Don’t Fear The Deadlift! It’s Your Friend….

The Deadlift is one of the most beneficial exercises one can perform in the gym, however many people tend to avoid it as they aren't aware of the proper set up & technique that this exercise requires.

When I first started weight training the Deadlift exercise was at the bottom of my agenda when I entered the gym, I looked at others performing the exercise & thought to myself “yeah, ill just give that one a miss.” However as I have learnt more about strength & conditioning and weight training in general my appreciation and love for this exercise has grown dramatically.

So some of you may still be wondering what is a Deadlift? Well the photo below explains it pretty well…

So before we even dive into Deadlift set up & technique I want to establish why the Deadlift is such an important exercise to perform.

  1. You Deadlift everyday of your life, the Deadlift works muscles you actually need to train in order to carry out daily tasks safely such as picking a box off the floor.
  2. Better posture, Deadlifts increase your core strength & stability, targets all the muscles that are responsible for attaining correct posture to keep your back straight during everyday life that can prevent injury from occurring.
  3. Excellent compound exercise, this basically means that the lift engages all of the major muscle groups within your body, increasing the amount of calories burned during one repetition, so for one exercise you are getting a lot of bang for your buck.
  4. Minimum equipment required, just one bar and the willingness to lift it from the floor.
  5. Development of grip strength, the Deadlift improves your grip strength like no other exercise.
  6. Promotes some sort of weird empowering feeling one achieves when lifting a heavy weight from the floor.

The Deadlift exercise works the muscles primarily of the posterior chain, this consists of all the muscles at the back side of your body. Perfect for counteracting the effects sitting too long has upon our posture. As in today’s working world people commonly sit up to 8–10 hours per day travelling to and from work and in work itself, therefore it is vital that we train these muscles that are usually switched off and have grown lazy over the years!

The set up & technique for the Deadlift is pretty simple once you follow these 5 steps.

Step 1 — Feet Position

Stand with feet flat, between hip & shoulder width apart, toes can be pointed slightly outwards. Position bar 1 inch in front of shins & over the ball of the feet.

Step 2 — Hand Placement

Grasp bar with a wider than shoulder width closed grip of choice (Pronated or alternated grip) outside of the knees, with the elbows fully extended.

Step 3 — Ready Position

Squat down with hips lower than shoulders, Keep your back in a neutral position throughout, shoulders pinched, chest up & head in proper alignment. Shoulders can be over or slightly in front of the bar.

Step 4 — Upward Movement Phase

Lift the bar from the floor by extending the hips & knees, keep the torso to floor angle constant (do not let the hips rise before the shoulders) & maintain that flat back position. Keep the bar as close to shins as possible. As the bar reaches above your knees, move your hips forward to move thighs against the bar. Continue to extend the hips & knees until the body is in a fully erect position.

Step 5 — Downward Movement Phase

This is the phase of the Deadlift people neglect the most. Remember a weight should be correctly lifted & correctly lowered.

Allow the hips & knees to flex (bend) to slowly lower the bar to the floor, maintain the flat back position, do not not round your back at this point. The set up on the right portrays the downward phase correctly.

The Deadlift set up & technique does require an adequate amount of mobility & strength in order to get your body safely into the correct positions to lift the weight from the floor. So if you struggle with certain aspects of the Deadlift, lack confidence to perform it safely or have never Deadlifted before - I have listed below some simple progressive exercises that can help you learn in a systematic way how to Deadlift.

1 — Bodyweight Hip Hinge

Due to the fact the Deadlift requires a person to possess the ability to hip hinge (pushing hips back under control) this exercise is fundamental to perform if you are looking to progress into barbell Deadlifting.

2 — Kettlebell Deadlift

Follows the same set up however requires less mobility, great starting point for someone who has never Deadlifted before.

3 — Barbell Rack Pull

Great exercise that mimics the Deadlift from the floor, however due to the elevated starting position it makes the exercise slightly easier.

4 — Trap Bar Deadlift

Perfect exercise for leading into the Deadlift, majority of people can safely get into this position in order to perform the exercise.

Once you have progressed through these exercises leading into the Deadlift all you have to do now is make one choice.

Are you a sumo or conventional Deadlifter? An easy way to find the answer to this is to perform both styles to see which one

1 – Prefer/Like

2- Can perform safely, getting into the correct positions

3 – Can lift the most weight with (if that’s what you are trying to achieve)

  • Left image shows the conventional Deadlift set up
  • Right image shows the set up involved in the sumo Deadlift.

The technique for the Sumo Deadlift is similar to that of the conventional Deadlift and is summarised extremely well in this blog below

Final Tips

  1. Take the slack out of the bar before performing each repetition, engage your muscles & think of the Deadlift exercise as not only a pulling exercise but a push, by forcing your feet into the floor.
  2. Move the bar as quickly & as safely as possible from the floor, the momentum will aid your completion of the lift.
  3. Take a deep breath in and brace before every repetition to stabilise core & help perform those heavier lifts.

Hope this helps! :)

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