I’d love to start this off by saying how important deadlifts are for increasing strength and power, which translates directly to speed on the field, ice, and track. Here at REP that’s not our style though. What is more important about deadlifting is how crucial it is for EVERYBODY to move better and restore balance to your body. It is crucial to get out of constant hip flexion by introducing the best hip extension exercise. It combines a hip hinge and a squat pattern, two basic moves that everybody should master for physical literacy, yet with most clients, these are missing. If you aren’t comfortable doing a deadlift, or aren’t 100% sure you are GREAT at them, go see a pro and get some work in. If the deadlift is the ‘King of Exercises’ then a poorly executed deadlift just might be the ‘Kingpin of Exercises’, the mob boss responsible for crime and destruction on the streets…or your tissues…
You want to set up behind the bar with feet about shoulder width apart. This stance should be more narrow than a squat. The bar should be right up to your shins. Play around with your grip (you can use double overhand or alternating grip… I’d suggest staying with double overhand until it starts to get too heavy) width to find what feels most comfortable.
I just gave you the basics of positioning, so now let’s talk approach. From a standing position, make sure your chin is tucked down and core is engaged. Next, sit down a little bit, like a quarter squat, by pushing the hips back. Then you will hinge at the hip and place your hands on the bar. You should be looking at a spot on the ground about 3-4 feet in front of you, not at your feet.
When you are executing the lift, there are 3 things that we absolutely don’t want. First, is your hips and shoulders rising separately. This will put a ton of strain on your back if your hips pop up, then your shoulders start to come up. Second is any major lumbar flexion throughout the lift. A lot of times, if your hips pop up first, then you are likely going to go into lumbar flexion, since your spinal erectors are rarely strong enough to lift the weight on their own. Third is an exaggeration at the lockout position of lumbar extension or cervical extension. You do not need to lean back to make sure it’s complete. Your shoulders should not end up behind your bum (looking from the side). We are looking for hip extension, not lumbar extension. Full hip extension should leave you locked out in a straight line, head to toe. With the neck, some people look way up to the sky for this same purpose. Don’t do it. Leave the chin tucked and the neck in neutral.
One of my favourite cues for having a well-coordinated lift off, is to try ‘pre-lifting’ the upper back/shoulders. This tends to give the stiffness in the arms and upper body that you need to ensure your legs do most of the lifting.
Here are a couple of videos that you can look at to help give you an idea of what to do…
(Unfortunately the above video was filmed before I understood the importance of neck packing; the chin should be tucked more than it is in this video for a straighter spine)
Some key points about deadlifting…
- A 2x body weight deadlift is the bare minimum for any elite athlete.
- Anybody who lifts regularly, no matter the age or athletic status, should be able to deadlift body weight
- You do not need to go into hard lumbar extension to exaggerate the finish.
- You can put serious mass on through your legs and upper back with deadlifts
- If you don’t use straps, your grip strength will fly through the roof!
- They do contribute greatly to the ability to jump and sprint
- They are probably the best full-body posture exercise out there
If you don’t deadlift, start now. Get someone to look at your technique. Learn how a good deadlift FEELS then you can start progressing up in weight. Make them a cornerstone of your programming.
It’s About Getting Better!