Deadlifts are a make or break exercise, the physical benefits of training them properly are huge, however, they are also easy to get wrong without proper instruction/knowledge. They are designed to strengthen your lower back muscles to support your spine, not stress it.
Benefits of Deadlifting:
- Great for Strengthening/developing posterior chain muscles, mainly: Glutes, Hamstrings, Lower back
- Improve Sports Performance: Run Faster, Accelerate Quicker, Jump Higher, Jump Further (all due to development of posterior chain function & improved power of hip extension)
- Prevent Injury: Glutes and hamstrings play a vital role in the knee and lower back health as. With regards to knee health, strong glutes and hamstrings can help prevent injuries. Many injuries are due to disproportionate strength between muscles groups, hamstrings and lower back often ignored whilst quads & abs get all the attention. A strong posterior chain can help keep your back healthy as well. The deadlift position is the strongest/safest way to lift a weight from the floor (whether it's a dumbbell, barbell or heavy furniture).
How to Deadlift
1st Learn to hip hinge with the Romanian Deadlift
- Before working of your conventional barbell deadlift off the floor you must first learn to perform a hip hinge. This is done by mastering the Romanian deadlift technique shown here. This helps stop you from trying to squat the bar off the floor which is very common in peoples first attempts.
Next onto the full Conventional Barbell Deadlift . . .
- Grip Options: Double overhand used when lifting below 80% of max. For anything over, using a switch grip or straps can help if the bar is rolling our of fingertips. A switch grip means having one overhand and one underhand, make sure this does not twist your posture in the setup position.
- Foot Width - to determine your optimal foot position for max power output set your feet up ready to do a max vertical jump, this is usually also the optimal starting foot position for your deadlift.
- Shins close to bar - Bar shouldn't be in front of toes (vertically) at any point in exercise
- Tripod foot pressure: Pressure balanced between big toe, little toe & heel
- Hips pushed back: Push your hips back as you lower yourself down to the bar. Do not simply squat down. You want to push your hips back (helping load your glutes and hamstrings) as far as you can without rounding your lower back, and then bend the knees slightly to get you all the way down to the bar.
- Big breath to create high intra-abdominal press: Take a deep breath into your belly. This will activate your diaphragm, and increase intra-abdominal pressure. Don’t try to breathe in and out during the lift phase if you’re going to go relatively heavy, you need to take a deep breath and hold it to keep your spine stable and lower back healthy until you get to the top where you can exhale and take another breath.
- Maintain/Achieve neutral spine: Compress ribs slightly down and hips up at the front without hunching upper back or rounding lower back. If your back is flat there should NOT be an exaggerated arch in lower back and NO/minimal flexion (rounding) of upper or lower back in the setup or during the rep. Head/neck should also be neutral & not arched back.
- Keep the bar close as possible to the body throughout the lift.
- Lead the lift with Chest, not hips: Starting lift by popping hips up will round the lower back putting it in a compromised position.
- Finish with hips: Squeeze glutes driving hips forwards at top, do not excessively arch lower back
- The descent: To put the bar down, initiate movement with hips pushing back before bending knees or they will get in the way on way down.
- If you are struggling with movement restrictions spend 2-3weeks improving your mobility/flexibility before doing a conventional barbell deadlift. In the mean time, you can use the trap/hex bar, kettlebell deadlift variations which all require less flexibility to perform correctly.
- Use flat soled footwear for deadlifting & liquid chalk if you are struggling with your grip.
- Sometimes using a switch grip can put your spine into a twisted position increasing your injury risk so I recommend getting some wrist wraps for the heavier sets in your workout so you can stick with an overhand grip.