First, let’s look at why you should deadlift:
Deadlifting is a compound exercise that utilises a lot of muscles in your body, it directly targets the hamstrings (a large group of muscles, which is hard to target even with a leg curling machine), the glutes, lats and core which collectively make up your posterior chain.
Deadlifts, along with other compound exercises, are a great way to build muscle, burn fat, increase mobility and build overall strength. As deadlifts also target the posterior chain it can help with posture issues many of us face in the modern world, hunched shoulders and rounded backs for example.
Now let’s have a look at how to deadlift:
Deadlifts are a powerful explosive exercise and to perform them effectively you need to set up your body to be as powerful and explosive as possible. First let’s look at your stance, believe it or not, you subconsciously know how to plant your feet to get the most power out of your legs, just set yourself up to jump as high as you can, for most people your feet should be spaced hip-width apart.
The direction your feet point is less important than their position, however, your body is slightly more biomechanically efficient if they are pointing directly forward, however, if this is uncomfortable for you to do because of your hip structure, your toes pointing slightly outwards would be the next best option.
Next, we need to hinge at the hips, most people simply ‘bend over’ to reach the bar, this, however, is more likely to cause lower back rounding, which is something you should actively be trying to avoid to prevent injury. A cue which I personally use to hinge rather than bend, is to push your butt back, you can practice this motion on its own by standing near a wall facing out with a slight bend in the knee, then reach back to touch your butt to the wall, then step out a little and repeat, keep doing this as far as you can, remembering to keep your back as straight as possible.
After you hinged as far forward as you can whilst maintaining a straight back, it's time to bend at the knees, do this as much as you need, so you can reach the bar, with your hands either side of your legs. The bar should be positioned over the centre of your foot, above the bow of your laces if you’re wearing laced shoes.
You can grip the bar in many variations, whilst double overhand is probably the safest it's also the least efficient for your grip meaning you’ll need to wear straps to aid your grip at lighter weights than you would if you used hook grip (same as double overhand but thumb on the inside of the fingers) or mixed grip where one hand goes over and the other hand goes under the bar. Mixed grips are probably one of the stronger grips and will allow you to lift a slightly heavier weight max than any other grip. However, it increases the chances of a torn bicep drastically, so take this into consideration when you choose.
How you set up your upper body will now be dependent on whether you’re better at getting the bar off the ground or locking out. Even though there are mixed opinions in the fitness community whether it is safe to bend your upper back during the deadlift, it's agreed that with a rounded upper back you will be better able to get the bar off the ground, however, it will be harder to lock out. The opposite is true with maintaining a straight upper back. What is important in both cases is that the upper back remains rigid and taut, tense your triceps and protect your armpits (squeeze your arms into the body so there is no gap by your armpits). What’s important here is that you start in the position your planning to use if you start with a straight upper back and collapse into a rounded upper back mid lift this can cause injury.
Okay so now you’re set up it’s time to lift. It's important to be explosive as possible off the floor, a cue to achieve this is to drive your feet down into the ground rather than pull up with your back. Make sure you are pressing down with the whole of your feet rather than just your toes or just your heels. After the bar breaks from the floor it should come up at a constant speed up until the base of your knee, at which point it is important to drive forward with your hips whilst the bar is still travelling upwards. The bar and your hips should meet at the same time at lockout.
During the lockout it is important not to hyperextend your back, you should be standing upright with the bar in your hands, not leaning backwards.
To finish off the lift is as simple as reversing the motion to put the weight back on the floor, do this with as much control as you can, however, gravity will be assisting you, so the down motion should be faster than the upwards one.
In short, just to recap:
• Feet in jumping stance (hip-width apart) • Hinge at the hips keeping the lower back as straight as possible • Band the knees so you can reach the bar • Pick a grip and grip the bar either side of your knees • Brace the upper half of your body • Push your feet down • Drive forward at the hips when the bar reaches your knee • Don’t hyperextend, stand up straight • Reverse the motion to put the weight down