If you don’t know what a deadlift is then there’s a good chance that reading this could change your life. I know thats a bold claim but even if you disregard the massive strength and development benefits its the correct way in which to pick something up off the floor.
So if the health and safety advisor in work is telling you to lift safely but not giving you any more info than just “use your legs,” then this could help you a lot.
This article will explain all the joys of deadlifting, as well as give you a handy how-to guide to do it.
Now I’m biased but the deadlift is my favourite lift. This is for a number of reasons, such as –
- I’m a powerlifter, so its a big part of my training.
- I was always decent at it. (265kg out of competition and 250kg in.)
- It’s phenomenally good for grip/back/forearm/leg and booty strength and development.
The Deadlift: Conventional & Sumo.
Most people, when they think of a deadlift, will think of a conventional deadlift. If you’re unsure, imagine:
- A barbell loaded on the floor.
- You stood over it, with your feet just under the bar.
- Your hands either side of your feet, and then –
- You pulling the barbell up off the floor, with a flat back, to an upright position with knees, hips and shoulders locked.
It’s how they do it in World’s Strongest Man, and this is most people’s first experience of strength sports and lifts. In Powerlifting you can do either this or sumo, although the conventional pullers will always give the sumoers some stick.
Sumo is the stance you’ll see where the lifter has their feet very wide, with their shins close to, or on, the bar, they will then reach down so that their hands are inside their feet and pull from this position to standing.
When it comes to choosing which is best for you it comes down to a number of factors. These factors include, but are not limited to: leverages; strengths and weaknesses in the muscles (imbalances); mobility/flexibilty and, whether your skin is thick enough to do sumo amongst many conventional lifters.
Conventional requires more quadriceps and lower back strength; normally a good conventional lifter will have longer arms relative to their height.
Sumo requires a more upright posture, comparitively longer legs (hence more ladies doing it than men), stronger glutes and hamstrings.
Despite these rough recommendations it is highly individual. If you were to go off of my build you’d think I’d be more suited to sumo, however, I just cannot get the hang of it and have pulled much more successfully with conventional. So practice both and see which works best for you.
Why Is The Deadlift So Good?
I’ve already mentioned how the deadlift is the correct way in which to pick things up off the floor. So, aside from health and safety, why else should you do it?
Due to the amount and the size of muscles used in this exercise you can get a lot of serious weight through this lift. The deadlift incorporates the major muscles in your legs, butt, lower back, mid back, upper back and even the ones in your arms. So not only can this increase your strength in those muscles individually it helps teaches your body to work as a unit.
It is a major compound lift, meaning that it uses multiple muscle groups and joints. I’ve already said how this makes the whole body stronger but it is also useful for our mobility.
You only have to look around a gym to see some suspicious deadlift form. You’ll see curved lower backs, curved upper backs, bent arms or, quite often, ridiculous back hyperextension. (More on this later).
If you learn the deadlift with good form, not only will you be strong in that movement but you’ll be safe in that movement. A good deal of pain issues going into middle age are down to lower back problems and a large part of these are down to bad posture or movement, it is worth fixing.
How to do it.
Now I mainly deadlift in the conventional style, but I do have a few lifters who go for sumo. When it comes to coaching conventional I use two main set ups for it.
The first set up is great, however, it can be easy for your hips to shoot too high out of position once the lift starts moving. So, if this is happens, I’d recommend working on the second. The hips going too early can pull your back out of position and lose you some power at a crucial stage, or worse still have you risking injury.
Set up 1 –
This one comes largely from a Mark Rippetoe video on Youtube and it is fairly solid.
- To start with, load the barbell (obviously).
- Stand with your feet between hip and shoulder width apart (play with this and see what’s best for you).
- Stand so that your bottom shoe lace is covered by the bar.
- Have your hands go either side of your feet.
- Tuck your shoulder blades into your back pocket (back and down).
- Push the floor away with your feet as you pull the bar up with your hands while keeping your back flat.
- Don’t hyperextend, stand up straight, not leaning back.
Set up 2 –
This one allows for a better hip placement and more quad involvement.
- Start in the same stance as previously, ie – feet between hip and shoulder, shoe lace covered by the bar.
- This time, before you put your hands on the bar, put your shins to the bar so that your knees are bent. Move your feet slightly forward or back if you need to.
- Then, do points 4-7 as on set up 1.
Sumo Set up.
- Stand with your feet wide, so wide so that when you bend down in this position your shins are roughly vertical.
- Grab the bar at, roughly, shoulder width.
- Get your hips and shoulders aligned so your back is not arched.
- Dig your heels in and push the floor away.
- Your knees are likely to lock as the bar passes them.
- Stand up to straight, do not hyperextend but this is where you lock out your hips.
Do it. It’s a great strength builder and will almost definitely benefit your other lifts, strength, muscle development and your movement.