I’m sure you don’t need me to say that deadlifts are one of the most common and most effective exercises you need in the gym.
Whatever your training is like and whatever your goals are – you need to incorporate some deadlifts.
What do deadlifts do?
The deadlift is a strength exercise which works your back, glutes, and hamstrings amongst other minor muscles.
It’s one of only a few compound exercises that manage to capture so many body parts whilst performing – both in your upper and lower body.
Due to the nature of the exercise, good form is imperative to avoid injuries. The most common version of the deadlift is the Romanian Barbell Deadlift.
Set up the barbell
Make sure you have lots of space and place the barbell on the ground in front of you, adding plates to both sides – use round plates which are both physically the same size i.e. don’t use two-10kg (22lbs) on one side and one-20kg (44lbs) on the other.
How to perform a deadlift
Set your stance up with your feet shoulder-width apart, your toes pointing forward and parallel. You should be stood just in front of the barbell.
Grab the barbell with both hands and ‘sit back’ – pretending there’s a small stool behind you.
Bend your hips and knees whilst doing so. This is the starting position for the deadlift.
From your starting position, create tension in your muscles, engaging your back, hamstrings, glutes, and abs.
Make sure that your back is completely straight at all times – this is really important. Look forwards.
Raise your hips and push through with your heels, keeping a flat back. By doing this, you’ll be raising the barbell up towards your hips – dragging along your shins.
Naturally, the idea is your body will move to a horizontal position, keep your back straight whilst you do so.
When you are in the horizontal position, you’ve reached the end point of the deadlift – once reached, squeeze the glutes and hamstrings.
The idea is that you ‘stand up’ from the starting position.
Keep your back straight when you’re lowering the bar to the starting position and do this in a controlled manner – don’t simply ‘drop’ the bar.
Gripping the bar
The grip is very important when performing deadlifts, the minor details are what can make or break your deadlift.
The most common types of deadlift grip include:
Double overhand grip: the classic deadlift grip where your hands are both facing the same way and the palms of your hands are facing you.
The mixed grip is also a common deadlift grip: working exactly the same as the double overhand grip but this time, one of your palms will face away from you and one into you.
Firstly, I’d only suggest using these two grips – “hook grips”, for example, are something I’d suggest you avoid.
Secondly, out of the two options, the double overhand grip is better for you if you’re wanting to also increase your forearm strength.
You’ll see all kinds of tips in the gym, and I’m not suggesting you use any but for your information.
Lifting Chalk: Chalk is a commonly used accessory when performing the deadlift. Subject to opinion obviously; it usually causes more mess in the gym than it does results.
The idea is that lifting chalk increases your ability to grip the bar, but so does lifting straps…
Static Holds: Often seen in a strongman event – holding the deadlift at the top for as long as you can. Again, not recommended unless you’re actually competing in strongman.
Fat Grips: Fat grips add girth to the barbell which, ultimately, increase your forearm strength. Excellent for curls or other arm exercises but deadlifts – I’ll leave that one up to you.
Dumbell deadlifts are a common alternative for deadlifts, you perform the exercise in the exact same way, only with dumbells instead of a barbell, pushing your hips backward as you lower the weight.
Dumbbell deadlifts are excellent for targeting the hamstrings and glutes more than the back.