How to Deadlift With Proper Form
According to CA personal trainer Keith Oelschlaeger, the objective of the deadlift is straightforward. In fact, its name is reflective of its purpose, which is essentially to pick a dead weight off the ground and put it back down.
This simplicity makes it a great move for beginners, but that being said, the deadlift can also look more intimidating than it is. To give you a nice visual before we break down the mechanics, here’s a quick video of Oelschlaeger performing three reps:
Benefits of the deadlift
As a full-body movement, the deadlift is a compound exercise that works the biggest muscle groups in the body, including the quads, hamstrings, low back, mid-back, calves, glutes, abs and traps.
With all those muscles put to work, it’s no surprise that deadlifts are a calorie-torcher. They’re amazing for increasing core strength and stability, as well as targeting the gluteus maximus (hello, buns of steel!). Strong glues aren’t just about aesthetics; they protect your back from pain and injury. Plus, because deadlifts strengthen your posterior chain (the muscles that run from your neck to your heels), they improve your posture.
The other great thing is that deadlifts are an incredibly functional movement. Isolation exercises certainly have their place, but they’re not necessarily used outside of the gym. But you have to “deadlift” in all sorts of everyday scenarios, from moving a piece of furniture to picking up your child. Working on your form pays off in a reduced risk of injury in your real life. It’s also widely known that deadlifts are one of the best exercises out there to build grip strength, which is correlated with a health-related quality of life.
Okay, we could go on all day about the benefits of the deadlift — and believe us, this is just the short list — but let’s get into the proper form for pulling it off safely.
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How to do a deadlift
- Approach the bar. Use the landmarks on the bar to help line up your stance, feet shoulder-width distance apart. Get your shoelaces directly under the bar.
- Once you have your stance, reach down to find your grip. Take a deep breath in; pull your shoulder blades down (and keep them there!) and your shins to the bar. Engage your core here, bracing your belly as if you’re about
- To pick the bar up, drive your hips forward and keep a flat spine.
- Bring the barbell down with control.
Don’t rush it!
The most common error that Oelschlaeger sees is rushing through this movement, which can compromise the back (below, he demos what this may look like).
“Remember, even in a power lifting competition, you have a full minute to perform this movement,” he says. “Rushing is not necessary.”
For beginners, try to start with sets of three. If the barbell feels like it’s floating in your fingers, that’s a sign to increase the weight. If it’s heavy enough, the shoulderblades will more naturally brace. However, you don’t want it to be so heavy that weak links in the chain occur. Because the deadlift works every muscle in your body, you can rest assured that it WILL find those weak links. When it comes to the deadlift, those are often the hamstrings and upper back, so it pays to focus on strengthening those muscles. Start on the light side and work your way up.
Another pro tip: When you’re breaking down the equipment, place a smaller plate under the big one to help all the weights come off more easily. Finally, don’t to clean your weights when you’re done!
Get stronger with CA
At CA, we have more than 30 personal trainers across three fitness clubs dedicated to helping you achieve your fitness goals. A trainer can maximize your time to get results, ensure proper form and help you feel more confident hitting the gym solo in the future. Plus, they create a personalized workout plan tailored to your unique needs…so all you need to do is show up for yourself! Learn more about personal training at CA on our website.
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