Chapter 2 of 12: The Deadlift

The second place in my resistance training exercises list goes to the deadlift. I used to dislike the exercise for two main reasons. On one hand I was not too sure about my technique, so I used to avoid it. On the other hand, not doing it was making be bad and weak when performing the exercise. 

Then I started to read about the deadlift benefits and I saw it as a complement of the squat. The squat is my favourite exercise by far, nevertheless I can know say that the deadlift ranks almost as high, as it provides the same challenges and benefits as the squat.

With deadlift, things are simple, you lift the bar or not, you lift it properly or your lower back screams, you challenge all the little joints of your body from ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, elbows to wrists.

It is safe to say that the deadlift is more than a leg exercise it is a whole body exercise that makes your lower body stronger dynamically in both the eccentric and concentric phase of the lift while your upper body gains more isometric strength.


Fix your deadlift form

Several simple step to have it right.

1. Start standing with an empty bar of 10-20kg

- Feet hips with apart, can be pointed out, legs slightly bent, almost straight.

- Your hands place slightly more than knee width, holding the bar. Your grip should be almost shoulder width apart. Don’t fully extend your arms at the elbow to avoid placing too much weight on your elbow joints.

- Chest up, which creates a slight curve in your back (neutral spine). AVOID ROUNDING YOUR BACK!!

2. As we deadlift we want to maintain as much as we can the posture of point 1.

- Lower the barbell in a straight line, the barbell should travel inches in front of the legs and knees.

- Once the barbell has passed the level of your knees, you bend your legs and connect your shins to the bar. As you are bending your legs you need to maintain your chest up and the neutral spine position.

- In the bottom and final stage of the lift, you will find yourself almost in a squat  position holding a bar in front of you.

A TIP: Imagine you wear a top with something written on the front at the chest level, if you deadlift with a good posture you should be able to see the writing all the way through the lift.

If you can't see it, most possibly, your will have your chest parallel to the ground, which means a broken posture and lots of pressure on the lower back. Consequently, possible lower back pain and injury.

3. Once comfortable with the points 1 and 2.

- Load a bar with some plates.

- You will squat to grab the bar maintaining your chest up and the spine neutral.

- Put your feet hips width apart (pointing to the outside) under the bar.

-  Your shins will touch the bar.

- Your hands place slightly more than knee width. Slightly bent elbows will distribute the weight throughout your arms and body without placing to much strain on the joints.

4- You will initiate the lift by stretching your legs gradually.

- Make sure to keep your knees out of the way, as the bar goes up and down in a straight line.

- At the top of the lift, squeeze your butt, then your shoulder blades and repeat the whole motion.


The benefits of the Deadlift:

For all ages and gender:

The deadlift is in some extent easier to do than the squat, as personal trainer I can see that 6 people out of 10 struggle generally with the squat. They generally, squat on their toes, or have ankles flexibilty issues.

2 people out of the 6 need to squat with a  medicine ball behind their backs against a wall to manage to squat.

It seems easier to grab something off the floor than to bend with something of your back.

Taking this into account the deadlift seems to be safer and friendlier for the elderly population.

Deadlift has always been the "males" leg lift, most of the guys deadlift heavy, very few squat and deadlift heavy.

Nowadays the deadlift has become the ladies favourite, in fact it is a good exercise to recruit the glutes muscles and it is rewarding.

If you deadlift often you will see immediate improvements and will be able to lift heavy in no time. 

Core Strength:

The core are the muscle which go from the bottom of the hamstrings to your cervical spine, in the front and the back of your body.

As you deadlift all these muscles are activated, making you a stronger person.

The lower body is worked dynamically during the concentric and eccentric phases of the lift. On the other hand, the upper body muscles are working hard isometrically to maintain the posture and move the bar.

Functional strength:

It is a functional exercise, which has direct implication in our everyday life. You squat and deadlift every time you go to the shop or play with the kids, get the bins out...

Muscle mass:

In order to grow several conditions have to be present, use big muscles and lift heavy.

The deadlift is a complex compound exercise that use big muscles such as the legs, however the little muscles are involved has a backup.

We suddenly found ourselves performing a whole body exercise!

And when you combine that with heavy lifting, you naturally release growth hormones that induce muscle development.

Strength Gain:

The deadlift such as the squat is one of those few exercises that make you generally  stronger.

As mentioned previously, when you deadlift your whole body is involved. In short, you are strengthening other parts of your body while you deadlift.

More powerful:

The definition of power is strength at speed, if you follow a well designed training plan, you will encounter the following steps.

Stabilisation phase: You will learn the technique and work your posture and core. High reps, up to 25 with very light weight.

Strength endurance: You will perform many reps with more weight, around 60% of your 1 rep max. Still high rep, 12-15.

Hypertrophy: this stage is not necessary, it depends on your goals. Up to 85% of your 1 rep max for 10 reps.

Maximum strength: 1-3 reps at 95-100% of 1 rep max.

Power: It is the last and hardest stage as you lift as much as you can but at the highest possible speed. In order to do so, your technique must be bullet proof or you may simply get injured.

Heavy deadlift boost your power to execute other less complex movements.


Guys time to hit the gym floor and Deadlift! 

Next chapter:  Good Mornings and High pull



Joanna in the bottom phase of the lift with shins to the bar, almost in a squat position...


Joanna in the Final phase, butt and shoulders squeezed with chest up. Upper Body full contracted.