Whether you want to lose weight, burn fat, gain muscle or focus purely on gaining strength, the deadlift is sought after by many lifters and gym goers. Though there are a variety of videos on Youtube and the bible that your trainer has asked you to abide by when it comes to lifting, if you don’t get your form right then your deadlift attempts are futile. This could also be dangerous to some if they start picking the barbell too soon and could result in severe injuries.

In fact everytime you deadlift, your main focus should be on good form than the weights you are adding. Not only will good form reduce the risk of injuries, it distributes the lift’s stress evenly across tissues rather than placing a strenuous load on a specific area (usually the lower back). Maintaining good form will also boost your performance by working on the right muscles at the right time. Since a deadlift requires you to lift the bar from the floor to a lockout position, with good form the bar follows a path that allows for efficient use of the legs, hips and the back.

Excited? Let’s get started then!

Start With The Basics

Todd Bumgardner, a certified strength training specialist for Bodybuilding.com, says that though there are a lot of lifters that want to jump headfirst into a movement, it is crucial to master the basics first. A standard deadlift is a heavily loaded version of the hip hinge, which is a basic human movement pattern. A hip hinge is exactly that: Hinging at the hips. It is different from a squat because it’s more about sitting back than sitting down. The movement should come from your hips and not your knees. Bumgardner says it is a horizontal thrust where your butt goes back as you sit back and you feel a burn in your glutes as they are pushed forward when you stand up. Take a look at the video to understand the hip hinge:

When performing a good hip hinge, you need to keep your spine neutral while loading the hips and posterior chain, or the muscles along the back. Start near a wall facing out, bend knees softly, keeping lower back arched and sit back by hinging at the hips until your buttocks touch the wall. It’s as simple as that. Learning to hinge before jumping to the barbell, helps you lift safer and stronger. 

The Deadlift

Now that we’ve understood the importance of the hip hinge, let’s get started on your form:

  • Keep your feet spaced hip-width apart, maintaining your grip just outside the legs.
  • Remember to maintain an overhead grip.
  • Do not arch your back but keep in mind to keep a flat/neutral spine from the start to the finish.
  • Shoulders should be held back and down.
  • Maintain contact with the bar and your legs during the entire range of motion. Don’t press it too hard against your body but keep a steady sliding movement.
  • When you lift the weight off the floor, your hips and knees should move together to transfer the bar from the ground to the upper thigh lockout region.
  • If you find it difficult to keep a neutral back when lifting the weight from the floor, you can lift it off a squat rack or jerk boxes. This improvisation is called a “rack pull” and is beneficial for people with mobility issues that limit their range of motion.
  • Bumgardner suggests that since many beginners have mobility issues (like tight hamstring), they should start with the rack pull and gradually progress to the full-range deadlift.

The Reps And Sets

As a beginner, you should not blindly lift heavy. As you progress, add 5-10 pounds to your barbell weekly. Aim for a 1-6 rep-range. As you increase the intensity, keep the total reps of working sets under 30 and do fewer sets. For example, include 4-5 working sets of 3-6 reps. A few warm ups will help you work your way to your first training weight. Then, you can either keep adding weight for each set or keep the same weight for all your sets. Knowing your 1RM count will also give you an idea on how much weight you should be adding. If you are unsure about your 1RM count, follow this simple formula.

Remember that a deadlift is a stressful lift and it pairs best with mobility workouts and core drills, which will improve your deadlift and add strength without the strain of another heavy lift. Deadlifts are a great exercise to correct your spine and also help in accentuating your glutes. The basic deadlift engages your back muscles and makes use of the lower back strength. But remember before jumping to the main game start with a hip hinge, progress to a rack pull and eventually master the deadlift.

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