When it comes to training, there are only a few hard and fast rules.
You must progress over time.
You must be consistent.
And you have to deadlift!
It’s a well known strength and conditioning cliche that the deadlift is the ‘king of all exercises’, and for good reason. It’s majesty cannot be denied. Don’t forget the deadlift.
Pretty much everything gets worked – glutes, lower back, lats, quads, grip, and even your traps. It’s the epitome of a compound lift.
Plus it makes you feel like a beast. Part of training is the mental aspect of it, and lifting heavy weight reconnects you with your inner animal.
We sit down at computers all day eating processed crap, then go home and watch reality TV. Training is one of the few areas in life where you can actually feel like a man again.
Deadlifts will make you feel like a caveman. No omega males here.
So aside from making you feel like a beast, how do deadlifts actually benefit you?
Doing a proper deadlift will make you:
- Run faster.
- Jump higher.
- More muscular.
- More injury-resistant.
I’ve had lower back issues for a long time, and starting Brazilian Jiu-jitsu didn’t exactly help (BJJ is notorious for lower back injuries.)
Unfortunately, I made my back issues even worse by deadlifting with poor technique. Deadlifts can absolutely improve lower back health and function, but only when done properly.
For that reason, I dropped deadlifts out of my training. While I thought I would be able to replace it easily, nothing else really came close to developing the raw, full body strength that deadlifts do. I became much weaker in general, and my legs and glutes seemed to shrink. No bueno.
So after about a year without deadlifting, I’ve begun incorporating them again, paying extra attention to form as I build it back up. It will be interesting to see how it affects my athleticism and muscularity.
A good goal for most people able to pull from the floor is to lift 2x bodyweight with the trap bar or barbell.
Having said that, this does not mean you HAVE to deadlift with a trap bar or barbell, nor do you necessarily have to pull from the floor. Some people will never be able to perform these lifts with good form, and that’s ok.
The important thing is that you’re doing some kind of deadlift appropriate to your level. Don’t worry about what other people deem to be the most ‘manly’ or effective. Do what works for your body.
Below is my list of different deadlift variations, starting from ‘easiest’ to most difficult:
- KB deadlift – Excellent for beginners (helps to teach correct technique).
- 2 KB deadlift – Progression from the KB deadlift.
- Trap bar rack pull – I’ve never seen anyone else use this, but it’s basically a rack pull using a trap bar instead of a straight bar.
- Trap bar deadlift – My favourite form of deadlift. This works the posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings) a little less than the conventional barbell deadlift, but is easier on the lower back and much simpler to learn.
- Sumo deadlift – This can be a good option for certain people as it puts you in a good upright position, thus saving the lower back.
- Conventional deadlift – The most common form of deadlift, and often the most butchered. I’ve seen too many ugly deadlifts in my time.
When you are learning to deadlift – get someone to watch your form! Make sure you get the best from the exercise and and don’t hurt yourself. Not many lower backs can survive years of horrible deadlifting – eventually you will get injured.
Get yourself a PT or sign up for coaching and I’ll watch your back (pardon me).
The key with the deadlift is to look at it like a long term investment – don’t rush the progression. Increasing the weight slowly over time is the right way to do things. 2.5 kg here, 5 kg there. It all adds up in the long term.
In terms of performing the deadlift, there are a few cues I like to use with my clients.
- If someone is standing in front of you while you’re deadlifting, they should be able to see the logo on your chest.
- Your neck should be in neutral position – don’t look up at the mirror. Find a spot on the floor 10-15 meters in front of you. Your neck contains vertebrae that run down your spine, so keeping it in neutral will keep your back in a stronger and safer position.
- Switch on your lats (the big muscles on your sides aka ‘wings’) by imagining you have two oranges in your armpits that you’re trying to squeeze as you lift the bar. This activates the lats which are so important for pulling the heavy weight.
So guys, don’t forget the deadlift. It’s benefits are numerous and it will help you achieve pretty much any fitness goal you’re striving for. Just make sure you do it correctly.