The deadlift is one of the pinnacle lifts for increasing strength. Whatever your fitness goals, the deadlift will absolutely get you closer to achieving them. The beautiful thing about the deadlift is its simplicity. It is an easy movement to grasp and when performed correctly it increases strength, aids in hormone secretion, helps burn fat, strengthens all of the posterior chain (every muscle on the back of your body), increases lean muscle mass, and strengthens the bones.
As far as bang for your buck, the deadlift is at the top of the list.
The deadlift is a hinge movement and is classified as a lower body pull. The deadlift stresses virtually every posterior muscle and places additional stress on some anterior musculature as well. When trained with consistency and common sense the deadlift can become one of your best friends and greatest contributors to your godly shaped physique.
Unfortunately, many people speak negatively about the deadlift. Walk in to most corporate gyms and you’ll find that one guy saying: “Bro, deadlifts are bad for your back !”
Wrong bro. Bad form, poor programming, and weakness are bad for your back. Any exercise performed and prescribed incorrectly will do more harm than good.
Here are five tips to get you a better deadlift:
1. Form is everything
Just because the deadlift is simple doesn’t mean it’s easy. In deadlifting, perfect form must be maintained in order to SAFELY complete the lift. When starting the deadlift first make sure that the bar is in contact with your shins. Secondly, before beginning the pull, always make sure that the hips are above the knees, and the shoulders are above the hips. Remember, perfect form means greater strength. If you cannot keep perfect form during the lift, lessen the weight and repeat until you have found the correct weight. Grinding away with poor form is a sure way to get injured.
2. Create Torque
Creating torque in your body is paramount for having a strong and safe deadlift. Torque simply put; is the result of rotational force and tension. By creating torque we effectively remove slack from the body, thus allowing all of our generated force to go directly into the lift. There are two techniques that we use to create torque in our bodies for the deadlift.
A. Bending the handle: The first way is to try to bend the barbell when grabbing it. Imagine the barbell is a stick and you are trying to snap it in half. This will powerfully activate your lats and create stability throughout the trunk. Make sure there is no bend in the elbows, arms should be locked out.
B. Screwing in the feet: The second way is to screw your feet into the ground. Grip the ground with your toes and try to rotate the feet to the outside. It is exactly the same technique as the one mentioned above but more subtle and performed with your lower body. When screwing your feet into the ground your goal is to activate the muscles of your legs, not change the position of your stance. Too much rotation and you will compromise your form.
3. Warm up
Before any exercise you need to warm up. In order for your central nervous system to be fully activated you need to warm up before you get into serious training. For deadlifting I recommend thoracic bridges, kettlebell swings, and light deadlifts before getting into the working sets. A brief warm up would look something like this:
· KB swing 3 x 10 reps
· Thoracic Bridge x 2 per side
· Light deadlift 2 x 5 reps
4. Listen to your body
Paying attention to how your body feels is an excellent way to maximize your progress in the weight room. I am not a fan of programming that dictates on which days you lift heavy. The reason being is that the program can never tell how your body is going to feel on that specific day. Can you imagine attempting a 75% 1rm lift for multiple sets when you feel totally thrashed? No, because it would kill you!
On days you feel good, lift heavy-ish (no more that 70-75% 1RM) with the majority of your focus on doubles and triples. On the days when you feel thrashed, work on your form and keep the weight super light. There is no shame in practicing with a lighter weight. So many people pursuing a heavy deadlift forget this fact and usually plateau as a result. Taking time to perfect your form is absolutely essential. So on days your warm up feels heavy, check your ego and keep it light. It’s about mastery of movement not just lifting a heavy weight.
If you want a big badass deadlift you have to stay consistent. You will never pull 500 pounds coming into the gym and training every now and then. My strongest students pull twice a week, every week on the same days. Everyone knows that Mondays and Wednesday are deadlifting days. Get a routine and stick with it, and if you don’t know what a good deadifting routine looks like, then please, invest in a good book, DVD, or an experienced trainer to develop one for you.