The Deadlift : Beginning
Credit: Me

Want to learn how to properly deadlift? If so, then you have come to the right place!

You might’ve heard of the deadlift at some point in your active or non-active life. Almost everyone has performed a deadlift at one point in time, whether they realized it or not. If you’ve ever lifted something off of the floor, then you have performed a deadlift. It’s one of the most commonly executed exercises by bodybuilders, powerlifters, and even ordinary people like myself that go to the gym to stay in shape. All too often I approach the weight room in a gym and notice someone attempting to deadlift with poor form. Either his back is rounded, they’re using a weight that’s too heavy for them, or just performing the exercise completely wrong. The deadlift is a compound exercise in which you lift an inert or “dead” weight off the ground. People of any age, gender, or level of lifting experience can perform the deadlift. The only problem is that many people don’t know how to execute this simple, albeit complicated lift. Once the technique is mastered, the lift is simple, but until then there are complications.

I’ve been lifting for over two years now, however when I first started, I didn't even know what a deadlift was. Then, during my first week of lifting, I went to my local gym with a friend who at the time was already an experienced lifter. The first lift he performed was the deadlift, which caught my attention. “This looks so easy” I said to myself as he performed the lift. Then when I tried to imitate his form, it wasn't that simple. He tried teaching me, but it just wasn't happening. Afterwards I embarked on a journey to learn how to perfect the deadlift. I spent countless hours watching YouTube videos, practicing the lift and failing miserably until I finally mastered it.

There isn’t a set time that it takes for someone to learn how to properly deadlift. When it comes to the deadlift, practice makes perfect. You should always start with low weights and perfect your form before moving on to heavier weights. Many people reject this proposal and try to deadlift way more than their bodies can physically handle, causing improper form which can lead to injuries and unnecessary complications. There are various forms of the deadlift, but the one that I’ll illustrate is the one most utilized - the conventional deadlift. There are four main components to performing this lift: the beginning, the lift, the lockout, and the return. 

The Deadlift : BeginningCredit: Me

The Beginning:

To start the deadlift, you must get a dead weight to use. A standard 45-pound barbell, found in almost any gym, is preferred because it makes the deadlift easier to execute. This bar properly allows you to place your feet under it. You must stand upright with your feet slightly less than shoulder width apart. Following this you position the barbell so that both of your feet are equidistant from the each end of the barbell, and so that it’s directly over both of your feet. Throughout the exercise, keep the bar as close to your body as possible. Now, grab the barbell with an overhand grip so that your palms are facing down. Have your hands about shoulder width apart so that they’re on the outside of your knees. Make sure you bend your knees so that your legs make an angle slightly greater than 90 degrees with the ground. Your lower body should be positioned as if you’re about to sit in a chair that is slightly slanted upward. Then, bring your chest out, straighten your upper back and arms, tighten your abdominal muscles, have your shoulders behind the bar, and keep your chin slightly up while looking straight ahead. The most important and critical part of the deadlift is to keep your lower back arched inward and upper back straight at all times. You should be able to feel the inward curve of your lower back because it can’t get any straighter. Most people that perform the deadlift improperly do it because their back isn’t straight from the beginning, which then remains curved throughout the exercise’s range of motion. This can cause damage to your back in the short and long term. Finally, lean back so that your bodyweight is centered over your heels, and not on the front of your feet, at all times.

The Return

The Lift:

Now that you’re in the proper position to execute the deadlift, it’s time to being the lift. Before execution, inhale and take a deep breath. Then, immediately drive your body upward through your heels, pulling the barbell off of the floor with your hip muscles. Do not use your back to pull the bar up. The deadlift is a simultaneous movement of the hips, knees, and trunk, so all three should be extending at the same time. You should feel as if you are pushing through the ground with your feet. As your body approaches full extension, squeeze your gluteal muscles (buttocks) and thrust your hips forward while raising your torso into the upright position. It is imperative to keep your form throughout the lift by having your lower back arched inward, upper back and arms straight, chest out, chin slightly up while looking straight ahead, and the barbell as close to your body as possible. Also, to reduce stress on your knees and hips, keep them aligned. 

The Lockout

The Lockout:

After you have completely pulled the bar off the floor, exhale and stand erect with your arms and legs straight. Maintain a tight grip on the bar with your hands. Some people make the mistake of hyperextending their back after the lift and locking their knees. Avoid this and attempt to stand upright as if your body was a pencil, while maintaining proper form. Take a few breaths and get ready to go back down. 

The Return

The Return:

The return is the reverse movement of the lift. Begin by bending your knees and lowering the bar simultaneously. While doing this, remember to keep the bar close to your body. Once the bar reaches your knees, lower it until it touches the ground. You should now be back in the beginning position. You’ve just completed one repetition of the deadlift exercise! If you feel confident in your form after your first repetition, perform another one as soon as the bar touches the ground on the return.

If executed properly, the deadlift is an excellent exercise that utilizes numerous muscles. These muscles include your forearms, shoulders, chest, back, legs, and hips. Remember, if you are just starting to deadlift, use a weight that you are completely comfortable with until your form is close to perfect. This will help your body get accustomed to the deadlift and prevent injury. Once mastered, you can have some fun by increasing the weight and reaching new personal records, or by trying out a different variation of the exercise. The deadlift is a great exercise for lifters of all experience levels, or even for people that are just trying to get into shape. Just remember, practice makes perfect, and the key to a successful deadlift is to ensure you have impeccable form.