Deadlifting can seem intimidating, but there’s really no need. It’s a great full body exercise that has tons of benefits to your overall strength and functioning of your kinetic chain. The purpose of performing the deadlift is to primarily target hip extensors, recruiting muscles of the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and back.
Some people avoid deadlifts for fear of the exercise worsening lower back pain, but when programmed and performed correctly, they can actually be beneficial for individuals with mechanical low back pain. No matter your age, fitness level, or experience level, you should know how to deadlift for overall functional strength! Read on to learn everything you need to know for perfect form.
How to Set Up the Bar for Your Deadlift
First things first, you need bumper plates on the bar. These are the weights that are large in diameter and lift the bar up off of the floor and put it around low-mid shin height. This is required when learning how to deadlift in order to be able to get set up in proper positioning at the bottom of your reps.
Your feet should be shoulder width apart, strong beneath you. If your feet are too narrow you won’t have much stability, and if they’re too far apart then you will be moving into a sumo deadlift, rather than a conventional deadlift.
Grip the bar tightly. One option that will help with your grip is a hook grip where you wrap your thumb around the bar, then place your fingers around the bar and over your thumb, securing your grip. Your hands should grab the bar about 1 inch out to the sides from your legs.
Body Positioning for Perfect Deadlift Form
It’s important to perfect your deadlift form to feel good and progress your strength. You want your hips to be low, while still maintaining a near perpendicular angle of your shins in regards to the ground. This ensures that you are activating your posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, erectors), while also activating your quads. Roll the bar close to you and keep the bar against your shins when you start to raise it up. Maintain a neutral spine as you start to feel the weight of the bar by gently pulling up without yet moving the bar.
Drive your feet into the floor, and try to push the floor away. Your knees and hips should extend at the same time, avoiding your knees straightening first without extending your hips, which would result in more stress on your back. Stand all the way up to a neutral standing position, with a slight posterior pelvic tilt to fully engage the glutes. Check out this in-depth video for a full breakdown of the barbell deadlift:
Form Mistakes to Avoid During Deadlifts
Make sure you don’t round your back to compensate for the weight of the bar. Keep the load back in your heels and push hard with your legs to maintain a neutral spine and lift the bar up. Try to brace with your core by tightening your abdominal muscles, and maintain this position throughout your reps.
Keep your shoulder blades pulled back against your back, and avoid letting them drop forward/your chest caving in. Keep your gaze about 45 degrees in front of you to keep your neck in line with the rest of your spine.
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