The Deadlift Demystified

The Deadlift Demystified

Do you want to get leaner? You should deadlift.

Or maybe you want to get stronger? Deadlift. Sculpt a tight core, perhaps? Deadlift. Want to build serious amounts of muscle quickly?  …

The deadlift is one of the most practically useful exercises you can do, giving you strength and function that carries over into the real world. It trains the legs, the upper and lower back, the core, shoulders and arms and also, because of the sheer amount of muscle used it’s one of the best fat burning exercises as well.  The fact is that the deadlift hits almost all the muscle groups at once and, because it is a natural movement using the big muscle groups it can be loaded relatively heavy, these factors together mean it has a BIG training impact on the body, and it is this metabolic and physiological impact that builds conditioning and strength, that strips fat off the body, and reveals the lean toned physique underneath. 

Though it’s a very natural movement it does carry a ’dangerous’ reputation, one that is completely unjustified. Many see it as a little daunting feeling that there’s a lot that can go wrong, when in reality is it one of the simplest, most natural movements.

The Deadlift in Six Simple Steps

Whilst you can do deadlifts with dumbbells, kettlebells or sandbags here we’ll look at the conventional free weight (i.e. not in a smith’s machine squat rack!) barbell deadlift.

1) Position a bar in front of a mirror and stand behind it in a relaxed stance.

2) Look down, the bar should be over the mid-point of your shoe laces, and look forward in the mirror, adjust your feet so they’re shoulder width apart toes ever so slightly pointed out

3) Don’t bend over, instead with your back straight hinge at the hips, sliding your bottom out backwards as you do so.

4) Grip the bar one palm facing forward, away from you, one back or facing you. This is the mixed grip that stops the bar rolling out of your hands. Check your arms aren’t pushing you knees in – if they are widen the grip slightly

5) Holding on to the bar keeping your arms straight move you shins to the bar and lift your chest up a little with a feeling of trying to arch your lower back slightly

6) Pause, take a breath and lift with the feeling of dragging the bar up the legs

It’s as simple as that. Return the bar to the floor and that is one rep, each time you go to do another subsequent rep then just repeat steps 5 and 6.

Where to put your deadlifts

There’s many ways to integrate the deadlift into your training. It’s a big movement and you’ll probably be using a fairly good amount of weight, this means using it when you’re fresh and not doing hundreds of reps is important. Quality over quantity.  In fact the deadlift is best done heavier for lower repetitions than you might normally, say 5-7 reps.

Deadlifts are usually used in a strength routine, and usually towards the beginning of the session, here’s three examples of different routines for different needs and goals.

The “Full body A/B” Split
Ideal choice for those looking for simple effective general strength, fitness and muscle mass training. Great for those emphasising fat loss, involved in endurance sport and also for those with busy schedules, as missed sessions can be easily caught up on a different day.
You train: variable but between 2 to 4 days per week

A: Deadlift, Pull Up/Pull Down, Shoulder Press  
B: Squat, Dumbbell Row, Bench Press

The “Upper, Lower, Full” Three way split
A great choice for people involved in team sports, emphasizes the strength building movements but doesn’t fatigue overly and allows enough rest days for recovery in time for match day. Very popular in rugby and other similar sports.
You train: 3 days per week

Upper: Pull up, Bench press, Dumbbell Row, Shoulder Press
Lower: Squat, Lunge, Calves raises
Full body: Deadlift, Chin-up, Dips

The “Push, Pull, Legs” Split
The classic bodybuilder routine for more muscle
You train: 3 days per week – no exceptions!

Push:     Bench press, Shoulder press, Dips
Pull:       Deadlift, Pull up/Pull down, Barbell row
Legs:      Squat, Split squat, Leg press

The “Push, Hips, Press, Quads” Four way split
An effective strength and muscle routine for out of season athletes, and those with skinny legs
You train: 4 days per week.

Push:     Bench press, shoulder press, dips
Hips:      Deadlift, pull through, step ups
Pull:       Dumbbell/Barbell row, Pull up/pull down
Legs:      Squat, Split squat, Leg press

Author: Multipower Trainer & Nutritionist Drew Price (Follow Drew on Twitter)