Updated: Feb 7, 2020
Do you #deadlift? Do you know why you need to? Or if you're doing it right? In this blog post we have a look at common mistakes and some reasons why you should be doing this exercise.
The deadlift may seem like a pointless exercise to some, I remember spending years trying to convince my friend to deadlift and because it was never an exercise for a "show" muscle like the biceps or chest it never appealed to him.
What does a deadlift even do for you?
Deadlift = Hip Hinge
As you know from my posts or looking through this website, I'm a big believer in training the movement and not the muscle. The exercises should be changed to keep the body challenged and varied but you will still need to train the movement and this particular movement is definitely something we do every day from picking up a bag of shopping or lifting your child from the ground up, these movements require strength in the lower back, glutes, core and hamstrings just to hold your frame up.
For a lot of people the fear is that they'll get immense muscle density and end up looking like Mike Tyson and I have to say that this isn't true, it takes time, effort and a nutrition plan that works for you to even get anywhere near. Genetics plays a big role in how fast you can gain that much muscle, hormone levels and even somatotypes also plays a role in what you can get naturally. This doesn't mean you can't reach those goals it just means it's harder to get there than some others. If you're reading this and you're one of those genetic freaks of nature then you better train your ass off too because nothing is ever given you will still have to put in the work. The question for you is how far can you go?
Here's 3 reasons why you need to do this movement if you haven't been convinced already...
Boosts confidence - lifting weight feels good
When I've coached clients on how to do the deadlift and they watch me perform the demonstration they're always quite anxious about how safe their back is during the exercise, as I've always said any exercise can be risky but its about knowing how to set yourself up to perform the exercise that makes the difference.
For example, here's an old client that I trained before he had to relocate, we only trained for 2 months and every time we moved up in weight as his strength and confidence grew we had to take our time and break down the movement again.
Let dissect his deadlift movement so that you can understand how to perform this exercise...
As the weight descends, Wil's shoulders start to round which forces the upper back to lose its position, as the weight lowers further the lower back starts to round off.
As he lifts the weight off the rack, he hasn't thought about his posture, there is no bracing from the core, the chest isn't up and his scapula and lats aren't engaged.
Tip: If you ever perform this exercise I would suggest using a rack, the guards are placed for safety, the lower you go the higher the risk is on your lower back if you don't have good posture. I always start my clients at higher levels and work our way down as they get more comfortable and confident.
After that first set, we started applying some corrections to his movement. A lot of the time it's a small prompt from me that makes him remember what he has to look out for, we spent the weeks before building up to this weight, taking the safety rack lower one level at a time so I'm aware of his ability.
As you could see in the above example, I was asking him to push his hips back as the other video showed he preferred to round his back at the top rather than use his hips. There was better tension in his upper back this time round.
Unfortunately he had to relocate due to his work so we didn't progress it further, there are other technical issues he needed to correct but before he left he said he was more becoming more confident with his movement and standing taller outside of work as he started to think about how he held himself.
You're more present in the lift than zoning out, developing better body awareness
In the last 5 years I've seen a shift in how much focus there is on mindfulness, I know in this age it's very easy to get swept up in our work, on our phones, our attention spans have lowered and it's even worse if we're tired.
Have you ever thought of about applying mindfulness techniques to weight training? Novice/Advanced lifters should already be aware of what they are activating when they perform an exercise so for beginners it's very important to listen to the coaching but also feel what the exercise is supposed to be working. As you become more experienced you'll end up looking for that feedback from your body.
Out of all the movements the deadlift requires the most attentional focus, there are so many muscles and signals from the body that you have to be aware of when performing it, the muscle activation is most important because if you're not feeling what you're trying to work then why do it at all?
As you can tell from my client in the videos above, he only needed a small prompt to remember what muscles he needed to use and what the correct position was supposed to feel like.
You learn about what your body can do at each weight increment
When you've been working with clients for years you're almost able to see how they're feeling from their posture or reading off their energy when you ask how they've been, it's quite important to match their energy levels as it's not always about getting a PR (personal record) on every session, I find it more satisfying when I've got the weight right and they don't feel destroyed during the work out as mentally and physically it can reverse everything you've been working on.
For the clients that are highly motivated they are constantly pushing themselves and sometimes you almost have to hold them back, the biggest indicator is whether they lose their posture or position during that next weight up and if they are then I'd rather they work on a lower weight to get the position right for more repetitions.
Lifting weights can be quite humbling.