Matt Keane

How to Deadlift: The Definitive Guide to Perfect Form | Man of Many

Often regarded as the king of lifts, the deadlight is an all-encompassing compound movement that targets a series of major muscle groups. They can be used for improving strength, power, and improving lean muscle mass, but due to the involvement of multiple body area, deadlifts are also great for increasing heart rate and can be added to cardiovascular focused weight circuits. You can characterise the muscle groups worked into three sections.

What is a Deadlift?

Here, we walk you through how to do a deadlift correctly to maximise your strength and muscle growth. When starting out, we suggest loading the barbell with light weights (or even just the bar itself) so you can get a feel for the technique before you start lifting heavier.

The Correct Deadlift Form

Position your feet hip-width apart, angled slightly outward where you feel most comfortable. Ensure your midfoot is under the bar without your shins touching the bar. You can do deadlifts barefoot or in flat sole shoes, but we prefer barefoot.

Step 1 – Foot Positioning

Grip the barbell shoulder-width apart in an overhand grip (knuckles facing forward). You may see other people use a mixed grip (one hand each way), but when starting out, we suggest an overhand grip as it’s safer.

Step 2 – Barbell Grip

Move into position by bending your knees so that your shins nearly touch the bar. Lower your glutes as much as possible to incorporate maximum leg drive.

Step 3 – Bend Your Knees

Straighten your back by raising your chest, this will activate your latissimus dorsi muscles. Think, “Butt to ground, chest to roof”.

Step 4 – Lift Your Chest

Take a big breath in and brace your core (flex your abs and your glutes). Lock your elbows and arms in position.

Step 5 – Brace Yourself

Push your feet through the ground and lift the bar. As the bar passes your knees, drive your hips forward to stand up straight, and lockout your glutes.

Step 6 – Lift!

Reverse the movement until the bar returns to the ground and you release tension.

Step 7 – Lower the bar

There’s a reason they call the deadlift a complete exercise – it benefits just about every area of your health. Check out the top 7 benefits of deadlifting:

Benefits of Deadlifts

  • Bend your knees. Don’t try to use your upper body to muscle the bar up. Work on bending your knees and bring your leg drive into the lift.
  • Back as straight as possible. Ensure you push your chest out to straighten your back before lifting. A good tip is to get someone to film you from the side as you do a set so you can see how straight your back really is. A hyperextended or arched back is the way most deadlifting injuries occur, so be conscious of keeping a straight back.
  • Explode through the ground! When you initially lift the bar, don’t think about pulling the bar up from the ground. Instead, think about pushing the ground away from you. This will help bring more leg drive into the movement and make it easier when lifting heavier weights.
  • Lift speed. Make sure you lift and lower the back at the same speed. Apart from other gym-goers hating you for slamming the weights down, you’re also missing out on an important part of the lift by dropping it instead of lowering the bar back to the ground.
  • Deadlifting Tips

    As you’ve probably heard before, deadlifts are notorious for injuries. Ninety per cent of these injuries are the result of improper form, which means you can avoid most of them by taking the time to learn the correct form.

    Risks and Mistakes of the Deadlift

    Once you master the traditional deadlift, you can begin to incorporate different variations of the movement into your training depending on your goals, strengths, and preferences. Remember, each variation has its own challenges and risks so treat them like different exercises.

    Deadlift Variations

    Just like the sumo squat, you position your legs wider apart with your arms straight down. The sumo deadlift is great to work on quad development and, with practice, you can even lift heavier than your traditional deadlift because the range of motion is shorter.

    Sumo Deadlift

    Using a specialised bar, this variation of the deadlift distributes the weight much more evenly across your body. With the handles of the bar on your sides, this lift also puts less stress on your lower back.

    Hex or Trap Bar Deadlift

    In this advanced variation of the traditional deadlift, you place your hands much wider on the bar. Because of the grip, you work more of your upper back and must start deeper in the movement, engaging more of your lats and hamstrings.

    Snatch Grip Deadlift

    Known as the Romanian Deadlift, this variation focuses on the hamstrings. During the lift, your back stays straight and your legs remain stiff, with all bending coming from the torso and all the power from your hamstrings.

    Straight-Leg Deadlift

    The deficit deadlift is performed while standing on a 2-10cm raised platform for a greater range of movement. Good for people who struggle with the first half of the deadlift movement, this variation recruits more of the posterior chain and quad muscles to perform the lift.

    Deficit Deadlift

    In contrast to the deficit deadlift, rack pulls shorten the range of motion of the traditional deadlift. With the bar resting on a rack around knee height, you focus on the top half of the deadlift movement. The partial range of motion of the rack pull targets the trapezius and upper back muscles to a greater extent, helping you to lock out your deadlift once past the knee.

    The Rack Pull

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