Deadlifts are a great lower body and back strengthening exercise. Here is why it works, how to do it safely, and what to expect by deadlifting regularly.
HOW IT WORKS
Deadlifts are a compound exercise primarily working the legs and lower back. The exercise is popular because it is one of the big three lifts in powerlifting. Unfortunately, if done incorrectly, deadlifts can also lead to injury, which sometimes discourages people from performing it.
The objective of a deadlift is to improve strength in the posterior chain of muscles. These are the postural muscles of the upper and lower back, the glutes, the hamstrings and the gastrocnemius of the calves. This group of muscles spans many joints, and makes up a whole natural chain of movement. Anytime you bend over to pick something up, you use this chain!
By strengthening your body with deadlifts, you’ll have better posture, better lower leg strength and better back strength.
HOW TO DO IT CORRECTLY
Standard deadlifts are performed with a barbell, so we will describe the movement in this variation.
Start with a barbell on the floor or 8’ off the floor (a standard Olympic plate height) Place your hands with a grip slightly wider than your shoulders with palms down. Extend your back so that your spine is neutral and straight. Ensure that the barbell is touching shins, with feet under the bar. Shoulders should be down and back, and your neck should be neutral and long- not staring up ahead!
The correct standard start position is with knees bent and hips slightly lower than your shoulders. If looking at yourself in a mirror from the side, you should see your back just slightly inclined.
To activate the deadlift, engage the abdominal muscles to hold your core in place. Extend the knees first. As the bar begins to move, push your hips forward, extending the hip and keeping the bar as close to your body as possible.
To finish the movement, extend to a straight standing position with shoulders behind the bar. Return to the start position using the same technique.
VARIATIONS OF DEADLIFTS
Once you have mastered the technique of a deadlift, the rest is all about improving strength. Performing sets of 8 to 12 deadlifts is a great way to master the movement. You might choose to perform one of the many variations of deadlifts to work the same group of muscles but with different tools and for different goals.
This is synonymous with straight-leg deadlifts. These eliminate the work of the quads in the initiation of the movement. To perform a roman deadlift, keep your knees straight- but not locked out- at the start position. Your back should be parallel to the floor. This version requires more mobility in the hamstrings and focuses more on strengthening them as well.
Single leg deadlifts
These are a common one for people who do not want to use a lot of weight. They are also a great way to improve ankle and glute strength while improving balance. Using little or no weight in each hand, stand on one foot. Descend into a deadlift keeping your back straight and both legs as straight as possible. Your working leg remains stable, working at the hip. The lifted leg follows a straight line with the body, lifting backward.
This is another way to target the hamstrings and glutes over the quadriceps.