The deadlift isn’t just an exercise for powerlifters or World’s Strongest Man, it’s one of the most effective exercises in the gym and should be part of any workout. Whether your goal is weight loss, building muscle, getting a six pack or improved fitness, the deadlift can help you get there.
The deadlift involves lifting a barbell from the floor to an upright position, but it utilises so many muscles I’m not going to list them all. It’s such an effective exercise because of this though. The main muscles used are the gluteus maximus and hamstrings which extend the hips and straighten the back, and the quadriceps which extend the knee and straighten the legs. In addition to this, the forearms (flexor digitorum profundus) are used to grip the bar. The abdominal muscles of the six pack (rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques) are involved, along with just about every other muscle. For this reason it is extremely taxing on the body and the nervous system, as well as being excellent for improving fitness and boosting metabolism.
Although the deadlift seems very simple to do it is very often performed incorrectly, which reduces the effectiveness of the exercise and increases the chances of injury.
1. With the bar on the ground, position your feet underneath it just less than shoulder width apart. Your shins should be no more than an inch away from it.
2. Grip the bar at shoulder width, outside of your legs, with both your palms facing you or with an alternate grip which is one palm facing you, the other facing away.
3. You should now be bent at the waist, with a straight back and your knees slightly bent too.
4. Engage your core muscles and drive through your heels to lift the bar, making sure to keep it within an inch of your shins and then your thighs as you straighten up.
5. At the top of the exercise, keep your knees slightly bent and don’t lock them.
6. To complete the rep, lower the bar down to the floor with control, taking care to maintain good form.
1. If you’ve not done the deadlift before, or your intention is to improve your technique, I suggest you don’t put any weight on the bar to start with. When you do then add weight, pay attention to your technique being correct before you add any more. Better to take it slow than put your back out for a few months!
2. Your choice of grip is down to personal preference and whether or not you’ll be using wrist straps. If you are, having both palms facing you is probably best, but if not the alternative grip helps you hold on. You can also tuck your thumbs inside your fingers to improve your grip further, but the choice is yours.
3. Keep the bar as close to your legs as you can at all times. Some people actually have scars on their shins from doing this, and you will often see the bar being dragged up the thighs. While this isn’t essential, it does emphasise the point of how important it is.
4. Keep your back straight at all times. You are bending forward at the waist, your knees bend slightly at the start of the movement, everything else stays still. Engaging your core helps to maintain good form.
5. If you’re using the deadlift as part of a superset, or with higher reps and low rest to work on fat burning, don’t let fatigue affect your technique. It’s an excellent exercise when done correctly but it will punish your back if you lose focus.
As always, any questions or feedback leave a comment below.