Tip: Master the Dorian Deadlift

If your goal is to build a monster back, this is the best deadlift variation to get the job done.

Bodybuilding Back Deadlift

Despite all the talk about the traditional deadlift being a great back builder, the first part of the movement is a lot of hamstrings and to a lesser extent the glutes. The muscles of the back end up working mostly in an isometric fashion to keep your spine from shooting out into the wall behind you.

The conventional deadlift done in a full range of motion is actually two movements: a push off the floor, then a pull over the knees. The push off the floor is initiated by leg drive. Then as the bar gets to around knee height and the hamstrings have completed their part of the job, the rhomboids, lats, and traps work isometrically to hold position as the lockout is completed. The conventional deadlift has a couple of shortcomings when it comes to back building:

  • There's not a great deal of emphasis placed on the eccentric portion of the rep, where growth potential is higher.
  • There's not much of an eccentric. The lumbars, traps, and rhomboids do the brunt of their work in a short range of motion during the concentric to hold proper spine alignment.

With the Dorian deadlift, named after bodybuilder Doran Yates, you fix both of these issues. It creates an emphasized eccentric, and it creates more tension.

How to Do It

Start with one full rep, then from the top you lower the bar to just below the knee before reversing the rep.

Because the eccentric stays in a loaded position, the scapula will lose retraction. The concentric forces the traps and upper back to pull the scapula back in with proper spinal alignment. Now we're talking about a lot of tension distribution from the erectors and throughout the upper back. That's good.

Why not just do block or rack pulls from the same height? That's an option. The shortcoming there, in contrast to Dorian deadlifts, is that once you set the bar down on the blocks or rack, everything gets unloaded – you lose tension. With the Dorian deadlift, the lumbars and upper back stay contracted to hold the spine in proper position in the range of motion where they're required to work the hardest.