift, forcing you to work harder to complete the movement.

These are just a few examples of the progressions and variations you can incorporate into your training routine. Remember to start with lighter loads and gradually progress to heavier weights or more challenging variations as you become stronger and more proficient in the car deadlift.

Training tips to improve your car deadlift

To maximize your performance in the car deadlift and continue making progress, consider implementing the following training tips:

  1. Focus on progressive overload: Gradually increase the weight or difficulty of your car deadlift training to continually challenge your muscles and stimulate further strength gains.

  2. Incorporate accessory exercises: Include exercises that target the muscles involved in the car deadlift, such as squats, Romanian deadlifts, and hip thrusts, to strengthen them and improve your overall performance.

  3. Prioritize grip strength: As grip strength is crucial for the deadlift, incorporate exercises specifically designed to improve your grip, such as farmer’s walks, plate pinches, and towel pull-ups.

  4. Practice proper breathing technique: Learn to breathe properly during the car deadlift by taking a deep breath before initiating the lift and exhaling forcefully at the top of the movement. This technique helps stabilize your core and improve your overall strength.

  5. Allow for adequate recovery: The car deadlift is a demanding exercise that places significant stress on your muscles and central nervous system. Ensure you allow for adequate rest and recovery between training sessions to avoid overtraining and promote optimal strength gains.

Sample car deadlift workout routine

To give you an idea of how you can structure a car deadlift workout routine, here is a sample program:

  1. Warm-up: Perform a dynamic warm-up that includes exercises such as leg swings, hip circles, and bodyweight squats to prepare your muscles and joints for the workout.

  2. Main exercise: Start with the deadlift as your main strength exercise. Perform 3-4 sets of 6-8 repetitions, gradually increasing the weight over time.

  3. Accessory exercises: Include 2-3 accessory exercises that target the muscles involved in the car deadlift. Examples include squats, Romanian deadlifts, and glute bridges. Perform 3-4 sets of 8-12 repetitions for each exercise.
  4. Grip training: Dedicate some time to grip training exercises, such as farmer’s walks, plate pinches, or towel pull-ups. Perform 2-3 sets of 30-60 seconds for each exercise.

  5. Cooldown and stretching: Finish your workout with a cooldown that includes light cardio, such as walking or cycling, followed by static stretching for the major muscle groups used during the car deadlift.

Remember to adjust the weight and volume of your workout based on your individual fitness level and goals. Working with a qualified strength and conditioning coach can help you tailor a deadlift program that suits your specific needs.

Equipment needed for the car deadlift

To perform the car deadlift, you will need the following equipment:

  1. Car: Choose a car that is suitable for your strength level and training goals. It should be sturdy and have handles or a frame that can withstand the weight and force exerted during the exercise.

  2. Lifting straps (optional): If you have difficulty maintaining a secure grip on the handles or frame of the car, you can use lifting straps to assist with your grip. However, it is recommended to develop your grip strength without relying on straps whenever possible.

  3. Weight plates (optional): Depending on the design of the deadlift apparatus, you may need to add weight plates to the car to increase the resistance. Make sure the weight plates are securely fastened to prevent any accidents or injuries.


The car deadlift is a challenging and effective exercise that can help you unleash your inner strength and build functional power. By incorporating this exercise into your training routine, you can develop strong legs, a powerful grip, and a stable core.

Remember to focus on proper form and technique, avoid common mistakes, and gradually progress to more challenging variations as you become stronger. With consistency, dedication, and the right training program, you can master the deadlift and take your strength and performance to new heights.

So, why wait? Start incorporating the deadlift into your training routine and unlock your true strength potential!

CTA: Ready to take your strength training to the next level? Learn more about the car deadlift and other powerful exercises by subscribing to our newsletter today!

Check out the alternative exercise in the strongman discipline.

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