Deadlifts Exercise Guide

Deadlifts are an effective weight training exercise that can strengthen the entire body with little equipment. It is a high-intensity compound lift, which means it works multiple muscle groups. It is one of the most effective exercises for increasing functional strength and training for a key skill in our everyday lives– safely lifting objects off of the floor.

How Much Should I Be Able To Deadlift?

Your stance is crucial in making sure that you are performing deadlifts effectively. In this article, we will provide you with tips on how to deadlift the correct way and go over the benefits that you can get from this power move. By following these instructions, you'll be able to get maximum results from this high-intensity exercise.

How To Do Deadlifts

Setting Up

Start by standing over a barbell with your feet hip-width apart. Keep your feet stationary and firmly planted on the ground throughout the entire movement.

It is important to maintain a straight back and neutral spine so don’t be persuaded to look up and forward as this could cause spinal issues.

Push your butt backward and bend your knees to pick up the barbell in front of you. Your hands should grasp the bar at around shoulder width with an overhand grip (palms facing your body). This is the starting position.

Exercise

From the starting position, bring the bar upwards by bringing your butt forward and straightening your knees. As you do this, drive your feet into the ground and squeeze your glutes to extend your hips. Lift until your legs have fully straightened and you are standing up.

Pause briefly at the top of the movement, then slowly lower the barbell by pushing your butt backward and bending your knees slightly. Place the barbell carefully at your feet, making sure not to injure yourself.

Repeat this until you reach your desired number of repetitions.

Tips

  • Ensure to maintain the right stance. This is the most difficult part to master when doing deadlifts so make sure that you take the time to practice and learn it. 
  • Use proper grip on the bar to hold maximal weights for a longer time. 
  • Try practicing deadlifting with no weight added to the bar before loading it with extra weight. This will help you get the form right before moving on to lifting added weights, which can reduce the risk of injuries. 
  • Choose your reps depending on your ability. If you are a beginner, you will be lifting lighter weights and so four to six reps are advised. If you are lifting heavier weights you will be lifting fewer reps initially until you become comfortable with the increased weight.

Benefits

  • Strengthens your back muscles which help with your posture and relieve lower back pain.
  • Provides muscle growth in the back, abs and even legs.
  • Improves your cardiovascular health by increasing your cardio endurance.
  • Burns calories effectively as it works several muscle groups in your body.

Illustrated Guide

How To Do Deadlifts

Muscles Worked

Primary Muscles

  • Spinal erectors
  • Buttocks
  • Quadriceps
  • Forearm flexors
  • Traps

Secondary Muscles

  • Remaining back muscles 
  • Hamstrings

Deadlift Variations

Once you are confident in deadlifting in its basic and conventional form, you can start moving on to more challenging variations of this exercise. 

Sumo Deadlift

This is a popular variation among weightlifters and bodybuilders as it allows you to lift more weight than the conventional deadlift.

Sumo deadlifts use a wider stance, much like a sumo wrestler's stance right before they fight. The legs should be so wide, almost as wide as the space in between each weight on the barbell that when you reach down, your elbows should be inside your knees, your butt should also be positioned back and your knees flexed.

This variation also works several muscles in the body, but focuses mainly on the legs.

Romanian Deadlift

The Romanian deadlift is a great variation for the deadlift that works the posterior chain muscles better than other variations. It emphasizes the muscles in the backs of your legs that will surely give you a nice and tense butt after finishing your workouts.

Romanian deadlifts are also great for people who have limited mobility, as they provide the same benefits without any of the repetitive strain.

Single-Leg Dumbbell Deadlift

The single-leg deadlift is an amazing exercise for improving balance, coordination, and muscle activation as you are faced with the challenge of stabilizing yourself on one leg completely independently whilst lifting the dumbbells. 

This variation is perfect not only for practicing and training the imbalances between your right and left sides, but also for training your core muscles and your glutes.

Deadlift Alternatives

Rack Pull

The Rack Pull, also known as the block deadlift, is a great alternative to the deadlift. This exercise is perfect for using a range of motion.

For this lift, you can vary the height of the blocks or pins to alter the range of motion that you are wanting to work. Around knee level is the most common height to set up the block so you may want to start there.

This alternative will require a much larger amount of loading demand on the back muscle groups and the hips, than in the traditional deadlift.

In addition, because of the shorter range of motion required with the rack pull, you are able to lift more weight.

To do the rack pull, you will need to first set up the boxes so that the barbell is at or around the knee height. Walk up to the barbell and grip it just outside your thighs.

Aim to keep your shoulders directly in line with the barbell to lean your torso a little more forward. Take a deep breath, squeeze your lats in strongly, and brace your core, then start lifting the barbell weight from the blocks. 

Next, squeeze in your glutes, and drive your hips towards the barbell weight. Make sure to keep the barbell close to your thighs throughout the whole movement.

You will also want to lock your hips and knees at the same time, before returning the barbell to the blocks. You can then repeat this lift as many times as necessary for your exercise. 

With the rack pull, you can most likely handle a little more weight than with the normal deadlift. However, although you can probably lift around 10-30% more weight, and your upper and lower back muscles will be able to cope with this, your grip may not do so well.

Bulgarian Split Squat

The Bulgarian split squat is a great training exercise and a fantastic deadlift alternative exercise to work out your muscles when done correctly. It is a single leg movement which you can use to work on a particular leg, and build strength and muscle in the case that you have an imbalance.

For the Bulgarian Split Squat, you will need to place a box, a bench, or any sort of riser at the height of the middle of the shin or bottom of the knee.

For this, you will need your legs to be placed shoulder-width apart, and you will need to hold a dumbbell in each hand, while maintaining a straight back.

Place one foot at the front part of the box, and the other foot on the top part of the riser, but on your toes. 

Start doing squats by bending into both of your knees. Think about sitting in the back leg, whilst keeping the front shin vertical. 

Once your front leg and thigh is at a 90-degree angle, push through your heel to stand back up and complete the squat movement.

Since this alternative will work more on the legs than any other muscle group, you can incorporate upper body pulling movements if you wish to work those areas simultaneously. 

Pendlay Row

The Pendlay Row is a good choice for a deadlift alternative if you want to work your back. This exercise requires strength in your core, torso, and lats throughout the whole motion.

To do the Pendlay Row, you will need to get your barbell weights, with some plates on the floor. Grasp the bar with a wide grip, much like your grip when bench pressing, and the barbell should be a few inches from your shins at your starting position.

Next, find your position, with an engaged core, a bend in the knees, and your back parallel to the floor completely.

Row the bar up towards the sternum, keeping your torso from moving as you row. Then, carefully return the barbell to the floor, and come to a stop before repeating the movement any more. 

To perform the Pendlay row correctly, it is important to keep your back parallel to the floor as you row the barbell from the ground towards your chest. This will train your upper body more than the legs.

Farmer's Carry

Another fantastic alternative to the deadlift is the Farmer Carry, also known as Farmer's walk. Whilst this is not a typical deadlift, it can be incorporated into a routine with a few of the other alternatives to provide a great deadlift workout. 

Farmer Carry is an effective exercise for strengthening your grip, which will greatly help in improving your deadlift performance. This allows you to hold and grasp onto those weights with more ease and for a longer amount of time.

To perform a farmer carry, all you need to do is grab a heavy set of dumbbells in each of your hands. With your chest out, and your shoulders retracted, you will then want to start walking forward.

You can then either walk for a certain amount of time, or distance depending on your pre

Back Exercises Guide

Kevin Harris
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