Deadlift is the new favourite in gyms across the world. The deadlift is one of the three exercises, which are part of the competitive sport of Powerlifting. Till very recently, deadlift did not really figure in the list of must do exercises for those looking for muscle hypertrophy and aesthetics. But with the popularity of crossfit and social media influencers, gym goers have adopted this lift with a vengeance.

What’s in a name!

The entire body is loaded while deadlifting and that is why it is one of the most draining of exercises

What’s in a name!

The entire body is loaded while deadlifting and that is why it is one of the most draining of exercises
The entire body is loaded while deadlifting and that is why it is one of the most draining of exercises ( Shutterstock )

In the days of Strongmen of yore, the exercise was actually referred to as ‘Dead weight lift’ which got shortened to deadlift. Thus the weight is dead or immovable on the floor and the lifter hinges from the hips, lifting the weight to waist height in a single move. A lot of lifters say, “grip, rip and lift” as in grip the bar and rip it off the floor. Of course there are a number of details that need to be focused on but the essence of the lift is just picking up the weight from the floor. The deadlift is a unique lift as it starts from a dead stop, unlike the squat and the bench press where the weight is first lowered and then the motion is reversed. The entire focus of the lift is on lifting up the weight and not lowering it. In powerlifting competitions, the competitor puts the bar down barely under control. We do know that more muscle growth happens when a weight is lifted fast but lowered slowly.

Types of deadlift

In the days of Strongmen of yore, the exercise was actually referred to as ‘Dead weight lift’

In the days of Strongmen of yore, the exercise was actually referred to as ‘Dead weight lift’
In the days of Strongmen of yore, the exercise was actually referred to as ‘Dead weight lift’ ( Shutterstock )

There are two types of deadlift – conventional and Sumo. In the conventional style, the lifter takes a hip width stance, grabs the bar with hands outside the knees, bends the knees and stands up. While the Sumo style has the feet in a wide stance and the hands are placed inside the knees. The conventional deadlift puts greater load on the lower back while the the Sumo one emphasizes the legs more.

Muscles worked by the deadlift

Deadlift works all the muscles on the back of the body

Deadlift works all the muscles on the back of the body

The deadlift is an ideal complement to the squat, working all the muscles on the back of the body. Its hip dominant in comparison to the Squat which is knee dominant. The deadlift targets the glutes, the hamstrings and the spinal erectors. As a bonus, the grip as well as the upper back muscles also get worked hard. In essence the entire body is loaded while deadlifting and that is why it is one of the most draining of exercises.

The other types of deadlift

For my general fitness clients, I prefer to use these two versions of the deadlift. The first one is the single leg deadlift, this is done with a dumbbell or kettlebell.

It is important to find a coach who can teach the correct technique

It is important to find a coach who can teach the correct technique

The trainee lowers the weight while lifting one leg up behind him/her. Usually done for higher repetitions of 10-20, as this exercise challenges balance and lateral stability. It is the first exercise I use while rehabbing a client with back pain. The other exercise is the Romanian deadlift or RDL, here we start with the bar in hand at the waist level. Initiate the movement by pushing the glutes back and lowering the bar till you feel a stretch in the hamstrings. Then reverse the motion. The RDL is ideal for preferentially loading the glutes and hamstrings.

Incorporating the deadlift in your programme

Learn the technique. Find a coach who can teach the correct technique. It takes time to learn the proper technique. So spend the time learning it.

•Don’t be in a hurry to load the deadlift. I see too many trainees, using too heavy a weight where their technique breaks down. Be careful as hurting your lower back with the deadlift is extremely easy.

•Trainees make the mistake of including the deadlift in their back workout. It’s a leg exercise not a back exercise. Add it to your leg workout.

•As you get stronger on the deadlift, don’t deadlift more than once a week. Later you might need to drop it to once in to weeks as recovering from a heavy deadlift takes a long time.

Now go to grip, rip and lift.

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