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The Dead Lift: Monster of all Lifts

Updated on January 27, 2016

Anatomy of the Dead Lift

Strength and Mass Building Exercise

When it comes to a healthy diet and good nutrition, You will learn that it's usually the things that taste like garbage/the worse that have the most health benefits for the body. That pretty much works the same for exercises as well. It's the exercises that are the most difficult or that you just hate doing that are the ones that reap the biggest rewards/results you are looking for. The dead lift definitely falls into this category. I personally hate doing them, but for optimum muscle development in your back, glutes and legs (it's one of the few exercises that actually effect muscles in both your upper and lower body), adding them into your back day, leg routine or even giving them a day all to themselves is an absolute necessity. The dead lift is a strength builder exercise that also provides core stability, cardio fitness, grip strength and works multiple muscle groups building mass and thickness. However just like everything else in life, there is good and bad that comes with everything. The movement requires excellent coordination and balance, so performing them improperly can cause severe, long term back problems with a slow and agonizing recovery. These simple tips should help exact your dead lift form to perfection and assist in alleviating any potential back problems from doing them incorrectly.

Warm Up

One light weighted, high rep warm up set is normally enough to get your blood flowing for most of the muscle groups, but the dead lift (and squat also) are a whole different monster. The exercise recruits so many separate muscle fibers (from the upper and lower back, hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes), the back is extremely complex and has so many different muscles, its recommended that you perform at least 2 or 3 warm up sets (20 to 40) reps) to ensure that blood is flowing through the lower back and gluteus maximus before you start to wage all out war on your back muscles.


Proper Form when Dead Lifting

Lessen the Stress put on your Back

There are multiple variations of this exercise such as the Romanian, Sumo, Rack, snatch and grip dead lifts, however we are going to focus on the Standard. Which should be your starting point especially if you are a newbie/beginner. A large percentage of back injuries occur from performing squats and dead lifts incorrectly, with the lower back being too rounded. I mention the squat again because your body is virtually in the same position when executing both of the exercises and it's one of the reasons why both movements are so effective. Your stance should be at shoulder width, gripping the bar with an over hand grip or a combination (one hand over the other hand under), the forearms should be in contact/touch with the outside of the thighs.The back should always be kept straight and tight while you are lifting. Shoulder blades are directly above the bar, the chest out high and head/eyes should be kept up, this ensures your spine/vertebrae stay aligned and no unnecessary, uneven stress is not situated on any particular one of them. When this movement is performed, if you are curving your back (meaning you're getting a hump in your back like a Camel) than the weight is too heavy and needs to be decreased. Remember you should be in the gym for you, there's no need to impress anyone with trying to do 300 pound Olympic weights. You do not need big, huge weights to develop muscle. If you are experiencing any type of pain when you execute this lift, then you should definitely re-examine your form.

As the name suggests, you are lifting dead weight, which is why it's one of the best exercises, you can't cheat. The lower back, glutes, quads and hamstrings are basically fighting gravity during the lift when you drive the weight forward/up. The weight should not be pulled using your arms or back, instead you should push through your feet like your attempting to push them through the floor. Once you break that initial pull of gravity, which is the hardest part, but still should be a controlled, continuous smooth move with no yanking or jerking. The rest of the move, driving the hips forward, shoulders rolling back, all the way through the lock out will be not be as difficult.

Former Mr Olympia Ronnie Coleman Dead Lifting

Other Muscles involved in the Dead Lift

Unless your are a body builder or into some type of fitness competition, more than likely you are not going to train your forearms and grip strength. Most people assume these muscles are worked out during your normal arm routine, which they are, however these muscles come significantly into play when executing the dead lift. So if your forearms and grip are a weak point of yours, you may want to invest into some good wrist wraps. The wraps will secure the bar to your arms for those extra reps when the forearms and grip have reached fatigue. Don't become like that coffee drinker that can't function correctly without their morning cup of Joe and be dependent on the wraps, as your forearm and grip strength will definitely suffer. If for whatever the reason your forearms are really weak, you might even find it easier to do Rack dead lifts. This movement can be performed in a rack and the starting point of the weight is already elevated off the ground several inches. A weight belt is also necessary for added support. I personally only use a welt belt when on my heavier weight work out days for back support, but there are some people that are just more comfortable with having a belt on during all the movements, as it gives more control while putting a tight grip/pressure on your lower back and allowing you to move heavier weights. Although you might feel like a monster and want to train super heavy all the time, that wouldn't be advantageous in the long run. Your lighter weight training days should be focused on perfecting your form, knocking out a lot more repetitions for the purpose of igniting slow twitch muscle fibers for growth.

Buff Dudes Performing the Proper Dead Lift

Benefits of the Dead Lift

The dead lift is one of the best mass and thickness builders, unfortunately as I mentioned before the back is very big and an exceptionally complex muscle group. As a matter of fact, the lower back is actually one of the muscle groups that require the most time to fully recover from an intense workout. Some may find it difficult to fit hitting all the different muscles in your entire back into one day. Some people will even work upper back one day and their lower back another day. It normally takes approximately 4 days (depending on the person because everyone's body responds different) to completely recover from an insane workout. Although you may want to and feel like you can do dead lifts 2 or 3 times a week, it's imperative that you give your body adequate time and the maintenance (meaning protein, amino acids, and sleep) that it needs in order to regain its full potential. The body rebuilds and grows as we sleep, so it's essential that you are getting your nightly 8 hours of sleep. If you are experiencing any kind of pain in your back for any reason, you should consult a health care professional and get yourself checked out before adding the dead lift to your workout regime. Its always better to be safe and ensure your health than to be sorry after the fact. When performed safe and correctly, the dead lift can be awesome tool stimulating muscles in the back, glutes and legs which will provide big strength increases and muscle growth.

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    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 3 years ago from California

      You have done a splendid job warning people to do the dead lift with a straight , but neutral back. I got tired reading about dead lifting, I really need to get back to lifting. LOL

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 3 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Posture is very important. the slightest adjustment to how the body moves is important. Learned that the hard and painful way.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 3 years ago from California

      Did you add pictures? This hub is awesome.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      I've seen men at the gym doing this deadlift technique. I admire their determination. Your advice is excellent as it shares how to do it but also how to keep fit through diet, proper rest and using the right equipment.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      I used to do light weighlifting a few years ago, and yes the back is so important, funnily enough though it was picking up shopping the wrong way that hurt my back! lol! great advice, and voted up and shared! nell

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Great suggestions here about posture and you explained to the point.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 3 years ago from Oklahoma

      My right hip still hurts to this day because of doing squats without proper warmup when I was a teenager. The squat and deadlift stimulate more over muscle growth than any workout out there, but it is oh, so important to use caution when doing them. Very good information here. Hopefully any newbie lifters will take this article to heart.

    • Kain 360 profile image

      David Hinerman 3 years ago from PA

      Deadlift is a great exercise, but has potential to be dangerous. I got injured when I did touch and go reps. I think it's better for most people to reset at bottom after each rep to get form down so momentum is not used. I don't think my form is the greatest, but I have been feeling fine since I started doing mobility/stretching for back & legs & reset after each rep.

      Deadlifts are very hard, though. They are much more complicated than just bicep curls or tricep extensions. Straps are a great tool, but I work on my grip with weight at 275-300; anything past that is hard for me to hold on to using a double overhand grip so I utilize straps.

      Problem I think I have is hips shooting up too fast when deadlifting.

    • aerospacefan profile image

      John M 2 years ago from Chicago

      Good job with this hub! Yep - you really have to be careful with the back on this one.

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