Supercharge Training Results With The Deadlift
The deadlift is a staple of most strength-training programs. It’s a compound exercise that adds muscle to your posterior chain, and gain quality mass from your traps all the way down to your hamstrings, then this is your exercise.
In a simple explanation, it’s performed by picking up a weight from the ground, bending at your waist and hips and standing back up. However, there are far more technicalities involved in your setup and technique.
In general, you’ll feel the strongest and most comfortable with your feet right around hip width. For grip width, take the narrowest grip you can without forcing your knees to cave in, or without causing undue friction between your arms and thighs at the start of the lift. If your arms are brushing your thighs but not really grinding against them, your grip width is solid.
Avoid the double overhand grip as when the bar pulls straight down, it tries to open your hands and limits the weight you can pull.
The mixed grip (or over-under grip) involves having one hand over the bar, and one hand under the bar (one forearm supinated, and one pronated). This allows you to grip heavy weights because the bar is much less prone to rolling in your hands. While the bar is still pulling straight down trying to pull your hand open, it at least won’t roll and cause further strain by rolling. In other words, one hand prevents the other from opening. (strongerbyscience.com)
While lifting, you must maintain a braced, neutral spine, gripping the weight, and driving through the floor with your feet. The motion uses your glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps to lift the barbell off of the floor.
The initial level change to grasp the bar comes through a combination of hinging at the hips and bending your knees, with your torso angle at the beginning of the pull being roughly 30–45 degrees above horizontal.
As you begin to pull, keep your core contracted to stabilize your spine and avoid any twisting, rounding, or arching throughout your torso.
Here is a simple video explaining simple do’s and don’t of deadlifting:
The great thing about this exercise is how many benefits you’ll get from it. First, it activates your hip extensors (gluteus maximus and hamstring complex) perhaps to a greater extend than the back squat. It also reduces lower back pain through keeping a proper braced, neutral spine and allowing the exercise to strengthen the lower back.
Here are a few deadlift variations to try.
Sumo deadlift - adopts a much wider stance, with the feet turned 45 degrees or more outward, increasing inner thigh muscle activation.
Single leg deadlift - involves a similar motion as the standard deadlift, but you lean forward as one leg stays straight at the hip as your foot leaves the floor and extends behind you. Maintain a straight torso position through activating of the core muscles to prevent any inward or outward rotation.
Romanian Deadlift - maintain a slight bend in your knee as you hinge forward at your waist, resulting in increased emphasis on glutes and hamstrings and less emphasis on your quadriceps.
Stiff-legged deadlift - performed with your knees virtually locked straight. The entire raising and lowering motions come from hinging at your waist. This places much greater emphasis on your hamstring muscles.
Deficit deadlift - stand on a 4-8 inch raised platform. This variation allows for a greater range of motion due to the lowered position of the barbell relative to your shins. Research shows improvement in strength balance between your hamstrings and quadricep complex, potentially reducing your risk of a hamstring injury.
Hex bar deadlift - use a hexagonal-shaped bar and start by standing inside the hexagon with the handles positioned parallel to the direction you’re facing. The hex bar deadlift allows a more natural hand position and allows the direction of the weight to be completely in line with the rest of your body. This places less stress on the lower back and allows more total weight to be lifted.
If done correctly, deadlifting is a safe technique. But if you fail to maintain a neutral spine and round your back as you pull the weight, you’re asking for back trouble because it places extreme pressure on the discs in your spine and can lead to acute and chronic injuries.
If you have a spine or disc injury or history of chronic back pain, you should seek professional guidance from a physical therapist or other licensed expert before attempting deadlifts.
Find the version that’s right for your strength, anatomy and goals. But to maximize your strength-training improvements, deadlifts and their variations are always key exercises to include throughout your training.