Deadlift for Beginners – Introduction
If you want to learn how to deadlift for beginners – you are in the right place!
Whatever your fitness goal is, deadlifts will help you get there faster.
The barbell deadlift is one of the best exercises for building strength and muscle mass.
It’s a highly functional compound exercise that teaches you how to lift heavy objects off the floor safely.
In Victorian times, the deadlift exercise was called the “health lift,” which indicates the value of this great exercise.
Just a few of the benefits of deadlifts include:
- Better posture
- A stronger core
- A bigger, more muscular back
- A more powerful grip
- Increased athleticism
- Increased bone density
- More testosterone and growth hormone – naturally
- Time-efficient workouts
- A more powerful posterior chain
- Deadlifts are hugely satisfying!
However, as beneficial as the deadlift is, it’s not without risks.
Done incorrectly, it could cause injury.
For that reason, you must learn to deadlift correctly and avoid all the common mistakes.
How to Deadlift
To get the most from deadlifting as a beginner, you should focus on your technique before you start worrying about how much weight you are lifting.
Once you’ve got your technique down, you can start adding more weight to the bar.
Follow these steps and practice them until your deadlift form is flawless.
Step 1 – Stance
Stand with your feet under your bar so that it is about an inch from your shins.
The bar should be nine inches from the ground, but you may want to raise it a little higher if you are inflexible.
Pulling the bar from an elevated position, often called a rack pull, reduces the range of motion.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
Your feet should be flat, so wear shoes with low heels, such as minimal/barefoot running shoes, Chuck Taylors, or just your socks if your gym allows it.
Step 2 – Lowering to the Bar and Grip
Bend your knees and squat down.
Grab the bar with a shoulder-width grip.
You can use a double overhand grip or a mixed grip where one hand faces forward and your other hand faces backward.
A mixed grip stops the bar from rolling out of your fingers.
However, it also creates an asymmetry that could lead to muscle imbalances or injury.
If you do use a mixed grip, try to swap your hands around set-by-set.
Also, be aware that the biceps on the supinated (palm forward) side are under much tension.
Overusing this grip, especially if you bend your arm, could result in serious injury.
If you find your hands slipping during deadlifts, try using some lifting chalk to keep your palms dry.
Alternatively, wipe your hands on a towel before starting each set.
How to Perform the Perfect Deadlift – Proper Deadlift Technique & Form
Step 3 – Hip Position, Bracing & Flat Back
Straighten your arms and drop your hips so that they are just below your shoulders.
Lift your chest, brace your abs, and pull your shoulder blades down and back.
Make sure your lower back is slightly arched and never rounded.
This position is known as a neutral spine.
In this position, your entire body should feel tense – like a coiled spring.
Transfer this tension to the bar by “pulling the slack out of it.”
This cue of “pulling out the slack” means applying pressure to the bar without lifting it.
Pull the bar up into the plates without lifting it off the floor.
If you’ve done this correctly, you should feel like you are tight, strong, and ready to lift.
Step 4 – Vertical Leg Press, Lat Engagement & Hip Drive
Drive your heels into the floor as if you are doing a vertical leg press, and, without bending your arms or rounding your back, stand up straight by driving your hips forward.
You need to engage your lats to keep the bar close to your legs.
An excellent cue is to imagine bending the barbell across the front of your legs.
Do not lean back at the top.
Once you stand upright, pause for a few seconds with your core braced, your shoulders down and back, your arms straight, and your glutes tense.
Enjoy the view!
How to Set Up for the Deadlift Infographic
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Step 5. Hip Hinge to Lower the Weight
Push your butt back, hinge at your hips, and bend your knees to lower the weight back to the floor.
Allow it to settle, reset your starting position, and repeat.
While you CAN bounce the bar off the floor, what some lifters call touch and go deadlifts, pausing between reps is better for beginners.
The reason is that pausing between reps gives you time to reset your core and get back into the proper starting position, ready for your next repetition.
You might also avoid lateral epicondylitis, also known as weightlifting tennis elbow, from doing touch-and-go deadlifts.
Can you get tennis elbow from weightlifting?
You sure can, and it is excruciating and sidelined me for months!
I already made this mistake, so you don’t have to, you’re welcome!
Common Beginner Deadlift Mistakes to Avoid
Despite looking very straightforward, there is a lot that can go wrong with a deadlift.
After all, deadlifts involve virtually every muscle and joint in your body.
Even experts still make deadlifting mistakes.
Avoid common deadlift injuries by always doing the deadlift properly.
The most typical beginner deadlift mistakes are:
- Letting your hips rise faster than your shoulders
- Lifting the bar with bent arms
- Lifting your heels off the floor
- Rounding your lower back
- Bouncing the bar off the floor between reps
- Not starting with a lighter weight, and instead, lifting heavy weights too soon
- Overtraining – deadlifting too often
- Not switching up your hands if you use a mixed grip
- Wearing lifting straps all the time
- Trying to squat the weight up instead of using a proper hip hinge
- Not warming up
- If you don’t have time to warm up, you don’t have time to deadlift!
Sample Weightlifting Program for Beginners
There are several ways for a beginner to incorporate deadlifts in your strength training program.
