The Deadlift is a compound exercise primarily for the lower back. They also work the:

  • quads
  • hamstrings
  • gluts
  • traps
  • forearms

However, there is a high-risk of injury with the deadlift due to the nature of the movement and the amount of weight involved. It is therefore imperative that we get the form right.

How To Deadlift Properly

* Your feet should be about shoulder-width apart with your toes pointing out slightly i.e. away from each other

* The barbell should be rolled up to a couple of inches away from your shins.

* Your grip needs to be just wider than your legs. Otherwise your arms will be rubbing against your legs throughout the rep.

* Some people will advise you against using lifiting straps. This is silly – use them. If you are deadlifting enough weight, chances are your forearm strength will go before your back does, meaning that you have limited the growth stimulation that can be imparted to your WEAKEST body part. This is the ‘weakest link’ downside of compound exercises I commented upon in the compound vs isolation post.

Furthermore, deadlifts only provide an ISOMETRIC or static contraction to the forearms. They NEVER being those forearm muscle fibers into a position of maximum contraction – the point where the maximum number of muscle fibers are recruited and available for growth stimulation to be imparted. If you’re counting on deadlifts to develop your forearms, you’re going about it in a terribly inefficient manner. Use wrist curls as your primary method of developing your forearms and use straps on certain compound lifts to bypass the weak link.

If you really don’t want to use straps, or don’t have them, use an alternate grip i.e. one hand overhand, one hand underhand.

* Stick your chest and bum out, which will automatically arch the lower back.

* With your back arched, lower down while looking forward. When your shins touch the bar, stop lowering and grab the bar. From a sideview, your head should be higher than your bum.

* Some sites advise you to start from a position where your thighs are parallel to the ground. Deadlifts are not primarily a leg movement and we use other exercises to develop our legs. Your thighs should therefore be higher than parallel from the start of the movement.

* Ensure that you are not placing your weight towards the front of your feet. Some people have a tendency to place their center of gravity on their toes from the start of the movement. Keep more weight shifted towards the heels.

* Look forward throughout the rep.

* Do NOT round your back at any stage – you WILL get injured.

* Now push the bar up starting with the legs, then move at the hip joint, not the other way around.

* The bar should remain close to the body throughout.

* Remember not to actually lift with the arms. Mike Mentzer used to say that you should visualize your arms as chains with hooks on the end. Your arms are only there to HOLD the bar, not to lift it so keep them straight with your elbows locked.

* There is no need to pull the traps back at the top like you see some people do. The top of the rep is simply when you are standing up straight.

* Don’t overemphasize the lowering/negative portion of the deadlift because of the heavy loads employed. Don’t drop the weight either; take about a second to lower the bar to the floor.

* Mentally and physically RESET after each rep i.e. let the bar rest for a second between each rep. I think that deadlifts are best performed in a manner akin to repeatedly attempting a 1-rep max.

There is no Peak Contraction Point with Deadlifts, and attempting to hold at ANY point in the rep would be quite dangerous at such heavy weights. Perform as described above and reach failure within the ANABOLIC WINDOW. If you can do more than 90 seconds worth of deadlifts, you need to increase the weight.

Stay Motivated!

Mark

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