I was stretching out the other day between my first few light warm-up sets in the cage for deadlifts and I happened to overhear a few other guys talking behind me. They both mentioned how they didn’t deadlift anymore because they had ‘messed-up’ backs and didn’t want to make things any worse because being healthy was more important than any one lift.
Personally it sounded more like excuses to not get into the cage for one of the hardest and most beneficial exercises anyone can do, but to each their own. However on that line of thinking I am sure there are plenty of people who have avoided deadlifting because they don’t know how. It is a difficult lift to master, much like the squat. Improper form when combined with heavy weight is easily a recipe for disaster.
So let’s sit down and go over the proper steps in learning how to deadlift properly.
To start, if the exercise was truly harmful to people then it would not be included as such a staple of weight lifting and be included in the Olympics. This is a pure size and strength builder and is properly utilized by athletes all over the world in a variety of sports as part of regular training. Before deadlifting warm-up properly with 10-15 minutes of light cardio and stretching.
Step #1 – Stand with feet shoulder width apart in front of the bar (on the ground). Bend your knees and sink your rear back and down. Grab the bar with an overhand grip and a shoulder-width position. At this point your thighs should be parallel to the ground, your knees are over your toes, and from the side it will look like you are getting ready to sit in a chair.
Step #2 – Always keep the back flat. Before you start lifting make sure the back is flat and not rounded. Tense the abdominals then keep your head up and eyes front, and shoulders back.
Step #3 – Slowly exhale and stand up straight, pushing with your heels. If you focus the push with your heels you will properly use your calves, hamstrings, glutes, and back muscles in a coordinated manner to straighten your body.
Step #4 – Stop when you are straight up. Don’t lock the knees out or arch your shoulders back further than normal. While you are holding the barbell with your hands, your arms, shoulders, and traps are basically just hooks for this lift; they shouldn’t be raising the weight.
Step #5 – Slowly reverse the motion. This is where most people hurt themselves. Keep the back flat, shoulders and head up, and sink back and down like you are sitting in a chair as the bar lowers to the ground. Let the weight touch the ground for a second and then explode up with the legs and repeat Step #3 by pushing through the heels to drive the weight back up.
- Don’t ‘drop the weight’ at the bottom of the motion. This is lazy and leads to bad form and a rounding of the back as you naturally anticipate the drop. The negative portion of any lift is valuable to overall strength.
- A weight belt is fine when going very heavy but not necessary.
- Don’t use straps. Give your arms a chance to get stronger by holding the weight.
- Practice your form with little or no weight and you can even use a bench behind you to help work on getting your hips back and down.
- Start with sets of 20 repetitions until you feel you have mastered the form with lighter weight. Your body will still obtain great benefit and you are less likely to be injured compared to immediately trying to jump up your poundage.