The Deadlift: The daddy of all exercises

12th July * 4 min read

The Deadlift is widely considered the ‘Daddy’ of all exercises or at the very least, one of the most important exercises we can perform in the gym. Due to the ‘Alpha’ nature of the exercise, it results in a lot of competition between gym goers and training partners… ‘How much can you deadlift’ etc. etc. By enlarge, the Deadlift in most cases is the exercise which trainers can lift the most weight. The purpose of this article is to provide ideas and tips on how you can improve your Deadlift which results in improved overall strength, growth and performance in other movements such as the Squat.

The Deadlift and Squat are also in our opinion two of the most ‘functional’ exercises there are… not that any exercise should be dysfunctional of course. The Deadlift is used daily and in most cases without even realising. It therefore only makes sense to improve this movement and make it as efficient as possible.

Having said all this, another truth regarding the Deadlift is, most people don’t know how to perform the lift properly. In fact, during some of the consultancy Fitness HQ do with Fitness Clubs and various Gyms, a lot of Personal Trainers we observe can’t perform the lift correctly and in most scenarios teach it incorrectly to their clients. This is worrying and concerning. Fitness HQ’s Personal Trainer courses spend a lot of time focussing on key lifts like the Deadlift to avoid this from happening. The biggest concern regarding teaching this lift incorrectly to clients is injury. This is just one reason why our students and the Personal Trainers we qualify are amongst some of the most sought after in the Fitness Industry.

The purpose of this article is to provide you with ideas on how to improve your Deadlift by ensuring you adopt the correct technique, strengthen stabilising and secondary muscles as well as providing you with various training ideas.

  • Like all exercises, especially ones where you can lift a heavy load, it is important to perfect the technique. In order to do this, you must learn to perform a hip hinge safely and accurately. We will soon be providing a video on how to perfect the hip hinge in the near future on our YouTube channel. The perfect hip hinge will include keeping your feet flat on the floor, maintaining the neutral alignment of your spine and ideally keeping your lower leg (shins) vertical so when you do Deadlift the bar doesn’t need to go out and over your knees – it moves in one straight line which is Up and Down.
  • Strengthen your lower back and hamstring with auxiliary work such as Glute Ham Raises, Standing / Lying / Seated Leg Curls and another favourite of ours is the Stiff Leg Deadlift.
  • Perform regular Glute activation work such as bridges, single leg bridges, Kettlebell swings and even activities such as lying flat on your back tensing your Glutes. Unfortunately, due to the sedate lifestyle the majority of us lead, our Glutes become extremely passive and don’t fire or activate as they should. This naturally compromises your ability to Deadlift efficiently as the Glutes are both a stabilising muscle and one of the prime movers during the Deadlift.
  • Stretch! The importance of stretching is almost always underestimated with novice trainers. There is a reason why professional athletes and advanced trainers spend time stretching in order to improve flexibility and the range of movement around all major joints! Consider this, if you or your client has poor range of movement through the hips due to tight hamstrings, lower back or hip flexors, how difficult will it be to get them in the correct set up / starting point to perform the Deadlift? The answer…very difficult. In most cases poor range of movement and flexibility is what causes injury during the Deadlift.
  • Once you have perfected the Deadlift technique (hip hinge, neutral spine alignment, vertical shins, no shrugging, movement initiated by the back and chest – no stripper style technique where you begin by straightening your legs), have strong supporting muscles and excellent range of movement, then why not try or include some of these ideas and methods to improve your Deadlift:
  • Perform deficit Deadlifts. This requires you to elevate yourself 2-6 inches off the floor resulting in the bar starting lower. By increasing the range of the movement you will inevitably become stronger when you return to the traditional Deadlift where the bar starts higher up the leg.
  • Rack Pulls. From experience of working with hundreds of clients, it is the lower back which gives in first when performing a Deadlift routine. With this in mind I feel performing rack pulls not only improves the strength of the lower back, but in some cases you can overload the lift with a weight which is heavier than the Deadlift due to the reduced Range of Movement. This will also help with the lock out phase of the lift – another area a lot of people struggle with.
  • Vary the type of bar you use. If you are lucky enough to have Fat Bars or Trap Bars in your gym, then cycle these into your routine. The benefits include improved grip and also varies what muscles are activated at different stages of the lift. E.g. the Trap Bar recruits more quads than the traditional Deadlift.
  • Follow a Wave loading pattern. Wave loading is an advanced strength training method where you perform multiple waves of resistance where each wave increases in intensity which hopefully results in a new Personal Best.

An example can be found below:

Wave 1.

  • Set 1. 5 reps @ 82% of 1 Rep Max followed by a 2/3mins rest.
  • Set 2. 3 reps @ 90% of 1 Rep Max followed by a 2/3mins rest.
  • Set 3. 1 rep @ 97% of 1 Rep Max followed by a 2/3mins rest.

Wave 2.

  • Set 4. 5 reps @ 85% of 1 Rep Max followed by a 2/3mins rest.
  • Set 5. 3 reps @ 92% of 1 Rep Max followed by a 2/3mins rest.
  • Set 6. 1 rep @ 100% of 1 Rep Max followed by a 2/3mins rest.

Wave 3.

  • Set 7. 5 reps @ 87% of 1 Rep Max followed by a 2/3mins rest.
  • Set 8. 3 reps @ 95% of 1 Rep Max followed by a 2/3mins rest.
  • New PB – Set 9. 1 rep @ 102% of 1 Rep Max followed by a 2/3mins rest

There are almost endless ways to improve your Deadlift, but hopefully this article has given you some ideas. For more information on our British Weight Lifting Qualifications or Olympic Weight Lifting Courses don’t hesitate to e-mail us at [email protected] or call us FREE on 08001123431.

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