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How to Do a Deadlift Correctly

Why You Should Love Deadlifts (and How to Do Them Correctly)

If the deadlift isn't part of your regular routine, it should be. While the move's name may conjure images of meaty bodybuilders, the exercise is an amazingly effective move for your lower body, especially your glutes, hamstrings, and quads. Not only that, it's great for your core muscles, too. "The act of keeping the core tight while the load is trying to pull you forward is extremely beneficial," says Tim Rich, a personal training manager at Crunch. Basically, the deadlift is a great exercise for just about anything.

Another reason to love deadlifts? It's the ultimate functional fitness move. "The deadlift is a must-have skill to keep your independence," Tim says. "Proper loading of the spinal column will keep you active and mobile in the later years. You will always have to pick things up for the rest of your life." Regularly doing deadlifts also does wonders for your posture, so if you spend a lot of time at a desk, you should be doing this move.

Ready to add deadlifts to your workout circuit? Read on for tips on how to do a deadlift correctly.

Before you even start thinking of how heavy you should go, Tim recommends that you first make sure you're doing the move correctly (just use a barbell without weights added or practice at home with a broom). "For some people, getting into the right position and holding for 10 seconds with a broomstick will be a workout," Tim says. "Once proper position can be accomplished, it's time to add weight."

Here's how to do a perfect deadlift:

  1. Holding the barbell (or two dumbbells at your side), keep your arms straight and knees slightly bent.
  2. Slowly bend at your hip joint, not your waist, and lower the weights as far as possible without rounding your back, which should remain straight. Make sure you keep your spine neutral with a natural low-back arch, with shoulders down. Looking forward, not at the ground, will help you avoid rounding your back.
  3. Keep the barbell close to your legs, almost touching them.
  4. Squeeze your glutes to pull yourself up at a quicker pace than it took to bend down (Tim recommends that beginners take four seconds to bend down and two seconds to pull up). Don't use your back and do not round your spine.
  5. You should be using a weight where you can do three sets of 12 to 15 reps before fatiguing your muscles — but remember that you should be able to still do the move correctly on your last rep.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Studios
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Eric-Kenyon-RKC Eric-Kenyon-RKC 4 years
 @ameliajc "a warm up run on the treadmill" is about the worst choice possible before lifting, and for life in general. The best movement prep for deadlifts is light deadlifts. This will trigger the movement pattern at the nervous system level. Follow that guide in all your activities. The shoes you want are very thin soled, pro powerlifters wear Converse Chuck Taylors. Treadmill running is not a natural movement. In my observations people who use treadmills are slow, clumsy, and almost always have plantar fasciitis. Most people with plantar fasciitis seem to have acquired it while using a treadmill.
ameliajc ameliajc 4 years
I'm just getting into strength training. Anyone have any recommendations for shoes? All I have right now are my running shoes, which I know are too uneven on the bottom for lifting. Ideally I'd like a pair that could transition from a warm up run on the treadmill to lifting.
Eric-Kenyon-RKC Eric-Kenyon-RKC 4 years
Try sets of one. If you get that right for a couple months then try sets of 2 or 3. Most people have the body awareness and capacity to do 1 or 2 DL's in row correctly. So as a beginner you are most likely performing 10 to 13 sloppy, weak and dangerous deadlifts after that if you follow the writer's advice. Also don't do DL's with your neck cranked up out of alignment like the model in the picture. Keep neck and spine neutral, or slightly extended, eyes on the horizon.
Josh2340739 Josh2340739 4 years
I have short arms so I find it difficult to get as low as some people when dead lifting. So I often set the bar on a very low rack (at about mid calf) in order to maintain proper form. Also, 12-15 reps? Dead lifts are a great strength move. 4-6 reps per set are all you need.
Aida-M Aida-M 4 years
Dead lifts are SO good - I wouldn't recommend trying to learn these without supervision, though. Doing them improperly (which is SO easy) can really do damage on the back. The KEY to doing them well is keeping your back straight- by focusing on keeping your core as tight as possible. It took me about a year to learn this trick!
lauren lauren 4 years
@Adam2337063 I love kettlebells too!
Guest44989 Guest44989 4 years
So tough for me to get the right form on these, even though I know what it SHOULD look/feel like. I have to keep the weight fairly light to keep my back in the right position. Adam, I really enjoy kettlebell swings much more!
Adam2337063 Adam2337063 4 years
Anyone using kettlebells? They're a kind of deadlift, but with cardio, too!
keptyoufit keptyoufit 4 years
I love articles enforcing proper form! Especially for a functional exercise like this!! www.katieept.cpm
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