What if I told you there was a lift that could do it all.
Shed body fat.
Improve your posture.
Make you feel stronger.
Save you from low back and knee problems.
Put muscle where you need it the most.
Especially that ass.
It’ll make all your dreams come true.
Hahaha kidding about the last one, but this lift really is no joke. It’s worth learning, and we’re gonna get into all the most common mistakes I see people making when the first start out –or even if they’ve been doing it a while.
Learn how to deadlift properly, and you’ll lift more, stay healthy, and feel stronger than ever before.
My Experience With Deadlifts
I’ll keep it brief.
I’ve hurt myself 3 times to keep me out of the gym for over 2 months — both times at weights of around 200-300 pounds when I couldn’t pull more than 400.
More recently, I’ve never really “maxed out” my deadlift, but I did put 500 pounds on the bar, and it went up pretty easily.
If I do say so myself.
I’ve taught a long list of clients over the years how do to this important movement, and it’s variations, and now you’re going to learn how to deadlift properly.
It may be a pretty meat and potatoes looking lift — just pick the bar up and put it down — but you’ll soon find out there’s plenty to watch for. And your goal isn’t just to pick the bar up, it’s to make it look smooth, too
Proper movement is about grace, and strength training is absolutely about movement.
What Is The Deadlift
The deadlift is a hip dominant move and fits into the “hip hinge” category of movements (check How To Start Strength Training quick if you don’t understand that).
Basically, all it means is the hips bend more than the knees–because your hamstrings and butt are the muscles in charge of pulling your body from bent hips to straight hips, deadlifts give you a nice butt (and hamstrings).
Typically, it’s pulled off the floor. It’s a dead lift.
But the Romanian version, for whatever reason they named it “Romanian”, is more purely a hip movement and the bar never touches the ground.
Benefits Of The Deadlift
You’re taking a progressively heavier weight and teaching you to stand up tall with good posture. As you increase the weight while using good form the benefits to posture will solidify.
The muscles used for that posture and technique you’re using will strengthen as you add weight. As you do that, the benefits stick. When your glutes/hamstrings grow and get stronger, standing up straight happens effortlessly.
We’re taking a lot of the muscle that’s been unused due to sitting and not moving, and weakened as a result, and bringing them back to where they should be.
Common for a client or someone new to lifting weights to find out they’re grip is failing them. More common during the Romanian Deadlift, you’ll see it with deadlifting off the floor too.
The major one is to keep lifting. And it’s not a bad thing to allow grip to be the limiting factor deciding when you add weight.
Grip is related to long-term health, and the stronger your grip is, the stronger you will be.
Toned Hamstrings and Rounder Glutes.
You might have heard squats are the way to grow a butt. That isn’t entirely wrong, but deadlifts work better. There’s no argument there.
Squats will help your quads more than your glutes. Deadlifts hit the glutes more.
As your hips reach back away from the vertical line that intersects with the bar or kettlebell, the more your glutes and hamstrings get involved to lift the weight.
The Romanian Deadlift is better for this than deadlifting off the floor, but don’t take that to mean deadlifting off the floor won’t help.
Although you’ll forever think of the abs when you hear core, the truth is your core as it relates to movement, strength, and health. Can the deadlift help your abs? Sure, but getting visible abs is a body fat percentage thing and still relies heavily on nutrition (but overall muscle mass does clearly matter here).
But what we mean by core strength (or stability) is your movement health. By getting the hips (and knees) to do the work while the abs, lats, low back, and all kinds of other muscles you can’t see kick in to keep your joints in the right place.
If you learn how to deadlift properly you’ll lessen the likelihood you ever need trips to physical therapy, chiro or worse: the orthopedic surgeon.
Low Back Health
Done improperly, especially with too much weight, expect the deadlift to wreck your back.
Might not happen during the workout, but it could one day you bend over to tie up your shoe.
Done right, I bet that never happens.
When you use your low back to bend and get the bar, you’re asking for it. When you use your hips — asking your low back to stabilize — you use the muscles meant for the job; and the stronger those guys are, the safer your low back will be.
Remember: keeping low back safe and healthy with lifting is mostly about making sure when you lift weights, you’re low back is “neutral”. Neutral would be the proper position for your low back to be in while you’re standing.
The deadlift motion, whether you can visualize this or not, is implicated in running, bending over, and picking things up (clearly). You’ll do all these better and easily as you get stronger with deadlifting.
But there’s another aspect of strength we often forget (even though we already mentioned it):
Take a second and do this:
- Make a soft fist while feeling your forearm
- Now tighten the fist feeling your forearm
Your forearm tenses, but you probably already knew that.
- Make a soft fist while feeling your bicep
- Now tighten the fist feeling your bicep
Your bicep tenses. Maybe you knew that happens, maybe you’re just finding out. Lets go further..
- Make a soft fist while feeling your lat (side of your torso just under your armpit closer to your back.
- Now tighten the fist as hard you possibly can.
Just by focusing on a tighter grip, you’re activating muscles farther and farther away from the first. The lats, for instance, are one of the biggest muscles in the body one of the most important for stabilizing your core.
And if you’re gonna lift heavy enough weights to get all the benefits we’ve talked about, you’re gonna need a core that can hold it’s position against increasingly heavier weights.
Wanna be stronger? Grip hard.
Wanna be even stronger? Get a stronger grip.
Deadlifts vs Squats
The deadlift and squat are not the same thing.
