Working as a Personal Trainer at Fit4less Brentford you meet so many different people, all varying in lifting experience, functional ability and end goals. Yet many attempt the same exercises, whether that’s due to examples they have seen on the internet, undertaken in the classes, or advice from a friend/trainer. One exercise I see a lot of (and hear when people drop the bar from hip height because it is too heavy) is the deadlift. I use this exercise myself as it is a fantastic functional lift which targets numerous muscles group in the lower and upper body, however this exercise can also be one of the worst in the gym because poor technique is seen far too often which can cause injury. With this post I want to try and help you fix your deadlift making it safe and effective for your outcome goals.
Prior to lifting a warm up should always be undertaken, and with “warm up” I do not just mean jump on the treadmill for 5 minutes to raise your heart rate because to be able to get in the correct positions when lifting and use the correct muscles you need to perform specific mobility and activation exercises.
When deadlifting you are going to want to make sure your hips, hamstrings, glutes, lower back and calves are mobile to allow for postural correctness at the start point. Use of myofascial release as well as dynamic/static stretching of these areas is essential to start with. This should be followed by activation exercises to key muscles.
The key muscles to be switched on are glutes (prime mover), hamstrings (prime mover) and obliques (facilitate postural correctness). Low level intensity exercises which target these muscles such as bridges, band walks, golf ball pick-ups and dead bugs are perfect.
At the starting point your feet should be shoulder width apart, hand outside your legs, hip angle above your knee angle, straight back and head up looking forward. The start point is pivotal because if the bar height is too low then you have no chance of lifting with safe technique. Without Olympic sized bumper plates then any weight below 25 kg will not sit the bar at an appropriate height, thus platforms should be used under the plates so that the bar is sitting level with mid-upper shins, in order to achieve postural correctness. Postural correctness is a neutral spine at the start point (i.e. straight back), with those of you lacking in mobility and unable to get down that low then place more platforms under the plates to raise the bar higher. Then as you work on your mobility over the weeks these can be reduced.
During the lifting phase of the movement you should explosively extend your hips and knees driving through your heels, maintaining the neutral spine with the bar brushing the legs on the way up. During the ascent the bar should run down the legs whilst flexing the hips and knees to return to the start point. It is extremely important to maintain the straight back as you go down. Even on your last rep make sure you return the bar safely and do not just bend over, because you’re tired, as that will cause damage.
The reps, sets, and load will all vary depending on your goals and training level. Try and practice your technique prior to adding weight to the bar, if you are on your own then film yourself from the side so you can assess your lift and see if your technique is correct. If you need any advice or have any questions then comment below and I will get back to you as soon as I can.
Check out my facebook page for videos of deadlifts undertaken by my clients, with spot on technique. I hope this helps, and I look forward to seeing great deadlifts!