How to Deadlift With Proper Form
If you’re on the lookout for a strong move that packs a powerful punch, look no further than the deadlift. This movement is one of the most popular within the powerlifting and weight training community, and for good reason: you learn how to pick heavy objects off of the floor safely.
This exercise isn’t just popular among athletes though; the general population can also improve overall performance and functional movement with the deadlift. There are several variations on how to do a deadlift, but the most important thing to remember across all methods is this – and that is to do the deadlift with the proper form.
What Muscles do Deadlifts Work?
Before we get started into proper form and technique with the deadlift, let’s take a look at the muscles that the deadlift utilizes. This exercise can be considered a full-body movement. Even though we might initially think the lower body is doing most of the work, the deadlift engages the glutes, quads, hamstrings, abdominals, erector spinae, traps, lats, rhomboids, and even the obliques, when done correctly.
Regardless of which type of deadlift you choose to do, they all require the ability to maintain core engagement and stabilization in order to protect your lower back and spine; a solid engagement of the core also helps to prevent your upper back from rounding and can prevent the lower back from arching as you pull or lower throughout the movement.
Benefits of Deadlifts
There is a reason why deadlifts are one of the top weightlifting movements, and that’s because they work! Not only do you get improved strength throughout the lower body, but the core and upper body are strengthened as well.
Deadlifts aid in activating the glutes and hamstrings, which are necessary for activities that involve the extension of the hip complex. If you’re into sports that require jumping, deadlifts are beneficial for that as well – power can be significantly increased when incorporating deadlifts into a full-body workout routine.
Deadlifts are also beneficial for improving core strength and decreasing lower back pain, which is one of the biggest injuries among adults. The movement of the deadlift requires activation of the core and its surrounding musculature and stabilization of the core and the spine are increased with proper deadlift form and technique.
This in turn can aid in reducing pain in the lower back, dependent upon the source of the pain and/or injury. Remember though – always speak to your doctor and see if performing deadlifts properly can aid in improving your lower back pain before beginning.
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Proper Form for a Deadlift
In a deadlift, the main functional movement is a hinge through the hips; with that being said, there needs to be excellent mobility not only through the hips but through the knees and ankles as well in order to execute the movement correctly. Remember to keep the barbell and corresponding weight as close to the body as possible throughout the entire movement to aid in decreasing pressure off of the spine and lower back.
To begin, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with the barbell in front of you (weight plates already added on can bring the barbell up to shin height). Hinge forward at the hips and sink your hips down and back, similar to a squat, while also keeping the core engaged and chest elevated. With shoulders down and back, grip the bar with hands just outside your legs; you can have both hands gripping with palms facing down, or you can do an over-under grip with one palm facing up and the other facing down, whichever is more comfortable (you might find that as the weight increases, the over-under grip is more stable).
From here, think about dropping into your hips (with your weight spread evenly between your feet) and retracting your shoulder blades down and back; pull ever so slightly on the bar till you hear a “click” – this means you have the bar and the weight engaged. With the core engaged, push your weight through your feet to begin the lift. Without rounding the shoulders, stand up so that the barbell rises at the same time as your hips – keeping it very close to the body in order to avoid rounding or arching of the spine. At the very top of your standing position, glutes should be activated, chest lifted, and shoulders down and back while you stand tall.
Pause for a moment at the top, and then reverse the movement to bring the barbell back to the floor. You can also implement negatives into this portion of a deadlift, stick with touch and go deadlifts, or even attempt a one-rep max.
Another popular form of deadlifts is a straight-leg deadlift or stiff-leg. This type of deadlift is going to bring more focus to the hamstrings, and might not be able to be done as heavily as a traditional deadlift. The main difference between a straight leg deadlift and a traditional one is just that – the legs stay straight (with soft knees, never locking them out) as opposed to the knees bending. It can definitely be a good way to switch up your deadlift program if you’re looking for ways to tweak your lifting and can integrate the hamstrings a bit more if desired.
Variety in Deadlifts
You don’t have to stick with just a barbell for deadlifts; thankfully, there are plenty of ways to incorporate this functional movement into your routine without a barbell. You can use dumbbells, a kettlebell, or even a sandbag for added resistance, and you can try variations like single-arm and single-leg deadlifts to change up your weight lifting program.
The deadlift is a versatile, compound movement that has a plethora of benefits, and can produce strong and powerful bodies – so long as it is performed correctly! Mistakes in performing the deadlift (such as rounding of the shoulders or spine, or trying to pick up the weight using your back instead of the legs and hips) can cause injury; with that being said, knowing the proper way to lift the barbell off of the floor can reduce the risk of potential injury, and improve overall strength and stability throughout the body.
Remember – start low and slow! Begin with just the barbell if needed, in order to perform the deadlift properly. Then, take your time adding weight plates and ensure the technique doesn’t falter with added resistance. Before you know it, you’ll be able to lift some heavy weights off of the floor – and you’ll be able to do it with proper form!
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