The deadlift is an exercise that is often associated with the bigger, stronger guys in the gym. It’s also an exercise that a lot of men view with a level of intimidation – usually because it looks heavy, deadlifting is ‘complicated’ (relative to a machine anyway) and if done incorrectly, can be a serious back injury risk.
I understand all of those points, but I want to reassure you about each of them and explain why deadlifting is important to all lifters.
The name ‘deadlift’ is actually an umbrella term for a whole range of different exercises, each with their own technique, grip and exercise outcome differences. When most people picture a deadlift, they’re picturing a conventional deadlift – you’ll have probably seen it. Take a look at the video below…
This is a conventional deadlift, but there are literally dozens of variations of the movement – there are stiff legged deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, sumo deadlifts, single leg deadlifts, deadlifts from risers, rack pulls etc. There are then variations of those, using barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, hex bars and chains. Finally, there are variations in hand grip, tempo used for the lift and sets and reps variation.
I could go on, but you get the point.
Overcoming the Fear of Deadlifting
Lets address the common fears around deadlifting – some of them are justified, others aren’t, but either way I’ll offer a rational explanation as to why they are fears to be overcome.
Deadlifting is heavy and I’m a beginner
True, the deadlift is the exercise where most people can lift their heaviest weight, but that needn’t be a concern. We all start somewhere, so the point of training is to get the ‘training effect’, whereby the outcome you’re looking for (increased strength in this case) is achieved. As a beginner, you don’t need much weight to achieve that, so you can start with a lighter weight that allows you to perfect technique first.
Deadlifting looks complicated
Compared to using exercise machines, deadlifting is relatively complicated. That being said, it’s not an overly complicated exercise and even new lifters will learn a basic, safe technique relatively quickly. The key points are ensuring the movement sequencing is correct and that the back is kept straight. Once you’ve got those in check, the rest is simple enough!
There’s an injury risk associated with deadlifting
This is a myth that just won’t go away. Yes, there is a risk of injury with deadlifting, but no more so than any other exercise. There’s a much higher risk of injury with jogging, but millions of people around the world still run regularly. If you’re worried about your form and injury risk, have a personal trainer look over your technique to make sure you’re on the right track.
Why All Lifters Should Deadlift
Now we’ve explained why the common reasons people are concerned about deadlifting aren’t fears that can’t be overcome, it’s time to look at the benefits of this exercise that anyone who deadlifts will experience….
Massive strength improvements
Deadlifting uses almost all of the muscles in the body, so it has huge cross over benefits. By using so much muscle, the one exercise trains vast areas including the legs, back, core and glutes in one go. Additionally, because so many muscles help with the exercise, you can lift large weights, improving your strength overall.
Despite many people thinking that deadlifting actually causes injury, it is one of the BEST injury-preventing exercises there is! By strengthening the lower back, the core and the glutes, deadlifting reduces the chance of any of these areas becoming damaged through weakness, reducing the chances of injury significantly. If you have suffered from lower back pain in the past, a version of the deadlift may be one of the best things you could do to prevent it happening again.
When we perform weight training exercises, we force the body to produce a hormone called ‘Human Growth Hormone’ (HGH). The more muscle we stimulate when we train, the more HGH we produce. As we’ve discussed before, deadlifting improves leg, glutes and back strength, which stimulates a large release of HGH. This hormone helps us to build muscle and burn fat, giving us two benefits in one.
Cross over sport and exercise benefits
The movement involved in the deadlift is called the ‘hip hinge’ and is fundamental to lots of other exercises. It’s also really important in sports where you may be required to bend, jump, sprint, duck etc. By improving your strength and performance in this plane of movement, you’ll be a better athlete and more able to perform other exercises such as squats, lunges, presses and abdominal work.
How to Start Deadlifting
As with any exercise, I’d suggest you start by hiring a personal trainer to help you with your form. Making sure you establish a good technique from the start is important, so I’d head down the professional route first.
Once you’ve learnt how to perform the exercise safely, you can then look at programming the exercise so you can get the most out of it.
Remember though, start with light weights and build yourself up. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your deadlift numbers go up. It’s not uncommon for new lifters to double their deadlift within a few months of starting deadlifting, such is the power of the exercise!
Be safe, be sensible and enjoy the benefits of deadlifting for the rest of your life! And if you recently had a hair transplant procedure, you may need to put this on hold for a couple of weeks before start.