Key Exercise: The Deadlift

I’m one of those weird people who enjoys working out and being in the gym, but even I don’t want to spend more time than necessary lifting heavy things. Like everyone, I want an efficient workout that leaves me feeling accomplished but gets me in and out. Enter the deadlift. There are a few key exercises I – depending on current ability – program into all of my clients’ workouts, myself included, and the deadlift is one of those.

Much like the squat, the deadlift is a compound exercise meaning it works multiple muscle groups and is a multi-joint movement. The more muscles you work, the bigger the calorie burn, and the bigger/stronger those muscles become, the more calories you burn at rest. At. Rest. Instead of doing an exercise for your back, then glutes, then hamstrings, then planking for a minute to work your core, the deadlift works ALL OF THEM in one single movement. Those are some heavy hitters and strengthening these muscles have advantages that carry over just looking awesome.

The most important thing in lifting weights is your form, and correct form with the deadlift is crucial so you do not injure your back. The movement pattern in a deadlift is called the hip-hinge, and is often not as natural as that of a squat. If you are unfamiliar or uncertain with this movement it’s a good idea to practice the pattern before adding weight. Essentially you want to keep a flat back, initiate the action from your hips by shifting them back as you bring your chest closer to the floor (as opposed to rounding the back with the hips stationary). Two ways to practice are:

  1.  Wall check
    • Stand roughly one foot from a wall, facing away.
    • As you lower your chest towards the floor, keep a slight bend in your knees and push your butt back until it hits the wall.
    • Keep your back flat and push your hips back to their starting position as you raise your chest and head to standing.
    • If your hips don’t shift back, your butt won’t hit the wall so this forces the movement pattern. Video
  2. Dowel rod
    • Take any straight rod (yard stick, small PVC pipe, broom, etc.) and hold it behind you with one hand holding it behind your head and one behind you at the low back.
    • Make contact with the rod at your butt, upper back and back of head.
    • Hinge forward (from hips!), keeping all contact points against rod. Video.

Once you have the movement pattern down, you can deadlift with barbells, dumbbells, racked weights, your neighbors dog, wait what? Start light and ensure you have good form (this is why there are mirrors in gyms, despite what those who admire themselves while texting think) before adding more. Happy lifting!

Dumbbell Deadlift Description

Want help programming this and other exercises into a routine you can be consistent with? Let’s talk!

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