When you picture someone performing a deadlift, what images come to mind? Perhaps that of Brian Shaw, American professional strongman competitor, who won three World’s Strongest Man contests? Or perhaps Annie Thorisdottir, Olympic weightlifter and CrossFit Games champion? Or maybe your uncle, who threw out his back while trying to hoist a 40 pound bag of mulch up onto his shoulder? I’m here to tell you that the deadlift is an excellent exercise. Deadlifting is more than brute strength. It’s about developing proper technique. Building functional strength. Learning how to recruit multiple muscle groups. Protecting and strengthening your back.
“Chest out! Hips forward!” My clients often hear me say this during deadlifts. Deadlifting is not just standing up with a weight in your hands. You literally pull the barbell up and toward your body. In order to do this safely and effectively, you need to keep a flat back throughout the entire movement. Scapular retraction (pinching your shoulder blades together) will help protect your back. (Remember that a rounded or flexed spine is a weak/compromised spine. That’s how you get injured.) One more thing. Be sure to exhale as you lift the weight up. Bearing down (holding your breath) while lifting might cause a stroke. Happy thoughts, right?
“Form is a constant regardless of the weight you lift.” That’s another Eric saying. Whether it’s 20 pounds, 100 pounds or 500 pounds, the technique you employ should always be good. I’m not talking about trying to lift a weight that you can’t even budge. Improper technique, an imbalance in strength and flexibility and inadequately warming up are the culprits for injuries. But that’s a whole other blog article.
So here are your 5 reasons to add deadlifts into your exercise routine:
1. Power. There is something about engaging all the muscles in your body (at least it feels that way sometimes) when you deadlift. And you just can’t get that doing dumbbell biceps curls.
2. Core strength. Hips, low back, abdominals. They all work together when you deadlift.
3. Injury prevention. How would you like to kiss low back problems good bye? Do deadlifts. When I worked in a physical therapy clinic in California, the Physical Therapist said the main cause of low back injuries was picking something up off the ground with a rounded back.
4. Getting in tune with your body. Gym exercise machines don’t teach body awareness. You just sit down and move some handles or bars. They move in a fixed range of motion. Deadlifts teach you to recruit multiple muscle groups at the same time. You will quickly identify your weak point(s) when you deadlift.
5. Adding creativity. Workout programs can get a little boring after a while. How about adding deadlifts? Your mind and body will say “Hey, what’s this new exercise?” It might just be the exercise to give you that kick in the butt.
Want to watch some textbook deadlifting? Check out this great video of professional strongman, Brian Shaw.