Personally, I think the world would be a happier place if people picked up something heavy on a regular basis. It roots you in reality; getting totally humbled by a heavy barbell helps keep egos in check.
There are countless articles out there about deadlifting. Here, here and here for a sampling. Each tout the benefits and explain the exercise itself (in a couple different ways. I recommend reading at least one in addition to this post as they offer different coaching cues, always helpful.)
Here we go, the essence of deadlifting.
-Strengthens the posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, upper/lower back) which is ALWAYS (read: entirely necessary) a good thing.
-Teaches proper mechanics that carry over (pun intended) into everyday activity. No more tweaked backs on moving day!
- Challenges the whole body in a way that elicits a growth response. Ok, by growth I don’t mean the Hulk;
to quote Mark Sisson of the Daily Apple:
And so an outfit like Weight Watchers will push the chronic cardio, the ankle weights, and the step classes because of some underlying, self-defeating assumption that women aren’t “meant” to lift heavy weights. It’s insane, it’s preposterous, and it’s downright insulting. Men and women have different work capacities and different natural inclinations, but their bodies still work the same way… one area in which the underlying gender-specific physiology is limiting (thank god!): women, being testicle-free, do not produce enough natural testosterone to get those bulging pecs (just where do the breasts go, anyway?) and engorged thighs without supplementing with steroids (synthetic testosterone, essentially). Men generally do produce enough natural testosterone (the ultimate muscle-building hormone) to get big, and most of us stillhave trouble building a significant amount of muscle. Just imagine how difficult it is to bulk up for a woman.
Heavy weights promote strength not size. I will say no more.
Set-Up for a barbell deadlift:
1. Feet hip width apart, mid-foot under the bar, shins should touch the bar. (hint: wear long socks if you want to spare your shins…)
2. Bend over with your hand on your knees, like you’re tired from a hard sprint. Your hips should be back.
3. Arch you low back, HARD, shove your shoulder blades in your back pocket and pack you neck (make a double chin)
4. Extend your arms and grip the bar like you mean it. You’re going to rip this thing off the floor, it would be wise to warn it.
Take note of Steve’s set up.
- Pull up ever-so-slightly so there is tension on the bar but not so much that you lose your arch. DO NOT LOSE YOUR ARCH!!
- Tense your glutes, squeeze your shoulder blades and pull the bar up your shins, over your knees and scrape your thighs all the while thinking “CRACK the Walnut!” (between your butt cheeks). Think about pulling your hips through your hands as you stand.
- Your hips (aka, glutes) should be doing most of the work to pick the bar up. If your lower back and/or hamstrings get angry, you’re not cracking walnuts hard enough.
- HIPS BACK!!!!!!! I’ll say it again, HIPS BACK!!
-Let the bar slide, controlled, down the same way it came up. Keep you hips back as you lower it. Think of someone attaching a rope to your waist and pulling your hips back as you lower the bar.
- Pause (millisecond) enough at the bottom to reset your shoulders/arch for your next rep or, let go, step back and smile. You just deadlifted.
1. Keep your reps below 5, especially if you’re just learning. (There are few times and places for high rep deadlifts. They rarely show up.) This allows you to use a weight that will challenge and elicit strength gains while also preventing you from losing focus on your form.
2. Have someone who knows what they’re doing watch you. (like and SAPT coach…) Small, insensible breaks in form can create nasty habits and compensations as the weight gets heavier.
3. Go shoeless. It’s freeing. Not to mention you can grip the floor with your toes as well as tap into the musculature of your lower legs and fire those glutes!
4. If you’re having trouble keeping your arch when you reach for the bar, elevate it on plates or sandbags to the height where you can easily keep your arch. Also, if you’re not fortunate enough to have bumper plates in lower weight than 45s, please, elevate your bar about 1/3 up your shin.
5. While I am always an advocate for adding more weight, don’t increase your weight if you’re “grinding” your reps. Stop, lower the weight and move that bar with good speed and form! Your spine will thank you.
By no means is this an exhaustive post about deadlifts (I could go on for pages) but it should be enough to get you started.
Go forth. Pick up heavy things.