How to Deadlift Correctly & Safely

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INTRODUCTION

If the squat is the king of all exercises, the deadlift is the queen. The deadlift teaches the proper technique necessary to lift an item off the floor. It strengthens the posterior chain muscles which include the spinal erectors, the glutes, the hamstrings as well as the core musculature. There are several deadlift variations that you can perform depending on your degree of experience.

DEADLIFT FORM VIDEO

BENEFITS OF THE DEADLIFT

  • Ingrains appropriate technique for picking up a heavy item off the floor
  • Allows for the maximum number of muscles to be trained simultaneously, while often allowing the greatest amount of weight to be used per any exercise
  • Encourages strength development of your grip strength, forearms, lat muscles, spinal erectors, glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps muscles

MUSCLES WORKED DURING THE DEADLIFT

  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Low Back
  • Spinal Erectors
  • Quadriceps
  • Upper Back
  • Abs/Core
  • Forearms/Grip

PERFORMING THE DEADLIFT WITH GOOD TECHNIQUE

  • Walk up to a barbell that is set on the floor with the desired weight, the bar should be at a height that is near the mid-shin level
  • Assume a stance that is roughly shoulder width with your shins almost touching the bar

  • Bend down and grab the bar with your arms completely straight and just outside of your knees
  • (If you are performing the exercise with the empty barbell, simply position the bar at the mid-shin level to begin the movement)
  • Get into the starting position by straightening your back, lifting your chest and keeping your shins in contact with the bar

  • Do not hyperextend your back
  • Do not allow any rounding (flexing) of your back
  • Maintain a flat neutral spine throughout the entire movement
  • When looking from the side, we should be able to draw an imaginary straight line from your mid-shoulder down to the bar with your back flat and your shins vertically aligned

 Your hips may be higher or lower than shown here - everyone is different. The length of your torso and your extremities will alter the way your starting position will look. Your hips may be higher or lower than shown here – everyone is different. The length of your torso and your extremities will alter the way your starting position will look.

  • If you are in the correct position you should feel a gentle stretch along your hamstrings as well as tension across your back muscles
  • Take a breath, and hold it in. Begin the pull by extending your knees and hips until you are standing upright. Keep the bar in close contact with your legs throughout the lift

  • Squeeze your glutes once the bar passes your knees to finish the lift. Do not hyperextend your back.  You should be standing completely upright.

  • Reverse the movement the exact same way you came up, by breaking at the hips first and then the knees

COMMON DEADLIFT MISTAKES

LIFTING WITH A ROUNDED SPINE

  • Spinal flexion under load can increase the risk of injury
  • This is a technical issue that can be fixed by paying close attention to your starting position
  • Conversely, do not allow your spine to round during the lift either
  • Keep your back and abdominal muscles activated to prevent spinal flexion
  • Lower the weight until you have mastered this technique

LIFTING WITH MINIMAL USE OF THE LEGS

  • This is a technical issue that can be fixed by paying close attention to your starting position
  • There should be a bend in your knees and your back should display a neutral angle when starting the lift
  • Lower the weight until you have mastered this technique

HYPEREXTENDING AT THE TOP OF THE MOVEMENT

  • This is also a technical issue
  • Use your glutes to obtain a neutral hip extension
  • It is unnecessary to continue extension through your lumbar spine after you are already standing up with the weight

DEADLIFT VARIATIONS

 

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Alex Robles, MD, CPT / Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

Alex Robles, MD, CPT / Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

Alex & Brittany Robles are physicians, NASM CPTs, health & fitness experts, and founders of The White Coat Trainer: a site dedicated to improving the health and fitness of busy professionals. Their advice has been featured on KevinMD, The Doctor Weighs In, My Fitness Pal, Reader's Digest, Livestrong, and The Active Times. Learn more about them here.

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