The deadlift is supposed to be a hip hinge movement; meaning more hip bend, and less knee bend. The squat involves maximal bending at the hips and knees.
The hips drop in the squat; they reach back in the hinge.
The squat typically hits the quads a little more than the glutes and hamstrings; the hinge (or deadlift) hits the glutes and hamstrings much more than the quads.
So if you’re lookinHg for more glutes, and less quads, go with more deadlifts/less squats.
Learn How To Deadlift Properly
Learning the Hinge
Like I mentioned earlier the “hip hinge” is a basic human movement — that many of us lose as a result of sedentary lifestyles. Getting it back is certainly possible and we’re gonna go through a few “checks” just to make sure.
Dowel Hip Hinge
Although shoulder mobility can be an issue, and the drill itself doesn’t relate specifically to the deadlift given the hands are in a completely different place, I still like this drill.
If you’ve got a broomstick in the house, you can practice it right now. The feedback the stick gives you at the tailbone, upper back and back if your head tells you whether you’re in the right position.
We want your torso/spine/neck to stay in a straight line while the majority of the movement comes through the hip. So we use the stick or dowel to give us feedback by touch to tell us whether or not we’re staying in a good position.
You’re looking for a stretch in the hamstrings to signal the bottom. For most, this will happen before the torso reaches parallel to the floor. For some, you won’t feel that stretch as you’re very flexible at the hamstrings — you should stop before your shoulders fall below your hips.
Band Reaching Hinge
A little less accessible given the need for a band and somewhere to wrap it, but it’s a good drill either way. As you reach into the band, you may find it easier to push your hips back. Either drill works, so feel free to try the one you like if you’re having trouble going straight into the lift.
What Shoes Are Best For Deadlifting?
Or is it no shoes? Check out this video where I go over how you’ll be better without shoes, or a few options if you have to wear shoes. I’ll go over three benefits, too.
Proper Bar Height
If you’re just learning and don’t happen to go to a gym with bumper plates (regardless of weight, they’re all the same diameter), you may need to adjust. Most people can’t grab a bar with proper positioning if it’s lower than their mid shin.
So if you’re gonna deadlift under 135 pounds off the floor, you’ll likely find an issue when you’re using 10, 25, or 35 pound weight plates and the bar only comes off the floor a little.
A little fun fact for you, the height of the bar as it would sit on the bigger plates is pretty arbitrary. The diameter of those plates was chosen so the skull of an olympic lifter wouldn’t be crushed if a bar fell on their head. These days, it saves those Crossfit blooper videos on Youtube from getting too gory.
So if you need to, raise the bar a little higher if it helps you. Midshin is typically a good spot for most.
Most Common Technique Flaws
I know this looks like a daunting list of potential problems, it’s worthwhile to spend the time necessary and watch these videos. It’s very rare I see someone who deadlifts properly; even those who tell me their technique is great.
Caving Knees (often combined with wide foot stance which isn’t necessarily a problem, just makes knees caving more likely)
This is probably the most common issue I see with people’s deadlifts (and squats, mind you). The knees cave, and this puts pressure on the knees and you use your glutes less. This WILL become a problem.
Squatting The Deadlift (on the way down or up)
Like we’ve gone over already, the deadlift is not a squat. But that doesn’t stop plenty from squatting the deadlift anyways.
Not Closing Out The Hips
With just a little tuck of the hips, you finish the deadlift properly and avoid the risks of standing with a heavy barbell as it puts tons of pressure on your low back. Get your hips through!
We’ll get into rounding the back right after this, but most people know you can’t deadlft with a rounded back like that and not pay for it. Many fix that issue by creating another issue: “overarching”.
And here’s how you can destroy your back (at some point), while deadlifting.
This would be a good way to rip your elbows apart and never deadlift a good amount of weight. Arms long!
Jerking The Bar
This one might actually be an easy one to forget. And it’s actually the one I think you need to see as a practice the most. Getting tight with the bar — and gripping it hard — will make you safer and stronger.
Make Sure To Push Your Heels Into The Ground
Following the note about shoes (or no shoes), you want to think about pushing into your heels (without lifting your toes off the ground).
Pushing The Earth Away (last one!)
You may hear deadlifting called pulling, but you actually want to think of it as pushing.
Where to start
This may be an odd place to put this, but it begs mentioning anywhere. The conventional deadlift (what’s shown in these videos) may not be the first variation to use. The kettlebell deadlift, trap bar deadlift and romanian deadlift may be more approachable earlier and make it easy to learn to deadlift conventionally.
Just want you to keep that in mind.
Sets and Reps
When it comes to programming the deadlift (off the floor), I generally avoid having people go above 6 reps per set. This changes with the kettlebell and trap bar as they’re easier on the low back. I also don’t apply this to romanian deadlifts either (usally stick between 8-12 reps there).
Reason being it’s a technical lift with a certain amount of risk. Longer sets lead to fatigue and we want to avoid handling heavy weights combined with fatigue leading to poor form.
I usually place deadlifts off the floor as the first exercise of a clients program if they’re doing it. Mainly because it’ll be the most strength oriented lift and you want to be most fresh for that.
Now Go Deadlift Properly!
Seriously, everything you need to know about doing this lift is in here. So come back, watch the videos a few times, and go practice.
If you have any questions you can reach me by email (chad@chadhargrove).
Hope this helps you.
And if you want some free workouts to help you lose fat, along with a 7-lesson course that’ll teach you how to MAXIMIZE fat loss. Check that out HERE.