For many, the best approach is to include it in a full-body workout, such as something like this:
- Bench press
- Chest supported rows
- Shoulder press
- Lat pulldowns
- Triceps pushdowns
- Biceps curls
- Side bends
Do each exercise for 2-4 sets of 6-12 repetitions, resting 60-90 seconds between sets.
You can do this workout 2-3 times per week, on non-consecutive days.
But, if you’ve been training a while and can deadlift with proper technique, you will probably enjoy a more deadlift-specific workout, like this one:
Do this work out once per week, preferably a few days before or after your leg workout, e.g.:
- Monday – legs
- Tuesday – chest and back
- Thursday – deadlifts
- Friday – arms and shoulders
While the deadlift is the focus of this workout, it also includes what strength coaches call assistance exercises.
These are exercises explicitly chosen to help bolster your deadlift performance.
For example, leg curls target your hamstrings, which are essential muscles for high-performance deadlifts.
In contrast, Romanian deadlifts help reinforce a proper hip hinge while strengthening your entire posterior chain.
To get the most from any exercise, you must do it right!
Here are some simple instructions for each of the exercises in your beginner weightlifting program.
See above for a step-by-step guide to proper deadlift form.
#2. Romanian deadlifts
Stand with a barbell in your hands and your knees slightly bent.
Without rounding your lower back, hinge forward from your hips and lower the bar down the front of your legs as far as your flexibility allows.
Stand back up and repeat.
This deadlift variation emphasizes your posterior chain.
#3. Hip Thrusts
Lie on your back with your legs bent and feet flat.
Rest and hold a weight plate across your hips.
Drive your feet into the floor and push your hips up to the ceiling.
Lower your butt back to the floor and repeat.
#4. Leg Curls
Using a seated or lying machine, position your knees so your joints are in line with the lever arm pivot point.
Bend your legs and curl your feet up and into your butt.
Slowly extend your legs and repeat.
Lie on your front with your arms bent and your weight resting on your forearms and elbows.
Lift your hips so your body forms a straight line.
Brace your abs hard and hold this position for the prescribed time.
Do not hold your breath.
Start your workout with a thorough warm-up including some light cardio, joint mobility and flexibility exercises for the body parts you are about to train, and a few light sets of deadlifts to get your body ready for heavier weights, e.g.:
- Ten reps empty bar 20kg/45lbs.
- Six reps 40kg/90lbs.
- 3 reps 50kg/110lbs.
- Five reps 60kg/135lbs. (first work set)
Teaching the Deadlift to an Absolute Beginner – Important Cues
What is the Right Deadlift Weight for Beginners?
That’s an impossible question to answer as you don’t know how strong you are yet!
However, the last 1-2 reps of each set should be challenging.
If you reach the end of your set feeling like you could do several more reps, the weight is too light.
But, if you can’t do the recommended number of reps or you have to cheat (use improper form) to complete your set, it’s too heavy.
Fine-tune your weights until you hit your sweet spot, and remember to try and add a little more weight to the bar week-by-week to keep those strength increases coming.
As a beginner, you are a long way off your genetic potential for strength and muscle size.
Subsequently, you should be able to continue using this program for several months.
But, if you notice that your progress has stalled and you cannot add more weight to the bar, it’s time to shake things up with a brand-new workout.
Other than a deadlift bar and some weight plates, you don’t need much equipment to deadlift.
If your gym allows, you don’t even need any shoes!
That said, there are a few pieces of gear that can make deadlifts more comfortable or productive.
When you deadlift, the bar should stay very close to your legs.
Occasionally, it may get too close and hit your shins on the way up or down.
If you are using a sharply knurled bar, this could result in a superficial but messy injury.
Lifting chalk helps soak up sweat, so your hands are less likely to slip while you deadlift.
Loose chalk works but can be very messy.
The next best thing is a chalk ball.
If you are serious about doing heavy deadlifts, a powerlifting belt can help.
Contrary to what a lot of people think, a weight lifting belt doesn’t support your back.
Instead, it gives you something to brace your abs against so you can use your core to support your back yourself.
For that reason, powerlifting belts are the same width all the way around.
Belts with narrow buckles are much less helpful.
A 60-second video on how to deadlift for beginners
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Deadlift for Beginners – Wrapping up
If you had to choose just one barbell exercise to do for the rest of your life, the conventional deadlift would be your best choice.
Not only is it one of the most productive exercises you can do, but it’s also one of the most accessible.
After all, you only need a barbell and some weight plates to perform this fantastic compound exercise.
You don’t even need spotters; just put the bar down if you can’t complete a rep.
But the deadlift also deserves your respect because deadlifting without proper form could result in serious injury.
That said, done correctly and with an appropriate weight, the mighty deadlift can help you reach almost any fitness goal faster, from weight loss to getting strong and building muscle mass.
Deadlifts genuinely deserve to be part of your strength training program.
Keep learning about technique from The Top 15 Proper Deadlift Form Tips For Beginners.
Also, you can make fantastic gains with this 12 Week Deadlift Workout Program for Beginners in Fitness or Powerlifting
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