What is a deadlift? In the simplest terms, a deadlift is when you lift a dead weight off of the floor.
Therefore, lifting a suitcase from the floor, or lifting up the foot of your bed to vacuum. Both of those everyday movements are deadlifts.
Any time you are lifting dead weight off of the floor, this is a deadlift.
Modern Man Does Not Lift Much
This is probably a great understatement, modern man does not lift much of anything. Your whole day, you lift just about nothing other than your laptop, briefcase or pen. Maybe a plate if you even have dinner at home.
But if you eat out because you don’t have time to make dinner, you don’t even lift your plate. You rely on your server to bring the plate to you and take it away.
Unless you go to a buffet and you carry your own plate back and forth to the unlimited smorgasbord.
Is it no wonder then that back pain is the most common form of pain in the United States?
You sit up in your bed when you wake up, then at the breakfast table for your coffee and muffin. And then in your car.bagel, then in your car.
Or you sit on the bus, train or all three. Until you get to your job where you sit some more.
For many people, sitting at the job is a good 7 to even 12 hour stretch. Especially for places like New York City or other large cities where face time counts.
Your body needs to lift and carry things. Now you understand why the deadlift is good for you.
In The Old Days
People worked with their hands and bodies in the old days, when agriculture was the main gig, . In fact, people were lifting dead weight all day long.
They had to move rocks, fallen trees, stones or dried corn stalks. And if you have to carry anything of weight, you have to lift it up off of the ground.
Why is the Deadlift Good For You?
Because most likely, you do no lifting, and for sure no heavy lifting. This makes you weak. Constant sitting makes your muscles weak as well as your bones.
This results in a weaker and frailer body.
So what can you do to reverse the tide?
Since you dont live on a farm with boulders and rocks to move around, whats the next best alternative?
And the barbell deadlift is what you need since the industrial revolution. Since people stopped lifting heavy objects off of the floor, what is the best alternative? The barbell deadlift.
What Does the Barbell Deadlift Look Like?
First, let’s take a look at the conventional deadlift.
You can use dumbbells or a barbell. The barbell will have weights at both ends.
If you are a beginner, you can use bumper plates to raise the bar to the right height. Bumper plates come in lighter weights but are the same circumference as traditional weights.
Watch this video to get an idea of what a deadlift is. Here AyshaHaleyy is lifting 529 pounds. Don’t think you are going to walk into a gym and pick 500 pounds off the floor.
From this video above, you can see what a conventional barbell deadlift is:
- In the starting position, you walk up to the barbell
- You place your feet about hip width.
- The reason for this is to help you drive hard against the floor. A hip width stance makes that easier.
- With the bar close to your shins
- The best cue I have found is for the barbell to be right above your shoe laces.
- This will help to ensure that the barbell stays close to your body when you lift the weight.
- For your own safety, you must focus on good form.
- You can see that the range of motion is lifting the weight from the floor to a full standing position.
Forget about using hand grips to build grip strength. If you really want to get an insanely strong grip, you are going to deadlift.
Holding a hundred or more pounds in your hands is going to strengthen your grip like no other exercise.
When you grip the barbell, hold the bar with your hands about shoulder width apart. Your hands should be just outside of your legs.
In the deadlift, you can use an overhand grip or a mixed grip. The safer grip is the double overhand grip.
This is because you do not subject yourself to a possible biceps tear as you do in the mixed grip.
The advantage of a mixed grip is it will help prevent rotation of the barbell. And as a result, you will be able to lift heavier weight.
No matter what, you must keep your arms straight. Imagine that they are like hooks to hold the bar.
Never ever attempt to lift the bar with your arms, especially in the mixed grip position. You can use an overhand grip or a mixed grip.
A mixed grip will help prevent rotation of the barbell. As a result, you will be able to lift heavier weight.
However you must be careful to keep your arms straight and never attempt to lift the barbell with your arms.
Hips and Knees Action
Drive back your hips and knees will bend automatically. This is the hip hinge. You must always start your lift by driving your hips back.
After bending the knees enough to reach the bar, you will be in the correct position.
Lift your chest to straighten your back. Keeping your back straight and neutral is critical for your own safety.
Proper form will strengthen your back, while poor form can wreck your back, your hamstrings or even elbows.
Remember, always respect the deadlift.
Stiff Legged Deadlift
In the stiff legged deadlift, you keep your legs relatively straight with only a very slight bend in your knees.
The stiff legged deadlift is different from the romanian deadlift. Even though they appear to be the same lift.
To dive deeper into the differences, please read the stiff leg deadlift vs the romanian deadlift.
The sumo deadlift starts off with a much wider stance than the conventional deadlift. Watch this video to see the sumo variation. But that is not the best part, because the lifter is almost 90 years old.
Rack pulls is an assistance exercise which helps you improve the second phase of the deadlift. Which is when the bar reaches just below your kneecaps. And then you need to drive your hips forward and pull the weight up to a standing position.
Here is an example of rack pulls:
Trap Bar or Hex Bar Deadlift
Don’t Neglect Your Powerful Posterior Chain
What happens if you do not deadlift? Unless you are in construction or a farmer, there is a good chance you will completely neglect your posterior chain.
I also wondered about the posterior chain, what is that? The bad news is that you never see your posterior chain.
But the good news is that your posterior chain is the primal mover and power of your body.
If you strengthen your posterior chain, you will be more functional, a better athlete, stronger, and look better as well.
Look in a mirror. Everything that you see is your anterior chain, the front of your body. When you work muscles that you can see, you are working your mirror muscles.
This is what many men do when they go to the gym. Do a few sets of shoulder presses with dumbbells, then some dumbbell curls.
After many years of doing shoulder presses, and curls, you wonder why you don’t see more results.
The reason is because you only work the front muscles of your body. The ones you can see, like your pectoral muscles, core and quadriceps.
When you neglect an entire half of your body, you are not going to see the results you want.
The posterior chain is the back half of your body. All the muscles that you cannot see in a mirror.
Like your calves, hamstrings, glutes, spinal erectors, traps, and lats. Big muscles like your back, butt and back of your legs.
These muscles are the biggest muscles in your body. Neglecting your posterior chain is tantamount to ignoring the most important muscles you need to build.
Now, when you wonder which muscles is the deadlift working, you can guess the answer.
The deadlift works all of the major muscle groups of your posterior chain and then some.