The Deadlift: Getting it right

deadliftThe deadlift is a compound movement meaning it uses many muscle groups and is one of 3 power lifting exercises. Ie Squats/Bench Press/Deadlifts.

It is definitely one of my favorite exercises because of these fantastic benefits.

· It develops power
· It builds overall body strength
· It works those large muscles that play a big roll in the stability and postural integrity of your body
· It helps indirectly, to strengthen both the immune system and central nervous system
· Building up strength in the deadlift will have a positive effect on the way your body burns fat as opposed to storing it
· It strengthens the anaerobic system and by doing higher reps with less time between sets can increase aerobic fitness
· Power/speed athletes can benefit using deadlifts because both power and speed will increase as strength goes up
· Deadlifts will also benefit the beginner as they are easy to learn (as long as you have a good trainer or you study and learn from an article like this one)

So before I go into my version of the proper deadlift technique, let me mention some important points.

First I would use a power lifting bar because of the more accurate balance and the Olympic plates will place the bar up at an optimum height above the floor for you to start the lift.

You need flat sturdy shoes (you can use no shoes but I prefer lateral support) without a heel. Remember in my squat technique post last week I said to use a small heel, but DLs need your weight more over your heels.

Wrist straps and weight belts are good to use, but like squats I would only use them when you get more advanced and you can lift relatively heavy weights. This is so you develop strength without having to rely on a weight belt and lifting straps all the time. I have seen strong men that can’t lift relatively light weights without these aids. Both belts and straps are good because they allow you to lift more weight with a lower chance of injury, but first strengthen your body before relying on them and only use them when the weight you are lifting is substantial. (a weight you can do say only 8 reps) If your going to do a higher rep day, then you would probably use them so you have a backup for when you are fatiguing.

Use a grip with your thumb under or wrapped around the bar. There are 3 ways to grip the bar. A) both hands on top. B) Left hand under and the right over. C) Left hand over and the right hand under. I personally use B because an injury to that hand meant my grip in those fingers were a little weaker, but any of the 3 grips are ok. Another reason I use the under and over grip, is I seem to be able to get a bit closer to the bar which is a good thing, but use whatever you are comfortable with.

There are also wide Sumo squats which are also a good exercise but I don’t want to confuse people by talking about them in this post.

Ok so let us proceed step by step

1. Take a stance around shoulder width. I prefer slightly less width than squats, but you may like to play around with this as some good dead lifters do well with a narrower stance. Think of it like this. The stance has to be wide enough to squat up from a low position, but you need the inside of your arms against the outside of your knee so if you are too wide with your feet it pushes the arms out wide on the bar, which for some can feel a weaker position. If you do a narrow stance point your toes out more and your knees. Bring your toes in straighter if you go wider in the stance. Keeping your toes pointing out when doing a narrow stance will place you in a more biomechanically stronger position. (more upright and a closer center of gravity)

2. Make sure your knees are inline with your toes so there is no imbalance and stress on your medial or lateral knee ligament.

3. Hold the bar and squat down, shuffling hand and foot positions until your inside of your arms are touching the outside of your knees and you feel comfortable.

4. Pull the bar back so it touches your shins. If you go heavy you may need to wear long socks or a shin protector so you don’t take the skin off your shins.

5. Straighten your arms and load up some of the weight.

6. Make sure your back is in a hyperextended or at least a flat/straight position so each vertebrae (Cervical, Thoracic, and Lumber) are locked.

7. Try to keep your bum down so your back angle will be around 40-45 degrees. The lesser the angle you get will throw the center of gravity forward placing more stress on your lower back and less on your quads, glutes and hamstrings. This may work for those with a very strong back but it can also lead to more injuries, Note: The steepness of your back angle will depend on the flexibility in your hips. But don’t stretch before you workout, because it weakens the area and can also lead to more injuries.

8. Lift your head so you are looking straight ahead. Some people look down, but I believe (like squats) it places the upper cervical vertebrae in a less strong, unlocked position.

9. Breathe in a large controlled breath and hold it.

10. Start the thrust upwards, keeping the weight over your heels but don’t lose your back angle. ie Don’t let your bum move up first, keep it on the same plain/angle as the rest of your back (around 40-45deg) throughout the lift.

11. Once you get the bar up just above the knees, start pushing forward with your hips and squeeze your butt cheeks (glutes) until your standing upright with your shoulders in a neutral position. (not forward) Breathe out as you stand upright.

12. Maintaining a straight back, bend forward, whilst bending the knees, and lower the weight to the floor. The downward movement isn’t the same as going up, but you need to keep the back locked so the chance of an injury is low.
If your using a weight belt, as with squats push your stomach out into the belt to increase abdominal pressure. The increase in pressure will have a stabilizing effect on your core, abdominal organs and lower lumber vertebrae.

Hopefully I have covered everything so enjoy this fantastic exercise. As your expertise goes up so will all the benefits I have mentioned. If you have any questions leave me a message below.

Graeme