Authored by Andy Chasse’ in Exercise
Published on 07-18-2009
The deadlift is a little-know exercise in today’s world of fitness. With the bench press ruling in upper body strength and the squat taking over the lower body category, there’s not much room for any other competitors. Where does the deadlift fit in?
This particular exercise requires total body strength. It’s not simply a matter of upper and lower anymore. Proper execution of the deadlift calls upon the quadriceps, hamstrings, hips, lower back, upper back, shoulders, and just about every other muscle group in the body for stabilization. Here’s the funny part – it is one of the most basic movements in our lives. Bend down and pick up something on the ground and you have performed a deadlift. Increasing the deadlift is essential due its translation to everyday life. This movement is actually responsible for a huge number of injuries, weightlifting and non-weightlifting related. Strengthening the muscles that allow for proper performance of the deadlift is not only beneficial to our survival in the weight room, but also to our survival in our daily activities.
Remember these three key steps and your deadlift will skyrocket. However, also be sure to perform this exercise with the utmost caution. Poor deadlift technique can be quite dangerous and will cause much more bad than good.
1) Choose a stance based upon your strengths and weaknesses. Close-stance deadlifting places increased stress on the lower back, while wide-stance deadlifting recruits the hips at a higher degree. It is important to maintain strength in both of these stances. Most beginners to the deadlift will probably be weak regardless of stance, however many new lifters seem to prefer a close-stance as it feels much more natural. Alternating stances on a regular basis will ensure that you maintain strength in both stances and increase deadlift strength in your dominant stance.
2) Don’t neglect the lower back. In perfect deadlift technique, a rigid arch must be maintained in the lumbar spine. This is very similar to squat technique. Unfortunately, most lifters struggle greatly in this area. The most common technical flaw in the deadlift is exteme “rounding” of the lumbar spine. There are a couple of ways to fix this problem:
- Before beginning the exercise, pull the shoulders back tightly. Shove your chest out as far as possible to exaggerate the arch. Do not look down while performing this movement – only straight ahead or up towards the ceiling. Pull your butt down as close to the floor as possible.
- Perform heavy assistance movement for the lower back. These include, but are definitely not limited to, deadlift variations (such as stiff-leg and romanian), glute-ham raises, and hyperextensions.
3) Perform lots and lots of upper back work. The upper back is very important in the lockout portion of the deadlift. The “lockout” refers to the top part of the movement, similar to the bench press. At the top of the motion, the shoulders must be pulled back to ensure complete lockout. This pulling back of the shoulders requires a great deal of upper back strength. Rowing is your best friend in this category. Make sure to include both horizontal and vertical rowing in your routine. Seated cable rows and face pulls are two great horizontal rowing movements. Pull-ups and chin-ups, preferably weighted, rule vertical rowing. Strengthening the upper back will most certainly help to increase your deadlift.