Deadlifts can be one of the most comprehensive exercises that you can do in the gym. Essentially its when your pick the weight up (in this case, a barbell) from the floor to your thighs with a neutral back.
It requires all aspects of training: Strength (both in the core and limbs), flexibility/mobility and coordination. We as trainers teach deadlifts to almost everyone as it is one of the best ways to pick up an object from the floor.
Here we will outline 6 tips which can help you deadlift like a pro!
Having a strong core is imperative. The core stabilizes the spine so when doing a deadlift it will ensure that you have enough strength to keep the spine in a neutral position. A weak core will result in loss of tension along the spine and result in the spine bending or arching due to the weight of the bar.
Breathing is very underrated when it comes to improving your deadlift. Deep/belly breathing and bracing can help increase core strength. A common fault would be to 1 breath into your chest as supposed to breathing into your belly. Secondly breathing OUT too early in the lift will result in loosing tension mid rep. A good mental cue to have is breathe in, brace, lift!
To do a deadlift one must be able to HINGE (bend at the hips) and lower themselves such that they can reach the bar with proper alignment. Tight hamstrings are usually the most common limiting factor when it comes to hinging over with a neutral spine. Having good hamstring mobility is a must jus to be able to assume a good start position
The glute muscles are the largest muscle group of the body and also one of the most important ‘drivers’ of the deadlift. With society now being very sedentary, the glute muscles tend to be a bit weaker or not as active/engaged resulting in a weak lift or assuming poor form and hence injury.
Glute activation exercises can help ‘wake’ those muscles up to prepare your body to do a good deadlift. Exercises such as lateral band walks and glute bridges, when performed during your warm up can significantly improve your lift.
Push vs Pull
Deadlifts in my opinion are characterized as a ‘pull’ exercise but as most pull exercises require flexion of the primary joints involved, the deadlift would not fall into that category as it mainly extends the hip and knee joints to stand upright.
Deadlifts should be considered to be a push exercise! In order to pick the weight up from the floor you are basically pushing the floor away from the barbell while holding onto the bar. Using this change in mentality has a huge impact on which muscles are being used.
Mentally this makes your brain use more lower body musculature to perform the lift vs using your upper body or back. This isn’t to say that you back isn’t involved in the lift. This just means that your legs should be doing most of the work.
There is a direct correlation between the grip strength and the overall strength of an athlete. With a strong grip you will be able to create more tension between yourself and the bar resulting in a more efficient lift. In addition, doesn’t matter how much weight you are capable of deadlifting if you cannot hold the loaded barbell throughout the movement.
There are a few ways in which you can increase your ability to hold the bar as well. You can use the alternate grip which requires you to hold one hand over hand and the other under hand in order to hold more weight but be advised it should not be done at high volume as it will result in an imbalanced.
The other way it to utilize what is called a hook grip. This is done mostly in Olympic lifting and it requires you hooking your thumb over your index and middle finger onto the bar. This is a significantly stronger grip but requires lots of practice and tolerance as it can be uncomfortable.