Deadlifts are by far one of the best exercises for producing overall whole body strength. They will help to build muscle not only in your upper and lower back but also your glutes, hamstrings, forearms and abdominals. In short the deadlift will help you build strong bones, stable joints and good posture, with the added bonus of increased strength, muscle mass and/or endurance depending on your load and volume.
My top tips for performing the deadlift are:
1. Have your feet wider than shoulder-width apart
2. Set up very close to the bar; I prefer to have my shins touching the bar.
3. Point your feet out at about 45 degree angles.
4. Force your chest out to maintain the arch in your lower back.
5. Do not try to “squat” the weight up. Your hips are higher on the deadlift than a squat.
6. Keep the bar close to your body the entire time – it should run up your shins and then up your thighs.
7. Near the top of the movement, push your hips forward to lock it out.
Repeat the exercise for a total of 3 to 4 sets of 6 – 8 reps. Rest for at least 60 to 90 seconds between sets. Since the deadlift recruits a lot of muscles, your smaller and weaker muscles tend to give out before your larger, stronger muscles. If your weaker muscles are giving out and you keep pulling for more reps, you could be setting yourself up for injury.
If the traditional deadlift is not for you or you would like an alternative to mix things up, then you have some options.
• This form of the deadlift emphasises your hamstrings more than the traditional deadlift.
• Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and hold a barbell (or two dumbbells) in front of you, with arms straight.
• Hinge at the hips, with knees soft, to push your butt back and lower the bar to the end of your range of motion — the point at which you feel tension in the hamstrings without rounding your back. The bar should graze the front of your legs throughout the movement.
• Fully extend your hips and knees to stand. Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.
• Load a barbell and place on the ground so that it is against your shins. Stand with feet about twice shoulder-width apart and toes pointed out at an angle.
• Bend at your hips and knees and grasp the center of the barbell with an overhand grip so that your hands are 12-inches apart. This is the starting position.
• Begin deadlift by raising hips and torso up at the time while simultaneously pushing hips forward until legs are straight and hips forward.
• Lower barbell back down to starting position, keep bar as close to your body as possible. Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.
The Hex Bar Deadlift:
Please be aware the bar alone weighs 32kg
• For this exercise load a trap bar, also known as a hex bar, to an appropriate weight resting on the ground. Stand in the centre of the apparatus and grasp both handles.
• Lower your hips, look forward with your head and keep your chest up.
• Begin the movement by driving through the heels and extend your hips and knees. Avoid rounding your back at all times.
• At the completion of the movement, lower the weight back to the ground under control. Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.
About the Author
Terri Snelling is our health and fitness programme manager here at the Club and a qualified personal trainer. She started her fitness journey as a volunteer with YMCA when she was only 13 years old. Since then, she has held various jobs in her 15 years in the industry including working with a premiership football team and being a personal training manager in the city, before settling into her calling as a fitness manager at the Central YMCA Club. Over the years Terri has developed a vast and impressive set of skills ranging from but not limited to lifestyle management coaching, advanced kettlebells, indoor cycling and pre and post-natal care. She teaches several classes on our timetable such as indoor cycling, kettlebells and Octane Circuits.