The deadlift: it’s of the most fundamental bodybuilding exercises, requiring recruitment from the upper and lower back, hamstrings, glutes, abdominals, quads and even the rotator cuff. When properly executed, it’s far more effective than any hamstring curl or leg press, and it challenges the upper body to a high degree as well. The deadlift also helps to strength the core, which, in turn will help to improve other compound lifts.
Unfortunately, the deadlift has somewhat of a negative reputation due to the fact that it’s a “dangerous exercise” and the cause of many lower back injuries. Here’s how you can help break that stigma:
Always begin with the bar on the floor. Pulling the bar directly from the safety pins is called a rack pull, and deadlifting from the top down is called a Romanian deadlift. A conventional deadlift must always start from the floor, hence the term deadlift. Here’s how to safely and properly execute the deadlift:
- Stand with the bar positioned above the middle of your feet. Remember that your heel sticks out from the back of your leg, so when you’re looking down, it’ll appear as though the bar is further back and not in the center.
- Grab the bar with an overhand grip so that your arms are perpendicular to the floor.
- Bend your knees until your shins hit the bar but make sure that the bar stays above the middle of your feet. Your shoulder blades should be positioned directly over the bar.
- Lift with your chest but DO NOT squeeze your shoulder blades back like you would for squats. Instead, push your shoulders back and down, keeping your head in line with your spine.
- Pull while keeping the bar close to your body. Get it up over your knees and thighs until your hips and knees are locked out. Do not lean back once you reach the top.
- Lower the bar by pushing your hips back and then bending your knees once the bar reaches them.
Here are some common mistakes made during deadlifting:
Mistake 1: Lifting without a stable, neutral spine
The spine was made to handle heavy weight, as long as it’s in a neutral position. It’s important to remember to not only set up for the deadlift with your spine in a neutral position, but to hold in there as well for the duration of the lift. If you’re unable to hold your spine in this neutral position during the lift, this is a sign that you need to lower the weight.
Mistake #2: Breathing incorrectly
Many people have the tendency to hold their breath throughout the entire deadlift. They think it helps them get past their sticking point, when, in actuality, it’s only depriving the body of oxygen, leading to dizziness and/or lightheadedness. Right before you pull, take a deep breath in and slowly exhale as you get to the top of the lift. Repeat this cycle for each repetition.
Mistake #3: Jerking the weight
Nothing is more dangerous than violently jerking the weight off the floor. Not only does this move you out of your proper setup position, it also puts a tremendous amount of force on the body while it’s in a vulnerable position. You want to apply a consistent yet smooth force when pulling the bar from the floor. Once you get the bar off the floor, then you can start to apply a little more intensity as you near the top of the lift.
Mistake #4: Letting your ego lift for you
This goes for any lift, but since the deadlift involved heavy weight and requires more setup and focus, it’s important to keep your ego in check. We’d all love to be able to tell our friends that we Deadlift 500+ pounds, but nothing is worth getting injured and not being able to deadlift at all just for some bragging rights. Remember to keep proper form during every phase of the lift and only pull what you’re capable of. Consistency will eventually lead to upping your numbers.
Mistake #5: Bouncing the weight off the floor
The deadlift is called the deadlift for a reason. The point of the movement is to lift the weight from a dead-stop position. Using the momentum of bouncing the weight off the floor will cause you to lose proper position and round your lower back. Let the bar come to a complete rest during each rep. While it’s on the floor, take a second to check that you are still in proper alignment before lifting the weight up again.