There is something very gratifying about lifting heavy things. It satisfies a carnal instinct to be in control and exude power. One of the best ways to demonstrate this is with the deadlift. I’ll be first to say that a training program without deadlifts is like a cheeseburger with no ketchup – it’s alright but with a little fine tuning it can be PHENOMENAL. The bench press and the squat pack a punch but being the biggest of the big lifts, the deadlift has tremendous benefits that can’t be denied. Grip strength, glute/hamstring strength, and upper back strength – yes UPPER BACK are just a few of the benefits of this great exercise. If a deadlift was food, it would be broccoli. Raw broccoli – not the stir fry stuff that’s drenched in soy and teriyaki sauce. Like any exercise though, in order to reap the benefits, it must be executed with proper technique. For that reason, the deadlift can sometimes get a bad rep due to crappy lifting form leading to injury. Here are a few tips to make this lift both safe and effective.
1. Keep the hips high – The deadlift is a hip dominant movement meaning that the hip joint and the muscles that extend the hips (glutes and hamstrings) are the main muscles being used. You want to create tension in the hamstrings prior to starting the lift. Try to avoid the tendency to “squat” the weight up with your quads by starting with your hips too low. This actually reduces your leverage and makes the movement more difficult.
HIPS TOO LOW PROPER HIP POSITION
2. Maintain neutral spine – This is the most common cause of injury and what gives the deadlift a bad name in some circles. We’ve all heard the cue “lift with your legs and not with your back.” All this really means is keep your back flat to protect your spine and initiate the movement with your legs. For some advanced lifters, there may be some slight rounding of the upper back but the lower back should remain flat at all times. The key is to think about pulling your shoulder blades together and lifting your chest up to put your spine in a neutral position. From here, the lift can be initiated with your glutes and hamstrings and not your lower back.
ROUNDED LOWER BACK FLAT LOWER BACK
3. Lock your arms at all times – Your legs are much bigger and stronger than your arms therefore your arms should only ever serve as levers that HOLD the bar – not lift it. If at any time the elbows bend, you’re taking stress off of the lower body and transferring it to your arms and lower back which is both inefficient and dangerous. Always initiate the movement with your legs – ALWAYS.
IMPROPER ELBOW POSITION PROPER ELBOW POSITION
4. Keep your feet inside of your arms – This only applies to the conventional deadlift. However, whether you are using a conventional or sumo stance, your arms and legs should never be competing for the same space. It is important to keep the arms clear of the legs to reduce the risk of rounding your back and creating unnecessary friction between your arms and legs.
IMPROPER FOOT POSITION PROPER FOOT POSITION
5. Keep your head down – It is quite common to see people looking up at the ceiling while they lift. This can be beneficial when squatting but not so much with deadlifting. The reason for this is when you lift your head to try to flatten your back you are putting stress on your neck and reducing your ability to “hinge” at the hip. Essentially, when you look up it makes it more difficult to bring the weight all the way to the floor causing you to compensate with excessive knee bending. Keep a straight line from the top of your head to your tailbone throughout the full range of motion.
IMPROPER HEAD POSITION PROPER HEAD POSITION
There are very few movements as natural as picking up an object off the floor. We just have to make sure we’re using the right muscles when we’re doing it. Keep these tips in mind next time you’re at the gym. Don’t let bad form hinder your quest to be stronger, leaner and an overall force to be reckoned with.
If you’re looking for a program that will not only improve your deadlift, but will also help you pack on some lean muscle and boost your strength, check out Deadlift Essentials!