You'd be hard-pressed to find a lifter of any skill level who doesn't include the deadlift in their routine. It's got quite the history of being the big, scary, exhaustive, and difficult to master the technique for anyone how's given it a try.
The popularity of deadlifting comes from two really simple facts. The first being that it's a full body workout, working muscles all the way from your feet to your neck. The second being, that while it is pretty difficult to master, it's an incredibly simple movement.
A Proper Deadlift
It's kind of a misconception that you can do a proper deadlift with dumbells. Don't. To do a deadlift right, start by standing over the barbell with your feet under the bar. Your stance should have your feet slightly inside the width of your shoulders with your toes pointed straight forward. Then you bend over and grip the bar with your arms hanging right below your shoulders.
How should you grip the bar? Things get a little tricky here, as the answer is kind of a mixed bag. There are a few ways to grab the bar as you embark into this workout, everyone seems to have a different opinion on which is best. To do away with all of the guesswork, I've found one that most folks agree is the safest way to go for you.
Use The Mixed Grip
Probably the most common of all grips, the mixed grip is probably what you've seen most dudes (and dudettes) on youtube showing off their deadlifting skills with. This grip just means you're holding the bar overhand with one hand, and underhand with the other. This will keep the bar from rolling wither way out of your grip, giving your lift a more secure way up. Careful with curling your arm under the bar as some are inclined to do, it's lead to more than a handful of injuries.
Once you've got your grip down, take a super deep breath into your diaphragm. Bend the knees and hips while pushing out your rear, so the barbell is touching your shins. Flatten out your back to the most neutral position you can get it in, relax the arms, and pull smoothly but aggressively, lifting the bar from the floor by pushing up with your legs. Make sure you're keeping the bar as close to your shins and thighs as it travels along your leg. Once the bar is above your knees, force your hips forward toward the bar, and stand tall. Lower the bar after a moment, while keeping your back as neutral as possible, and you've done a deadlift! Now do it again a bunch of times.
Deadlifting got its name from the physicality of the exercise: you're literally lifting dead weight off the ground and putting it back down again. You know, the kind of thing you're always doing whenever someone has to move all their furniture, or shovel snow, or pretty much anything that requires bending over and picking something up off the ground.
Like I mentioned before, the deadlift both stretches and strains muscles all over your body. There's no crunch on earth that will shred your abs like the kind of abdominal bracing that comes with doing the exercise correctly. Particularly if you're a dude trying to add muscle mass and have had difficulty with it in the past, the motion under heavy weight releases increased testosterone and growth hormone levels during and after the workout.
Everyone and anyone benefits from deadlifting. Another common misconception here, lots of folks think the exercise is reserved for meatheads in the gym who have something to prove. Not the case, however, since the motion actually increases your overall control of intraabdominal pressure, reinforces your pelvic floor. This is the kind of thing that is even more beneficial to women interested in a stronger core, particularly before and in the early stages of pregnancy.
Strength and power are the most important factors in your physical health as you age, and deadlifting benefits this directly. Hip, leg, knee, and shoulder joints take the most natural wear and tear during your life, something we'll all no doubt feel eventually. When done properly, this exercise is extraordinarily effective in retaining and gaining strength and power throughout the body, improving your body and muscle function over the years. In other words, you don't just do spurts of deadlifting, you add it to your gym routine permanently.
Bad Deadlifts Are Bad
Listen, if you're going to actually go for strength training with some deadlifts, you ought to know that doing a bad them poorly can be super bad for your back. It's simultaneously true that this particular fear is exaggerated in the lifting community because in order for you to really hurt yourself, you have to be doing them really, really wrong.
Don't lift with your arms. Don't pull with your back, and definitely don't incorporate any sort of squat into your range of motion here. Watch a few videos and take this article with you on your next trip to the gym, thank me later.
Image Credit: Victor Freitas