Everything you need to know about the deadlift

The deadlift is a compound, full-body exercise that works primarily the muscles of the back, legs, and hips. The specific attributes of competitive deadlifts are similar to those of other conventional, or standard, deadlifts except for the starting position. In contrast to the squat, colloquially known as the “king of exercises”, the deadlift is sometimes referred to colloquially as “the queen” or “emperor” of all exercises also due to where it places the bar relative to other lifts.

The traditional style deadlift

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The traditional style deadlift begins with the lifter standing erect and facing away from the weight stack having first positioned the feet under the bar with a narrower stance to prevent it from rolling off the shins. The bar is grasped by a double overhand grip and lifted until the lifter is standing erect. At this point, the knees typically bend slightly then upon further hip extension, lock into place as in a squat exercise. In this starting position, since the bar is still in contact with the legs and floor, resisting its weight, it is referred to as a deadlift rather than a “squat”.

The movement of the lifter then begins by pushing primarily with the legs and pulling primarily with the back muscles while maintaining an erect trunk. The key aspect of proper form in the deadlift is keeping the back locked into a rigid position (rigid straight-line extension of the lower back) throughout the lift. For many novice lifters, maintaining this form can be difficult; if not done properly, lifting belts are often used to provide external support to the abdominals and lumbar spine region as an aid until proper form is developed or back injury results from improper form.

The lift finishes when the lifter stands and the barbell are approximately at mid-thigh (the legs and hips straight). At this point, because of its length and mass, the loaded barbell tends to pull the lifter forward as well as downward; an effective deadlift begins with resisting that force and ending in a position of static or dynamic equilibrium. A properly performed deadlift has the lifter standing erect with the hips and knees fully extended (the lift finishes when the hips are locked out).

The barbell is then returned to the floor, often by performing what’s called a reverse-overhead press (not a press, but a very strong lower body extension).


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Most of the benefits of performing deadlifts come from the fact that it is one of the most efficient movements to strengthen the muscles that are involved in extending or even hyperextending your hip. To get into position, you have to push your hips back while keeping your spine straight until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. When you start pulling the barbell from the floor, imagine being able to push your hips through your legs as you would when you jump with both feet.

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