The deadlift is the most criminally overlooked move in the gym, and yet the most important for your long-term health. This is probably because it has the least obvious aesthetic impact of the big compound lifts – or so the uninitiated believe. The beauty of the deadlift is as a balancing exercise, but neglecting the muscles on the other side of the body is entirely counterproductive.
Over-develop in one direction and you’re going to create weakness and injury in the other. You never hear of anyone confined to his bed because of a bad pec. A bad back, however, is one of the most common causes of work absenteeism. The deadlift is the best exercise to counter this, strengthening your entire posterior chain, including your hamstrings, glutes, lower back, lats and protractors.
This, in turn, lifts your posture, opens up your shoulders and thickens your back muscles, which has precisely the effect of making you look stronger, fuller and more upright. It’s no coincidence that physique competitors all swear by this as the backbone of their success.
And, due to the size and number of muscles recruited, the deadlift is likely to be the heaviest lift that you can manage. By shifting that much tin you’re causing huge metabolic stress. That’s exactly the kind of stress you need in your life, especially if you sit at a desk all day, as this can lead to underactive glutes and more serious muscular issues in the long run.
In short, deadlifting mends many of the problems caused by modern life. Show your devotion with these tips from physique competitor and founder of elite training facility Six3Nine, James Conci-Mitchell.
01 STEP UP
Approach the bar, head bowed, until your shins touch it. The closer, the better. Plant your feet and tense from the balls of your feet up to your glutes, staying active throughout.
02 STAND YOUR GROUND
Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, turned out ever-so-slightly to stop your knees collapsing in once you start to lift.
03 MIX IT UP
It’s okay to arch your back as you ready yourself. Hands close to the outside of your legs, use a mixed grip – one overhand, one underhand. Alternate with each set to pull more without busting your shoulders.
04 INTO THE HOLE
Shins touching the bar, grip set and feet positioned correctly, drop into what’s known as “the hole”. Let your bum drop behind you as you squat down. Safety note: you shouldn’t return here while holding the bar.
05 BRACE, BRACE
Tensing is for amateurs; pros brace. Brace your abs so your stomach pushes outward a little and flatten your back. This rigid, safe position ensures the correct muscles are doing the work.
06 DRAG YOURSELF OUT OF THE HOLE
Shoulders retracted, drag the bar up your shins by driving through the legs. Your upper body shouldn’t move – power is from your hamstrings and glutes as your hips hinge forwards. Never snap the bar up fast.
07 UP AND AT ’EM
Exhale as you thrust the hips forward and knees back, squeezing your glutes at the top. Hinge at the hips but keep lats engaged and shoulders back at all times. Pull as if you want to rip the bar in half.
08 GOING TO GROUND
Depending on the weight, you’re welcome to control the bar on the way down. Hinge at the hips to release tension in the glutes. Do not arch your back. For near-max lifts, drop the bar. Then bow again to your task.