The deadlift is the best lift. Ever.
I have written about my deadlift fascination before. It’s an exercise I regularly use for my clients and myself. With its many variations and the ability to modify it, the deadlift is the perfect tool for you whether you are a beginner or an experienced trainee.
Despite the many benefits of deadlifts, this exercise tends to get a bad rep due to common misconceptions. The biggest misconception…deadlifts are bad for your back. In reality, deadlifts are only bad for your back if you are doing them incorrectly, when done properly deadlifts will actually strengthen your back.
If you are coming back from a back injury or you lack mobility in that area please consult with me individually as there are some prerequisite steps you should take before practicing deadlifts. Today’s post is intended for people who have no injuries.
How to Deadlift:
First, considering the fact that the deadlift is a hip hinge movement, it is very important to be able to properly hip hinge.
As you see in the video above I am really focusing on loading or hinging my hips. I am shifting my weight back through my hips while maintaining proper back placement. As I am pushing my hips back I start to feel a stretch in my hamstrings, that stretch lets me know I have properly loaded my hips. If you aren’t properly hinging at the hips you are not going to be in the best position to pull.
Second, select the correct starting point for you. Many people injure their back due to lack of mobility. Not everyone is going to be ready to pull from the floor on the first day, having proper progressions is very important to keeping safe. If your lower back is rounded and your shoulders are forward you will not be able to get into the proper position, however you can easily fix this by starting with the weight raised from the floor. Two alternatives to starting your deadlift on the floor are rack pulls and block pulls.
The video above demonstrates how to do rack pulls. Rack pulls and block pulls give you the opportunity to deadlift while working on your mobility and form. Both can start as high as needed and work your way down as you keep progressing.
Finally, as you finish your deadlift make sure you do not go into hyperextension.
Look at the lockout above; you can see I am finishing in hyperextension meaning I am over extending my back going beyond the normal range of motion. When in hyperextension your lower back is doing the work rather than your glutes. This puts a lot of stress on your low back and could put you in a position to get hurt. To keep from hyperextending you need to squeeze your glutes throughout the lift.
Now this is a properly done deadlift. I start with my hips loaded, and my weight is back putting me a good position to pull. On the lockout you see I fire my glutes and keep my spine in a neutral position.
So, now that you are properly deadlifting how are deadlifts making your back stronger?
- Deadlifts strengthen your glutes allowing you to stabilizes your lumbar spine (lower back)– The deadlift hits your entire posterior chain from head to toe. Specifically your hamstring, glutes, and back.
- Deadlifts strengthen your core-There are a lot of good core exercises, but very few if any work the core like the deadlift. If you want to get stronger you have to lift more weight, no ab exercise allows you to handle the type of weight you can handle with the deadlift.
- Deadlifts improve your posture– Good posture is very important to good back health. A properly performed deadlift with proper hip extension will improve your posture by pulling your hips under you and keep you in a neutral spine.
Several of my clients have come to me with back pain and prior injuries from deadlifts, but after working with them on progressions, mobility, and correct muscles firing not only are they deadlifting again, they’re hitting PR’s and continuing to get stronger while staying healthy.
So yes, you could hurt your back doing deadlifts if you are deadlifting with a rounded back, lifting too heavy, or lifting inappropriately. However, if you lift with proper form you will build all the muscles surrounding your back and keep your back safe.
Don’t be afraid of the deadlift; use proper progressions, focus on your form, and take advantage of a wonderful exercise.
My goal is to help people and I want you to succeed in your workouts and your life. Together we can make that happen.