There are so many reasons why deadlifts are a great exercise. Seriously, deadlifting is such a simple mechanical movement, but it packs so much power into its simplicity that it is inarguably a great addition to any workout. In fact, it may be one of the most useful exercises in a gym.
Nothing is more a more natural movement for the human body than lifting something up off the ground. We do it all the time. Whether you’re moving boxes or simply picking up something you dropped on the floor, every time you lean over to remove something off the ground, you are essentially executing a deadlift. So if you naturally do it all the time, why not spend a little effort at the gym strengthening this movement? It will literally make your life easier.
- 1 Why Deadlifting is the Best Exercise
- 2 How to Do a Deadlift Properly
- 3 To Sum Up
Why Deadlifting is the Best Exercise
Before we dive more in depth on why deadlifts are so great, here are 10 quick reasons why you should start deadlifting now:
- Deadlifts train your spine to remain strong and stable even when exposed to incredibly high counter forces. Why is this good? Simple, a strong spine equals less back pain.
- Deadlifts work your whole body. All of it including lats, back, and thighs.
- Athletes can improve in many facets of their sport by improving their deadlifts.
- Deadlifts make you better at the most natural movement of all time: lifting stuff.
- Deadlifts increase power and strength. Improving your body’s inner strength and power decrease the effects of old age.
- Crunches don’t work your core as well as deadlifts do.
- A powerful deadlifter has developed the hip mobility necessary to do the splits.
- Deadlifts build the strength and stability of lumbar spinal muscles.
- Women can deliver babies easier and have fewer soft tissue injuries during delivery if they have a strong pelvic floor, and guess what, deadlifts strengthen your pelvic floor.
- People dig other people with powerful glutes.
As you can see,deadlifting is useful for many reasons, but its true claim to fame is its ability to train your whole body.
When you perform a deadlift you are engaging your body’s “kinetic chain.” This means that you are activating all the musculoskeletal components between your base of support (your feet) and the load being moved (the barbell). Since everything is anatomically-predetermined to share the work, your legs, hips, back, lats, arms, and grip are all worked simultaneously. Really, not much is left out of a deadlift, except maybe your face muscles. But then again, if you’re lifting correctly you are probably going to great lengths to control the faces that you want to make and by extent strengthening them.
So now that you know how great deadlifting is for you, let’s break down some of the fundamental reasons that you should start deadlifting in your workouts.
Deadlifting is not dangerous for your back and will not give you zombie arms.
Actually, lifting a solid metal bar stacked with weight is saferthan picking up a box of books. Wait, what?! It’s true. Due to the way a barbell balances and distributes weight directly over the body’s center of balance (or the middle of your feet), you are less likely to cause yourself injury than if you just begin heaving random objects off the ground.
Since you can keep the barbell centered over the mid-foot as it travels up the body to the lockout position, it enables you to handle large amounts of weight safely. In fact, the current men’s record in the deadlift is upwards of 1,000 pounds, and women top the charts at over 600 pounds.
Plus, unlike they say, lifting such an excess of weight is perfectly safe. This is because when you deadlift correctly, your back extends over your feet and is held in position by both your back and core muscles. When all these muscles work in tandem, they stabilize the spine and protect your back as your raise the heavily-loaded bar off the floor.
Deadlifting naturally engages your body’s kinetic chain
Today the common theory is that you need a different, special exercise to work out each component of your body’s kinetic chain. Well, not necessarily. When you deadlift you are engaging your hips and legs as they generate the force to overcome the barbell’s load and lift it off the ground. Once the weight is off the ground, your rigid back and engaged core will transmit the required force that it took to lift the weight down your arms and hands and into the bar.
Essentially, not only do you give your back and legs a great workout when you deadlift, but you work out all the little in-between muscles that support the major muscle groups during the lift.
Working out in this fashion may seem simple, butit is proven that it is better to strengthen your musclesby engaging them in the role that they are anatomically positioned to perform, rather than just targeting them specifically. When you isolate your muscles during a workout, they may get stronger, but they lose the synergy that is created by exercises that require them to work as a team. Besides, what use is one lonely muscle when your body requires such intricate interaction of strength for even basic daily movement?
Deadlifting has the distinct advantage of being able to gradually increase your strength over a long period of time
If your workout routine focuses on isolating smaller muscle groups, then your strength training progress can stall rather quickly. Since deadlifting, on the other hand, employs major muscle groups andworks out smaller groups in their anatomically-intended support function, it is possible to continue increasing your lifting power for years.
