You’ve probably heard of sumo, Romanian and snatch grip deadlifting techniques, but have you heard of the Reeves deadlift? It’s a killer exercise to nail your upper back and work your forearms. In this article I’ll show you what the Reeves deadlift is and why it’s a great exercise.
Deadlifting, in the general sense, works many different muscles. This is why it’s called a compound exercise. Deadlifting will hit your quads, hamstrings and back (and a whole lot of other smaller muscles!).
Your posterior chain, which is is a group of muscles running from your calves to your rear delts, is used primarily when deadlifting.
The reason why deadlifting is such a great exercise is because it has real world applications and explosively works your posterior chain muscles.
For example, on the beginning of the lift, your quads will take dominance in raising the weight off the ground, which then engages your glutes and hamstrings. During the lift, your back muscles engage (lats) then the trapezius muscles.
Since you will be gripping the shit out of the bar, you’ll feel the burn in your forearms. The deadlift isn’t an exercise that works your biceps, shoulders or forearms as other exercises. This is where the Reeves deadlift comes in.
What is the Reeves Deadlift?
The Reeves deadlift, named after Steve Reeves, is a deadlift but holding the plate itself rather than the bar.
It is also called the Fingertip deadlift. The Reeves deadlift uses a neutral hand grip. Since it is still a deadlift exercise, you get to work your legs and back, but since it’s modified, you can really feel the burn in your forearms. The hand placement with this exercise puts you in a position where your hands, wrists and forearms are really challenged. The load is spread out differently, mostly among your shoulders and upper back.
“Why haven’t I heard of it?” You ask…
I feel it’s one of those old school exercises that just aren’t popular. The Arnold Press is still a popular exercise since Arnold is still relevant today and much more well known than Steve Reeves. To make a car analogy you’ve probably heard of the Lamborghini Gallardo, but maybe not the Pagani Zonda. Not that it’s bad car, but just not as well known.
The Reeves deadlift is a fantastic exercise to add to your current grip training, or to just simply change your deadlifting program.
What Muscles Are Worked?
The Reeves deadlift, like any other deadlift exercise, works your lower back, glutes, quadriceps, grip strength, and abdominal muscles.
Instead of having your hands in front of you like a sumo grip deadlift, your hands extend horizontally towards the plates. This simple change up challenges your traps and forearms more so. When you start the lift, your shoulders and trapezius muscles are pre-stretched, allowing you to get a fuller range of motion.
What’s the Best Form for the Reeves Deadlift?
There’s so many exercises that can cause you harm easily if you’re not careful. From spine position to arm placement, it’s easy to cause serious injury. Next to being pinned underneath the barbell during the bench press, deadlifting can be just as dangerous. It’s not so much the weight falling on you, but stressing your joints and muscles that can be dangerous.
On the ascent, the spine is put under tremendous stress. That’s why form is so critical in this exercise. If you round your back too much coming up, it can cause shifting of the weight and make you fail the lift. It puts uneven pressure on your spinal discs, which could result in serious injury.
Speaking of your spine, your head should be in a neutral position as well. Meaning don’t look up at the ceiling and don’t look down at the floor during the lift.
How To Add the Reeves Deadlift to Your Current Training
This exercise can be added in any rep or weight fashion to your current training, that’s what so great about deadlifts.
For the most effective workouts with the Reeves deadlift, I like to perform heavy sets of 3-8 reps near the end of my workout to really kill my forearms and traps. I’ll usually add this during my back workout days, but it can be added to your leg days as well.
You can alternative high and low reps with the Reeve’s deadlift too. On lighter back days, medium to medium-light sets of 12-16 reps. This will absolutely smoke your forearms, so take as much rest as you need in between sets.
Muscle are comprised of different type of muscle fibers. I outlined in my previous article about the Best Way To Grow Your Calves in regards to muscle fiber types and the optimal training stimulus needed. Your forearms are made up of mainly slow twitch, which are more efficient at long endurance events. It’s always good to change up rep ranges now and then to provide different stimulus to you body.
To really reap all the gains in your training career, it’s important to change your training periodically. Even just adding a new exercise every week or two, and cycling different rep ranges and weight, can make a huge impact on your training.
It’s happened so many times where I’ve stalled in growing my biceps or forearms for example and just a simple change up has made all the difference. Recently, I started using Fat Gripz to kill my forearms and I’ve seen such good growth.
I started adding Reeves deadlift into my back programming and my lower back and traps have never been so sore (I wish I was lying!).
For most this will be a new exercise, so be sure to warm up correctly. I like to stretch out my hamstrings with stiff legged dumbbell deadlifts beforehand. Dynamic stretching has proven superior to static stretching, meaning you’ll get more out of stretching if you’re mimicking the followed-through exercise.