Weight training is becoming more and more popular these days and deadlifts as you’d know is one amongst the many exercises that can be performed under the same. So what exactly does a deadlift mean? The name itself stems from the exact meaning of the word, which is lifting a dead weight off the floor.
Now that we know what a deadlift is, let’s dive into some of its benefits and know why you should consider doing it. Fitness Expert, Shoaib Hussain, takes us through it all.
Benefits of Deadlifts
- More Calories Burned: The deadlift works a lot of muscle in your body thus helping burn more calories during your workout. Also, deadlift helps to increase your basal metabolic rate (BMR) - the number of calories burned when you rest.
- Better Posture: It helps your posture by keeping your hips, spine, and shoulder in alignment.
- Develop Grip Strength: Deadlift requires a great amount of grip strength to hold on to the weight during the movement. Researchers have indicated that grip strength is a solid biomarker for identifying older adults at risk of health problems
- Build less Injury-Prone, strong back: Making deadlifts a part of one's routine will help alleviate lower back pain and also help in preventing it in the future.
The Right Way To Do A Deadlift
Deadlifts have many benefits, but they’re an exercise you can easily hurt yourself with -specifically your back- if one is not using proper technique. Here’s how to perform a deadlift with a barbell:
- Assume a stance that is roughly hip-width apart
While the stance can vary depending on the intention of performing the movement, this would be the ideal stance for the most part.
- The barbell is to be placed exactly above the middle of the feet
- Push your hips back while maintaining a straight back and bend over to grip the barbell with the hands just outside the legs
- Keep the neck relaxed, shoulders pulled back and elbows fully extended
- Maintain your hips above the knees & shoulders above the hips
- Lift the weight up by extending the hips, all while ensuring to keep the barbell close to the body
- Stand up tall - hips and knees fully extended
- Slowly lower the barbell down to the floor by hinging at the hips by bending the hips and knees
Different Variations For Deadlifts That You Can Try
More often than not, we are bound to hit a plateau where we just can’t lift anymore or the routine becomes just too repetitive to go on. This is where these variations might help.
#1 Sumo Deadlift
The sumo deadlift entails taking a broader stance and positioning your hands inside your thighs. The rest of the steps remains similar to the conventional deadlift. This variation is easier on the lower back and helps you to lift heavier weights and works your glutes, hamstrings, lower back, and quadriceps.
#2 Trap bar Deadlift
If you are a beginner, a trap bar deadlift is something you’d want to start with. It is performed using a hex weight (hexagonal-shaped) bar and a set of bumper plates. To perform this, you need to start by standing inside the hex with your feet shoulder- to hip-width apart and a slight bend in your knees, you then go down and form a grip on the handles present on either side of the hex and slowly begin to lift keeping your spine neutral and squeezing your glutes. Always ensure your shoulders sit right above your hip.
Then, pivot from your hips, allowing your knees to bend in order to lower the hex bar back toward the floor. A trap bar deadlift puts less stress on your lower back while helping you work your quadriceps.
#3 Romanian Deadlift
If you are someone who wants to increase hip mobility and target the glutes as well as hamstrings, we suggest you perform a Romanian Deadlift. For this, you begin by holding a barbell touching your thighs ensuring your hands are straight and shoulder-width apart, feet together, and legs straight.
You then bend forward, shifting your weight to your back and as the barbell lowers down you should start to feel a stretch in your hamstrings, this is where you pause and return back to your initial position. Make sure your shoulders are rolled back the entire time.
#4 Stiff leg Deadlift
To perform a stiff leg deadlift start by standing with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your hands on the barbell forming an overhand grip. Then with your knees slightly bent, bend at your hips, lowering the barbell until you start feeling a stretch in your hamstrings, at this point slowly back up. Ensure your movements are slow and controlled. This targets your hamstrings, glutes, and lower back.
#5 Single leg Deadlift
If you are looking for a variation of deadlifts that will help you strengthen your back, core, and legs then this is the one for you. To perform a single-leg deadlift stand with your feet hip-width apart with a barbell in your hand then slowly bend forward in your hip, shifting your weight onto the standing leg, making sure your hands are hanging down. Continue, until your body has formed a T-shape, and then begin to slowly bring down your lifted leg to the initial position.
#6 Suitcase Deadlift
Ever wondered how people achieve a v-shaped torso? Well, a suitcase deadlift would be the answer. This single-sided deadlift variation activates your glutes, hamstrings, core, quadriceps, back, and lower back.
To perform this stand in a way that you usually would for a traditional deadlift with your back straight and a hand-held barbell on your side then push your hips back and slowly begin to go down touching the barbell to the ground. Lift again and continue keeping your shoulders squared at all times.
*Except for the Trap bar deadlift, all other variations can also be performed using a dumbbell, kettlebell or even a resistance band. If you’re a beginner, using a resistance band first would be a great idea to start with. All steps would remain the same except you’d do it by holding a dumbbell, kettlebell or resistance band instead of a barbell.
Why is it important to maintain a good posture?
While performing any exercise, correct posture is the key to fetch maximum benefits Since the entire spinal region is engaged while performing a deadlift, it is essential to remember to not round your back - the thoracic spine (upper back) and the lumbar spine (lower back).
It is when the posture of your back is compromised that you’ll increase the chances of hurting your back.
How many deadlifts does one need in their routine?
While ‘how much’ can vary depending on one’s goals, it’s recommended that everyone includes deadlifts regularly in their workout regime.
There is no ‘one size fits all answer here and it also depends on:
- What is your workout history?
This is the first aspect to consider. Are you a beginner, an intermediate, or an advanced athlete? This can be calculated as the amount of time you have been training with barbell-specific movements.
An intermediate and an advanced lifter will have a better understanding of how their body handles frequency, but for a beginner, it's advisable to deadlift at least once a week.
- How often do you workout?
How often you deadlift often correlates to your workout frequency in a week. If you decide to deadlift more, you will need to have a look at your overall programming because deadlifting often can be quite intense, and proper planning can help you manage fatigue.
- What kind of workouts do you do/want to do?
Your goals largely dictate how much you should deadlift. For example, do you want to lose weight, get stronger or improve your endurance? Is it a long-term goal or a short-term goal? Do you strength train often or just half of the time?
Based on all of the above factors, you will need to modify your deadlift intensity.
Risks and Mistakes To Take Care Of
- Always begin with low weights
- Always breathe in at the top of the lift and exhale as you perform the lift
- Never round your back while deadlifting as it leads to spinal injuries
- Never look up while performing deadlifts as it may hurt your cervical spine or neck muscles
- Do not squat while lifting the weight off the floor rather bend your hips keeping your spine straight
- Do not keep your hips too high or droop them too low while performing a deadlift
Performing a deadlift might feel like a lot many steps to keep in mind at first. A perfect form might take time and regular practice but trust us once you master the technique there’s no going back. Additionally, once you start seeing results you’d want to work with its variations more often. So, either choose your favorite variation and add it to your regime or put together your top choices and work with them. Let's get lifting!