Deadlifts are tricky, but they are the foundation of any serious strength workout. Whether you want to gain muscle, lose fat, or improve your performance, deadlifts are truly one of the most effective moves you can perform to master all three. A deadlift is also one of the truest determinations of a person's strength and ability, so getting the swing of this lift is beneficial to you in more ways than one.
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Deadlifting seems deceptively simple, but a lot of technique goes into the move. With proper technique and form comes a bounty of benefits, so here's some expert tips to help you along the way to doing right by this essential exercise.
ENGAGE YOUR HIPS
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Many people seem to think that a deadlift is basically a squat, but with the latter, it's just more quad-focused. This information could not be more wrong. Your hips are the predominant joints that drive the lift, so always pay attention to them. The key move here is pushing your hips back, from the moment you set up your deadlift, to lowering the barbell back. What you need to do is push your hips back as if you were doing a Romanian deadlift, functioning as a hinge. The brunt of the weight should fall on your hamstrings as you do this, and not your quads.
PAUSE DURING THE DEADLIFT
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You've heard about the benefits of pausing during a lift. For example, when doing a bicep curl, it's always best to hold the lift for one to two seconds when you've reached the peak of the curl, before returning to the starting position. This applies to deadlifts too. This pausing is called isometrics. What this class of exercise does is the ability to work your strength, flexibility, and mobility while improving overall form. Yes, it's the point where you feel most of the burn, but it's good to embrace, not reject it entirely. When you perform a deadlift, try to pause for a second when you're at the bottom of the lift, when the barbell is just an inch or so above ground. Yes, you need to be disciplined, but it is well worth it.
IMPROVE YOUR GRIP
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Your grip is truly at the core of what makes a deadlift. Not everyone starts out with a strong grip, but this can be trained by continuously integrating heavier lifts as part of your regime. When one has a strong grip, you'll definitely feel more confident, be able to lift heavier and accelerate faster off the ground, as well as increase your muscle activation during the lift. There are a number of moves that can help improve your grip, and they are as follows — shrugs, farmer's walks, bent over rows with an overhand grip, or static barbell holds. Try to play around with grips as well, instead of always sticking to the overhand grip. The mix grip, where one hand faces outwards and one faces the body, or the hook grip, which is basically a double overhand grip with your thumbs trapped between the bar and your index finger, are good ways to mix things up.
TAKE YOUR SHOES OFF
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This sounds odd, but taking your shoes off can make a world of difference to the lift. When you wear shoes, you are slightly taller than you normally would be. It's a plus point to shorter folks, but when you deadlift, it messes up how you perform because the bar has to travel further. When you're barefoot, you also have more of a grip on the ground, and can drive the movement in strongly from your heels. This engages your glutes and hamstrings — the two primary muscle necessary for a deadlift. You can lift a good 5 or more kgs heavier without shoes, trust us. If the gym doesn't allow you to lift barefoot due to safety, then try to wear flat style shoes without too much beef on the sole.
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