The Deadlift

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To only dedicate 1,000 words to the deadlift would not do it justice, but that might bore people to death.  Entire books have been written on deadlifting, but the following is a quick, user-friendly guide to starting, progressing, or breaking through the plateau of the deadlift.

Not many movements are broken down, critiqued, CRITICIZED, or polarizing like the deadlift.

Coaches love it, coaches hate it.

They want to teach it, they don’t know how to teach it.

It builds a strong back, “they hurt their back because they were deadlifting.”*

It’s the best movement; “it’s the best movement for getting hurt.”*

Athletes need to arch the back, but they round their backs, they don’t arch, they CAN’T arch.

Hip Hinge?

Some pull conventional, some pull sumo, some pull trap bar.

Some pull deficit, some pull Bavarian, some pull shoestring.

Pull with the belt, pull without the belt.

Rack Pulls, 18” Deadlift, Lockouts.

Seriously, Hip what?

Over-under, double over, and on and on and on.

“*” – denotes actual face to face confrontations with coaches about deadlifting

So here are some quick answers:

Coaches should love it and need to know how to teach it so they can incorporate it into a program.  In order to deadlift arching the back and hinging the hip is necessary.  As far as the various types of deadlift, they are all good and need to be implemented into all programs.  Some like to pull completely raw, most prefer a belt, but it’s up to the lifter.  The same with the grip, after seeing 5-6 guys tear biceps in person, some prefer double over grips, most stick with the old reliable, traditional over-under grip.  Before the uproar commences, Brad Gillingham pulled an IPF Masters World Record 881 lbs with a double over grip.

Let the record be set straight about a few things.  The deadlift is the KING of all strength training movements.  No strength training movement builds more strength, mass, or demeanor.  The deadlift is THE BEST total body movement.  It strengthens the hands, the forearms, the biceps, the hips, the entire posterior chain – hamstrings, glutes, spinal erectors, the thoracic back, and the upper back (rhomboids, last, rear delts, and traps), the rectus abdominus, the transverse abdominus, and the obliques.  No exercise can cater to the swimsuit model, the bodybuilder, the powerlifter, or the athlete like the deadlift.

What makes the deadlift so special, effective, and primal is that the movement is a concentric-eccentric movement.  Unlike bench pressing and squatting which are eccentric-concentric, there is no build up (stretching of the muscle) during the lowering of an eccentric phase which helps the body generate more force (shortening, contraction of the muscle) for the upward thrust of the concentric phase.  Movements like bench press and squat allow athletes to take advantage of the rubber band effect by lowering to a proper depth before lifting back to the top.  No such head start exists for the deadlift.

That may be more confusing than it needs to be, so think of it like this:

The top of the hill is considered a good lift.

During the bench press and squat, an individual gets to run down one hill to build up speed before they run up the next hill.

During the deadlift, the individual has to start from a dead stop at the bottom of the hill; they do not get to build up with the “running start.”

Glute activation is huge for deadlifting.  Here are some exercises to implement into a deadlift warm up.

The set up for a conventional deadlift and the cues to execute it properly are not as difficult as some would believe.

1)   The shoelace nearest the toes should be directly under the bar.  The elbows will be outside the knees from first pull to the lock out, and that needs to be taken into consideration when figuring out how wide the base of the athlete/lifter will need to be.  Just be comfortable.

2)   Once the feet are set, the upper back needs to be locked.  The scapulae (shoulder blades) need to be pulled back.  With the shoulder blades tight, the back will then be arched, and as the back is arched, the lifter will be able to take advantage of the crane-like lever of the hip hinge.

3)   It is crucial to remember that the shoulders need to be behind the bar throughout the entire movement.  When the lifter pulls back the bar will come up and not go forward.  Therefore, the lifter will have to pull through their heels and keep their toes off the ground.

4)   The feet are set and the upper back is set so it is time to get on the bar.  Pick a grip that works, re-set the legs, drive through the heels, push the hips through and activate the glutes.

Hip Hinge Movements:

Romanian Deadlifts

Good Mornings

Zercher-Style Good Mornings

Bent Over Rows

PANKO Strength & Speed, Proud Stewards of the American Dream

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