When it comes to the deadlift it should be quicker to answer why not! Not only does it work the glutes, hamstrings, quads, lower back and calves but when performed with the correct form, various muscles in the upper back and arms are also utilised making it the perfect exercise for a wide variety of people with varying goals in mind. Add to this the many different variations and the scalability of the exercise and this only adds to the long list of why it should be in any programme.
Whether you are looking to build muscle, increase strength, improve athletic performance or simply lose some weight, this is one exercise you could use for them all. Clients with a weight loss related goal will often ask why they are lifting weights when their actual aim is to get smaller. When talking about the deadlift this question is easy to answer, due to the sheer amount of muscles used when performing the deadlift correctly the demand placed on the body’s energy systems are huge and so the calories burned during the exercise are increased. So, providing you are also eating towards your goal of losing weight the deadlift will certainly help in pushing you in to a calorie deficit.
Something else clients complain about when first doing the deadlift is lower back pain. This is normally one of 2 things. Its either poor form and the exercise isn’t being performed correctly or your lower back is weak. Both are good reasons to perform the deadlift more, not just stop doing it. Work on form and correct technique, increase the workload over time and the weak areas will strengthen safe guarding you from a future back issues.
How to perform the deadlift
- Start with your feet around hip width apart, toes facing forwards and the bar just over the laces of your shoes.
- Without bending your knees yet bend over and grip the bar so arms fall just outside your knees, for now palms should both be facing you.
- Dip your knees slightly until your shins touch the bar.
- Drop your hips and try to stick your chest and bum out at the same time.
- Pull your shoulder blades together and engage your lats.
- At this point everything should be tight and locked in place.
- With your weight in your heels, take a deep breath pull the slack out of the bar in one smooth action (no yanking of the bar) The main movement should come from your hips and the back should stay straight throughout.
- The bar should stay close to your body at all times, as the bar passes your knees force your hips forward and squeeze your glutes hard, finishing stood up straight with glutes squeezed and upper back engaged.
- Return bar to floor and repeat with same technique.
Deadlift variations and scalable exercises
There are many variations and scalable exercises that can be performed to mimic similar movement patterns and work the same muscles as the conventional deadlift explained above. Ask your trainer which variations may suit your ability and goals best and they will show you how to perform correctly.
A few examples:
- Trap bar deadlift
- Rack pulls
- Romanian deadlift
- Kettle bell low hold squat
- Sumo deadlift