The deadlift, which essentially means to pick up a weight from the floor, is a fantastic exercise to build full-body strength, increase mobility, and reduce the risk of back-related injuries.
What is a deadlift?
This exercise is a weightlifting staple that involves picking up a barbell from the ground and bringing it to hip height. It is typically done using a weighted bar with plates on either end. However, there are many different variations of a deadlift. For example, you can do deadlifts with different equipment such as a barbell, dumbbells, or kettlebells. You can also use a variety of stances, such as the neutral stance (feet are hip-width apart), wide or sumo stance, or do a single leg deadlift.
The deadlift offers a wide variety of benefits. This movement is a great “bang for your buck” exercise because it strengthens many muscles at once, including hamstrings, quads, glutes, lower back, lats, and forearms. The deadlift is also a great way to maintain a strong and healthy lower back. Because the deadlift requires you to use your lower back muscles and increases mobility in your back and hamstrings, deadlifting can reduce the risk of back-related injuries, especially when picking up things from the floor. Finally, deadlifting can make you better at your favorite activities! This exercise strengthens the legs and core, and therefore it serves as excellent cross-training for any sport that uses the lower body such as hiking, biking, or skiing.
How to perform a deadlift safely
The method for deadlifting that we typically teach at Club Calisthenics the five-step set up by Mark Rippitoe. He outlines this method in depth in his book Starting Strength. This method is specific to the conventional deadlift which is done with a barbell and plates. Deadlift technique will vary with different types of deadlifts.
The first step is to set up your stance. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, and line the bar up with the center of your foot.
The second step is to set up your grip. Keeping your legs fairly straight, bend over and grab the bar just outside your shins without moving it.
Next, bend your knees to bring your shins to the bar without moving the bar.
Then, without moving the bar or dropping your hips, lift your chest. This movement will naturally flatten out your back in order to keep it supported. Make sure to keep your neck neutral as you lift your chest.
While bracing your core and keeping your back flat, drag the bar along the front of your legs to stand all the way up. Keep your back flat throughout the entire movement, and make sure to fully extend your hips at the top. Either drop the bar or follow the same movement pattern back down to the floor.
Doing the deadlift correctly is imperative for avoiding injury. If you’ve never deadlifted before, it’s a good idea to have a personal trainer or coach give you more in-depth instruction before trying it on your own. It can take some practice to perfect the deadlifting technique, but the benefits make it worth the effort. Whether you’re a seasoned lifter or a complete beginner, deadlifting has something to offer for everyone.
Besides the benefits mentioned earlier, there’s nothing like the feeling of strength and accomplishment that you get after picking up a heavy bar!
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