Deadlifts are one of the biggest compound movements you can do.
While they aren’t quite as a good for stimulating muscle growth in specific areas as other movements, they are excellent for building strength throughout the whole of the posterior chain. As a result of this terrific strength building you will find that you can use more weight and more volume in order to stimulate more muscle growth in other areas via other exercises.
The aim of this article is to ensure that you know what a deadlift is, what it is for and how to do it. With this information you will be able to comfortably include them in your training regime from here on out.
What are Deadlifts?
There are various theories on the origin of the name ‘Deadlift’. The most popular (and our favorite) concerns a Roman general who was fed up of his soldiers injuring themselves when picking up and removing the bodies of their fallen allies on the battlefield.
This led to the general finding a way for them all to pick up the bodies safely and without risk of injury.
So by doing deaflifts you will literally become good at lifting the dead – lovely, isn’t it?
Conventional or Sumo?
The controversial point when it comes to deadlifts is whether you should do conventional or sumo.
The correct answer is that both are actual deadlifts and both certainly count. The difference between them will depend upon the way in which the lifter is built – that is, the length of their legs relative to their height, length of arms and hip mobility. Which one you should go for will be approached later in this article.
How to Deadlift
A lot of recreational gym goers are scared of deadlifts, they tend to think that the possibility of benefits is much lower than the risk of injury. However, this isn’t true, if you absolutely nail the form, the deadlift will help you to avoid back injuries (the most common injury past middle age) and pick things up off of the floor safely and without concern.
Arguably, you are risking injury far more if you don’t learn to deadlift.
So, how do we do it?
Set your feet
By this I mean setting the width of your feet as well as where they go in relation to the bar. Your foot width should roughly be heels in line with your shoulders with your toes pointed out a little for increased glute involvement.
You should ensure that the bar is covering the bottom shoelace/bottom of your toes. This gives you enough space to get down to the bar tight without falling over.
Squat down to the bar
This is where my advice differs from some of the more common advice. At this point, you want to keep your back tight and squat down to the bar and grab it either side of your feet. If you find that getting down to the position makes you lose balance, have your shoulders ahead of the bar or even start too far away from the bar, then you should go back to setting your feet and bring them either slightly further forward or back depending on the issue.
You want it so that when you grab the bar there is enough space for your knees to come forward and let you align your shoulders with the bar, which you’ll do on the next step.
Pull your hips into the bar
At this point you then want to pull on the bar to take the slack out. As you do this, you also pull your hips gently into place. I usually suggest that people do this slowly at first so that they can feel where the hips feel strongest. You don’t want them so low so that you have “squat” the bar off of the floor, but also not too high so that it’s a complete pulling movement from the back.
And do so in a controlled manner. Don’t just grip it and rip it – this is likely to result in your upper back just giving up. The vast majority of people simply don’t have the upper back strength to do this without their shoulders caving. Initially pulling like this can result in the bar coming off of the floor very slowly but you’ll get used to it and it will result in you maintaining your shape throughout the whole movement.
It is quite common for people to try the ‘grip it and rip it’ style of deadlifts. This set up here might seem a little slow to you if that is how you’re used to doing it – stick with it, you will be stronger from it and you will decrease the risk of injury.
Now that we have looked at the set up for conventional deadlifts, let us take a look at the often ignored sumo deadlift.
Deciding between the two is as simple as;
Sumo requires a more upright posture, comparatively longer legs (hence more ladies doing it than men), stronger glutes and hamstrings.
Long arms in relation to your height means that you’re better suited to conventional, it is not uncommon to see lifters who have arms so long that their lock out has the bar a matter of inches away from the knees.
Long legs in relation to your height often means you’re better suited for sumo.
- Set your Feet – Stand with your feet wide, so wide that when you bend down in this position your shins are roughly vertical.
- Push the knees out, and keep the back tight – Grab the bar at roughly shoulder width.
- Find your hip position – Get your hips and shoulders aligned so your back is not arched. You don’t want the hips too low as this is likely to curve your lower back. If your hips are too high you’re likely to just ‘conventional deadlift’ it off of the floor.
- Begin with the feet – Dig your heels in and push the floor away.
- Knees before hips – Your knees are likely to lock as the bar passes them.
- Lockout! Stand up to straight, do not hyperextend but this is where you lock out your hips.
But again, stick with it and practice it like this – you will get stronger from it. If you did rip if off of the floor you are likely to lose your shape entirely and this is where injury starts coming into it.
Deadlifting is fantastic for strength gains and as explained increased strength gains can lead to increased muscle growth.
When you approach deadlifts in any training regime you start you should now be able to do so with minimal risk of injury and maximum chance of strength gains.