Plus, when you deadlift, the work you’re doing is spread out over the entire body. This keeps the majority of stress off of any one joint while at the same time increasing the strength of your entire system. If you deadlift correctly, every muscle and joint will do its share of work to contribute to its natural movement and your body can perform as it was intended.
Now that the whyof deadlifting has been covered, let’s move on to the other important component of learning to do this exercise, the how.
How to Do a Deadlift Properly
There are two main stances that you can take when doing a deadlift: a conventional stance and a sumo stance. While they have similarities, we are going to discuss what makes them unique.
The Conventional Deadlift
When you think of a deadlift, odds are you usually picture a conventional deadlift. This is because it happens to be the most common form used in professional events and gyms alike. So if you’ve never done a deadlift, this may be a good variation to start with, and even if you have done deadlifts, it never hurts to review the requirements on how to perform this classic lift.
When you set up for a conventional deadlift, the first thing you need to do is approach the bar and stand with your feet in a position where you can generate the most power. How do you determine if you’ve found the position? Typically, you will need to stand how you would if you were to try and get the most air from a standing vertical leap.
Once your feet are comfortably situated, you need to know where to put your hands. When you lean over to grab the bar, you want your hands to be as close to your shins as humanly possible. They should literally be grazing the sides. If you grip the bar too wide you will end up having to pull the bar a further distance, and when you begin to lift heavy you will want your movement to be as short as possible.
Once you have the proper stance and grip, you need to take note of your knee position. The optimal starting position should have your knees at 90 degrees and your back flat with your scapulas over the bar.
Before you begin any movement take a deep breath in and stabilize your core. This will help you solidify your powerhouse and protect your spine. Don’t just jerk the bar off the ground! Instead, pull the slack out of the bar by engaging your lats. This gives you a straighter bar path and prevents you from putting whip in the bar, which can cause you to round your lower back and injure it.
When you have your stance ready, engage your lats to take the slack out of the bar. When you get ready to pull, think about channeling the sensation of using a leg press. You want to try and push the ground away from you when you lift instead of trying pulling the bar off the ground.
Remember, as soon as the bar leaves the ground you want to squeeze your glutes and push your hips forward. This will enable you to keep a straight bar path and lock out more effectively.
The Sumo Deadlift
Just like a conventional deadlift, you are aiming for a stance where your back is flat and your lifting from your core. With a sumo lift, however, you foot position is going to be wider than in a conventional deadlift.
You start with your shins against the bar but your feet much wider, so you will need to point your toes out instead of forward so that you can keep your shins at 90 degrees to the bar when you squat. If you point your toes forward your knees will be in the way and you will not be able to maintain a straight bar path. If you don’t point your toes out, not only will you be lifting incorrectly, but you risk scraping your shins and knees or losing your grip on the bar.
Once you have the position right you can sit back until you can reach the bar, keeping your head up and your back hollow. YOu are now in the correct starting position.
The rest of the sumo setup will be similar to a conventional deadlift, so please refer to the above description if you need a refresher.
Although in a conventional deadlift you want to initiate the movement by thinking about pushing the ground awayfrom you, with a sumo deadlift you want to initiate the movement by thinking about spreading the ground apart. Similar to a conventional deadlift, however, once the bar has left the ground you want to squeeze your glutes and push your hips forward. That way, when you lock out, you will be less likely to unintentionally hyperextend your back.
When you do a sumo lift, concentrate on keeping your back in a natural position for the duration of the move. Including when you lower the bar back to the ground, paying attention to your form is important. As you release the bar back to the ground, you don’t want to just drop it, but nor do you want to lower it too slowly. If you move too slowly or too quickly, you will create a lot of torque on your back potentially injuring yourself. The easiest way to release the bar is to unlock your glutes and lets your hips swing back, which will lead the bar back down to the ground in a straight path.
To Sum Up
It is important to note that both styles of deadlifting will feel different in terms of speed. If you choose to do a conventional deadlift, the bar will be slow to come off the floor, but fast to lock out. Conversely, if you are doing a sumo deadlift, your bar will be fast off the ground, but it will be slower to lock out. Regardless, of which you choose, you will still reap the many benefits that deadlifting offers.
The goal with deadlifts is to build your overall strength starting with your core. Although it seems like such a simple movement to perform, deadlifting actually requires a complicated interaction of muscles that helps you effectively build your strength while enhancing your overall ability to perform natural, daily tasks.
Remember though, executing a deadlift is a skill, and like any skill you have to practice to improve. Therefore, take the time to read through this article again to familiarize yourself with the proper deadlift setup and execution. That way you will be able to reinforce your form until it’s second nature, so when you begin lifting heavy it will just be a natural progression.