Deadlift – The Key to Building Muscle Mass
Almost universally, the first exercise that everyone does when they walk into the gym is the barbell bench press. While the bench press may be the poster boy of weight training, the deadlift helps to strengthen the entire body and causes a significant increase in functional strength. Yes the bench press may look good, but how often do you think our ancient ancestors had to press a weight off their chest while lying down? Now think of how frequently you need to lift something up from the ground. This foundational movement that engages our legs, back, and even our arms and abdominals remains present in our lives today is the basis for the barbell deadlift. Therefore, if you at all want to build a strong back, sculpt powerful legs, or develop a six-pack, listen up!
So just why is the deadlift so great? One reason is that actively works your quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus, soleus, erector spinae, and adductor magnus all in one movement. In addition, many more muscles of the back, core, and arms are used for stability and control. The deadlift is the ultimate compound movement, using more muscles in a single movement than the squat or bench press. Compounds movements are great for increasing functional strength. Without further ado, let’s get into actually performing the deadlift.
In order to perform the deadlift, you are going to first need a barbell and some weight plates. Also, you should make sure that your gym does not have a policy prohibiting deadlifting. If your gym has such a policy, find a new gym, you don’t need other people to tell you what you can and can’t do!
To prepare for the deadlift, start with your feet beneath the bar and the bar about 2-3 inches from your shins. Then squat down by bending at the knees so that you can grasp the bar with straight arms. Your grip should be overhand (palms down) or reversed (one hand palm down, the other palm up) and be wide enough so that if you were to stick your thumb out towards your leg it would not quite touch. Make sure that in this stance your shoulders are about lined up with the bar, using this picture as a reference to how you should bend your legs and back to achieve this.
Now that you are in position, you are now ready to begin the deadlift. First, you should push from your heels to begin the lift, and then you should slowly start bringing your hips forward. Avoid using your lower back muscles to lift the weight up, as this can result in injury. Here are a few key points to remember:
- Keep your head up: if you look down, your back will have the tendency to become rounded, which is BAD.
- Maintain a neutral spine: in order to prevent lower back injuries, keep your spine in a neutral position throughout the movement. If you feel this position shifting throughout the movement, lower the weight and perfect your form before you move up.
- Keep the bar close: try to keep the bar in contact with your legs all the way up
To lower the bar, you essential do the lift backwards. While you should not rush the negative portion, don’t lower bar too slow. Bend at the hips first and then at the knees to maintain the correct spinal position. Keep your chest and head up and the bar close to your legs and it should go smoothly. Once the bar hits the floor, you have successfully completed one rep. Repeat into sets in a controlled fashion. If you are still having trouble with the lift, watch the video below, it really helped me understand the movement. Otherwise, good luck lifting and make sure to maintain a neutral spine!