The deadlift is probably the most underused and misunderstood exercise that can be added to ones arsenal to strengthen and build the back, glutes and hamstrings.
However, where one might be a natural-born presser and/or squatter, natural-born deadlifters are few and far between. Why? Well, easily put, the deadlift is probably one of the, if not THE most technical of all basic weightlifting exercises. Having a good deadlift depends a lot on the technical aspects of the lift (i.e., hand, foot and bar placement, bar path, back position and even breathing). Although this isn’t a comprehensive list of ALL the technical aspects of the deadlift, IMO they are key elements. How well you deadlift will depend greatly on how you are able to master these aspects.
- Hand placement – Most trainers and experienced lifters will recommend simply dropping ones hands to their side and using a comfortable grip
- Foot placement – Most will recommend a stance no wider than shoulder width
- Bar placement – Bar should be as close to the shins as possible at the beginning of your pull
- Bar path – Keep bar tight to the shins and legs all the way through the pull
- Breathing – Take a deep breath right at the beginning of pull and don’t release until lock out
Once you feel comfortable with these aspects what can you do to make sure to see steady increases in your deadlift? First and foremost train the lift focusing on the aspects we discussed above. Aside from that there are some accessory movements that can be used to see regular progress.
- Glute Ham Raises – Most reputable training facilities will have a glute ham raise station. These are very good for strengthening the lower back, glutes and ham (as the name implies).
- Deficit Deadlifts – Standing on no more than a 3-4” block or even bumper plates will strengthen your posterior chain and initial pull from the floor.
- Snatch Grip Deadlifts – These absolutely pound the posterior chain. A stronger posterior chain can equal a bigger deadlift.
- Deadlift Off Blocks or Rack Pulls – Personally I recommend block pulls as rack pulls are hard on your equipment, namely the bar and even harder on the body. Placing weights on a 12-16” block will strengthen your pull from knee height
I think, Icelandic strongman, Jon Pall Sigmarrson said it best, “There is no reason to be alive if you can’t…deadlift!”
Prepared by Frank Gonzalez
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