When people talk about the “big three” gym lifts, they’re talking about the bench press, the barbell squat, and, the barbell deadlift. In terms of sheer power and brute force, the deadlift is considered, by far, to be one of the most effective and beneficial exercises you could ever wish for.
Deadlifts are considered the ultimate compound exercise because they not only help to build muscle, they also increase strength and work several different muscle groups at once. In order to deadlift properly, however, you need to know exactly what you’re doing because failing to do so can put you in a very vulnerable position and can leave you susceptible to a whole variety of different injuries. For people that do deadlift properly, however, the benefits are there for all to see as the exercise works the lower back, the hamstrings, the calves, the gluts, and even the upper back, not to mention the fact that it can increase your flexibility and explosive power in the process. Sadly, the problem is that most people don’t know how to deadlift properly, and run the risk of seriously injuring themselves. Here’s a look at how to deadlift properly in five steps.
Ok, we don’t mean you should actually strap some TNT to the bar to really spice things up when we talk about explosive power, but we do mean you should really explode up during the positive part of the lift. Most people trying to deadlift heavily will load up the bar with as much weight as possible, and will slowly but surely try to muscle the bar up off the ground so that they can lock out their backs. Obviously, if you’re training to your 1 rep max, you aren’t going to be able to explode up off the ground with the bar, because it will be too heavy. Instead, what you should do is train using sub-maximal poundage and aim to pull two to four reps with the weight as quickly as possible, whilst still maintaining perfect form of course. So, say for example, your maximum deadlift was a very respectable 405 pounds. Rather than trying to lift 405 pounds whilst training, you will instead lift around 350 – 380 pounds instead, aiming for as many reps as possible, as quickly as possible. This explosive power will incorporate more fast-twitch muscle fibers, allowing you to generate more power in the future.
Get Your Form Correct
If you only take one thing away from this article, let this be it. Form is important for all exercises, but when it comes to deadlifting, form is absolutely vital as poor form can lead to very painful and very serious back injuries, and possibly even something worse than that. This exercise is no joke, especially when heavy weights are involved, so focus on working on your technique and form. For example:
- Make sure your lower back is neutral, as rounding, it is very dangerous
- Keep the bar close to your body constantly
- Allowing it to roll away will put your back under more stress and will make it harder to go heavy
- The bar should almost literally roll up your shins as you begin the lift
- Keep your arms straight at all times, and if you don’t, you bend them, you can tear a bicep
- Keep your core and your last tight during the lift as this helps prevent the lower back from rounding
Change Your Range of Motion
Although conventional deadlifts should be done from the floor, occasionally it is beneficial to switch things up and alter your range of motion. For example, rather than going directly off the floor, try deadlifting from directly below your knee instead. Obviously, you can’t be expected to hold the bar there at all times, but what you can do is use special rubber mats, wooden blocks, or even power racks to rest the bar on. This is very beneficial because it allows you to lift heavier weights and get used to heavier lifts. Your lockout will also become much stronger, and you can also deal with an increase in volume.
When deadlifting, one of your primary goals is probably going to be to be able to lift some pretty heavy weights, which will be much heavier than any bench press lift. However, although it can be tempting to get started right away, you should never try deadlifting heavy, or even moderately heavy weights without warming up first. Warming up not only reduces the likelihood of an injury, it also improves your performance, which is exactly what you do want. Begin with very light weights for 2 – 3 reps, and gradually increase slightly, until you’re at around 40% of your max. Again, even though it’s light and will feel easy, you should always use proper form.
Perform Exercises Which Will Help
As well as performing deadlifts, people looking to deadlift properly and efficiently should also perform assistance exercises as well – exercises which will help them to deadlift more. Any core strengthening exercises are great because much of your power is generated from your core. You will also need strong hamstrings, so leg presses are also ideal. Back exercises such as seated rows are also great as they will build up back strength, which in turn will help promote a strong lockout to complete the lift.