As a trainer I get asked some interesting questions. “What do I do for better arms?” “Can you give me a bunch of free sessions?” “I just started working out yesterday. Why don’t I look like a fitness model?” Surely, a lot of trainers get asked these questions, better or worse, on a daily basis. One good question I get asked a lot is “What is the one best overall exercise I could or should do?”
The one question I should be asked above all is “Hey my friend is a fitness queen and she thinks you’re hot. Do you want to go out with her?”
So if I’m not getting asked THAT question, I’ll answer the other one.
Yes. Deadlifts are dope enough to require a Samuel L. Jackson type response. Why the deadlift? Well, while there are many little variations, the standard tried and true deadlift pretty much works EVERY SINGLE PART OF YOUR BODY. “That’s impossible!” you say. You should shut your trap and read on friendo. Because we’re correct with that statement. How?
1) Your arms, forearms, and hands hold the barbell and make sure it stays in the right position.
2) Your shoulders and traps hold the weight stable.
3) Your back and core help keep your whole body tight as a Republican congressman spending the federal budget on anything besides war.
4) Your posterior chain aka your ass and hamstrings, act as a lever to lift the weight. (See the tricky science picture below)
If you were to ask me how to get a strong core I would say, do quality deadlifts. If you really enjoy doing 100 of something that won’t get you the same results, feel free to do 100 crunches. We’ll be over here doing deadlifts.
The deadlift, more or less, is a basic functional movement. You do a lot of this during a day of picking shit up, moving stuff, lifting this or that. Do you have a chubby baby? Pick him up off the ground right now (chances are he pooped his pants anyways) and you just sort of deadlifted your kid. And if you’re a guy, do deadlifts. It’s a manly man exercise that you should be doing instead of cardio kickboxing classes.
And while we personally don’t deadlift all the weight in the room, we prefer to do a LOT of them. They feel great, and we feel strong afterwards. We’re finding dong more quality deadlifts on leg day instead of leg press is making leg day more fun. We like fun shit.
So you should know there are several modified versions of the deadlift. So which shall you try?
1) Conventional Deadlift – Your hands are just outside your feet, standing at about hip width apart.
2) Sumo Deadlift – Your hands are inside your feet with a wider stance.
3) Hex or Trap Bar Bar Deadlifts – Use a specialty bar made just for deadlifting which changes the biomechanics.
4) Romanian Deadlift, Stiff Legged Deadlift, Straight Leg Deadlift -These are variations that are all commonly confused. Bret Contreras has a great post where he goes into the differences between these variations in detail here.
In doing deadlifts try and wear as flat as shoes as you can. You get a far better base and feel more grounded in the movement.
So are you ready to try this? We think you are. Go for it:
1) Walk to the bar. Stand with your mid-foot under the bar. Don’t touch it with your shins yet. Hip-width stance, toes out 15°.
2) Grab the bar. Narrow, about shoulder-width apart. Arms vertical from the front-view, hanging just outside your legs.
3) Bend your knees. Keep going until your shins touch the bar. Don’t move the bar. Keep it over your mid-foot.
4) Lift your chest. Straighten your back. Don’t move the bar. Don’t drop your hips. Don’t squeeze your shoulders-blades.
5) Pull. Take a big breath, hold it and stand up. Keep the bar against your legs. Don’t shrug or lean back at the top.
You’ve finished. Congrats! But now you’re probably just standing straight up and trying to read your phone for what to do next. So return the weights to the floor by pushing your hips back FIRST. Bend your legs once the bar reaches the knees (don’t bend the knees first or the bar will smack them).
Lastly, there are a few things you should NOT do when deadlifting. If you are, chances are you need to practice first with a lighter weight OR don’t try and be a fucking hero by deadlifting all the weight in the gym with shit form.
Don’t round your back! Don’t look up with your neck. Don’t hyper-extend your torso and pelvis at the top. Seriously, just….don’t. Also, don’t treat the deadlift like a squat. Don’t let the the bar leave the mid-line of the body. And for christsakes, don’t let your butt come up faster than your chest, also known as the “Stripper Deadlift”.
These are the basics you should know about deadlifts. We’re putting a good video below of a solid basic deadlift. As we stated before learn this on a lighter weight, and check what you’re doing from all sides or have a friend record you. When doing them if you don’t feel it in your hamstrings, lower back and glutes, and your knees are killing you, STOP! Check your shit. With practice, you can get the form of his down and you’ll be the champ of the gym.