Why does the deadlift check so many boxes? For starters, it’s hard to use momentum or cheat and an overly eager spotter can’t give you support. This means that you have to do everything on your own, unlike other lifts such as the bench press with a rack. Deadlifts are arguably one of the most popular back and leg exercises. They also build your core and stabilize the spine.
When you perform the deadlift properly, it recruits just about every muscle fiber throughout your body, from your feet to your torso, and from your arms to your grip. Not only are they easy to learn, but the exercise has been shown to improve brain function in as little as a week, which makes it hard for people with anxiety and depression to not enjoy the benefits.
However, to reap the benefits, like with any exercise, you must master the technique. The deadlift is not inherently dangerous if done correctly, but you must be in the right position before exerting force.
Is the Deadlift Safe?
Steve Repetto, the founder of CrossFit, says it’s easier to learn how to Deadlift than it is to learn how to squat or bench press. We take a more in-depth look at why this is so. It all comes down to practice. With this in mind, you should start practicing now before you get used to being in a leadership position. After all, it’s easier to move up the proverbial corporate ladder when there’s less weight holding you back.
But, before digging into the specifics, you should know that the deadlift requires some personal modifications. The deadlift is one of the best exercises for getting back strength, increasing grip strength, and it can also be good for your cardiovascular health. Sadly, not everyone can perform this exercise because they lack the proper physical conditioning or flexibility.
The deadlift’s starting point is inflexible and inevitably has to be below the desired height. This can make it difficult for taller people. A standard 45-pound plate is around 17.5 cm in diameter, which means the barbell connecting them will be just under 9 inches off the ground. One issue with dumbbells is that the bar needs to go all the way to the floor for any weight, which can be a pain. An alternative is using a trap bar, which shortens this distance.
Everybody type is different, so it’s important to find the right deadlift setup. Find a balance by changing your grip, stance, and position of your feet, and then start getting the benefits – increased strength and stability.
5 Steps to Perfect Deadlift Technique
“When you want to make sure that your stability is up to par and your range of motion is operating at its best, do one set of Deadlifts with light weights,” says John Ganglion, owner of Ganglion Strength in East Farmingdale, New York. The proper deadlift setup requires 17.5-inch plates on the barbell.
Instead, you could use 5- or 10-pound plastic plates that are the same height as the bar. If your gym or home doesn’t have these things available, you can opt for a squat rack instead.
Once the weight is set, here is how Repetto teaches the exercise:
Step #1: Deadlift Foot Positioning
Tip: Put your feet shoulder-width apart
Your feet are actually closer together than you might think – within the same stance that you take for a vertical jump. Point your toes in slightly, and you will have an improved weightlifting experience!
When I dead-lift, my shins are vertical and 1 inch away from the bar. That’s important because the bar should be directly over the middle of the foot.
“It doesn’t matter what size your foot is,” Repetto says. “We’ve looked at women’s size 4 on up to men’s size 17. For all of them, 1 inch puts the barbell over the middle of the foot.”
Step #2: Set Your Deadlift Grip
Tip: Position your grip just outside your shins for more stability.
Lock in your grip by hinging at the hips and bending over to grip the bar. A closer grip will reduce the range of motion needed for you to perform the pull.
Most of the time, you should use a double overhand grip on your weights, with your palms facing towards your body. Alternate grips can put an undue strain on some muscles in your shoulder while others are underused.
Step #3: Adjust Your Legs Before You Pull
Tip: Drop your knees forward without moving the bar.
When your shins make contact with the bar, this is the position your hips and knees will be in when you start the pull. Once your shins touch, don’t lower them any further because this will cause your knees to go forward and obstruct the bar. He said, “You’ll find your center of mass behind the bar and want to fall over backward.”
Repetto also cues lifters to push their knees out into their elbows slightly—which should be easy to do if they took a narrow grip.
Step #4: Activate The Muscles In Your Back
Tip: Stand tall and keep your chest up
Put your back into it. This sounds simple, but it’s important! You should lift with your muscles in the upper back to keep your chest up while you’re getting into position to pull. Confused? Don’t be. Activating those muscles work in such a way that helps to align the correct posture.
Some coaches will tell their lifters to adjust their bench shirts until they can read the writing on the front of the shirt.
“Keeping the chest up will create a wave of extension that travels from the shoulders to pelvis and back,” Repetto says. “It does this by driving all of the force into the bar.”
Step #5: Grip It, Breathe, And Rip It
Tip: Activate and pull the weight up
Before you try to take the weight off your toes, think about pulling it upwards instead. Cue this by rocking back ever-so-slightly so that all weight is on your midfoot. Take a big breath to engage your core and press your shoulder blades together.
Take hold of the bar and keep it tight against your shins to hoist the weight off the ground and down in front of you. “The knee extension should come first, followed by the hip extension. Doing these movements correctly will mean that the bar will go up along a straight line directly over your middle foot.”
The safest way to squat is to lead with the chest and follow all the way down and back up in one motion. This will allow you to lift more weight than if you have to move it over your thighs as a series of steps. The bar should stay very close to your legs from the bottom of the movement all the way up to the lockout.
As you return to the starting position, either drop the bar to just above your clavicle or reverse it for a touch and go movement. Your feet should be still set, so repeat steps 2-5 (or 3-5 if you locked your grip) and do as many repetitions as your fitness plan requires.