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How to Perform a Deadlift

written by: Jamil Karim • edited by: Cheryl Gabbert • updated: 8/5/2010

Learn why Deadlifts are crucial for a weightlifting regimen to increase strength, posture, and prevent injury. Contains a step-by-step guide on how to perform one correctly.

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    Deadlifts Explained

    The deadlift is, without a doubt, one of the trickiest exercises to master, but it is not without benefits. By targeting the muscles of the lower back and legs, the deadlift contributes to strength and definition in the core, and allows the stabilizer muscles to come into play. This improves overall posture and increases strength in many other unrelated lifts. In addition, the deadlift significantly raises the amount of free testosterone produced by the body, due to the sheer quantity of muscles being worked and the intensity of the lift itself. By simultaneously working the upper and lower body, it leads to drastic increases in strength and body composition.

    Incorporating the deadlift into a workout regimen is crucial for anyone seeking to lose weight, build muscle, or prevent injury. Due to the often weak nature of the lower back and abdominals, this region is prone to injury and dehabilitation over time. Regularily performing deadlifts can lower the potential for injury, reduce lower back pain, and assist with overall wellness. By focusing on strict form throughout the workout, you are forcing your back to remain straight and rigid, thus developing the muscles needed to maintain correct posture throughout the day - this promotes balance and flexibility and reduces soreness.

    The major muscles targeted are the lower back, glutes, hamstrings,hips, and abdominals. In addition, the deltoids and trapezius (shoulder muscles) also come into play, as do the arms and forearms - deadlifting significantly improves grip strength.

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    The Equipment

    Deadlifts are best performed with a barbell and plenty of open space.

    The specifics are up to the individual's preference, however, as they can be done from the floor, from the rack, or with dumbells held at one's side.

    This guide will focus on deadlifting with a barbell from the floor. Begin with just the bar to assess strength and balance and add weight accordingly.

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    The Procedure

    The deadlift is very difficult to master, and as such it is crucial to begin light until you have perfected your form. It is also necessary to thoroughly stretch and warm up to avoid an injury. Pay close attention to your form throughout the motion and perform the lift very slowly.

    1. Stance: Place the barbell at the floor and step forwards until it rests directly at your shins. Grip the bar at shoulder width with an alternated grip: one palm facing up and the other facing down. Keep your knees slightly bent and feet pointing forwards.

    2. Posture: Keep your core tense and your back straight. Stick your hips and rear out and keep your shoulders back and tightened.

    3. The Upward Motion: Basically, just straighten your back and stand up. Grip the bar tight and push with your feet to raise the weight. Raise your shoulders and push your glutes simultaneously. In the lower half of the movement, you should feel your hamstrings and glutes performing most of the work.

    When the bar begins to near your waistline it will begin to shift the force to your lower back. Continue straightening until you are completely upright, with the bar resting against your waist-upper thigh region.In this second portion you will need to shift your weight to the heels in order to retain balance and target the hamstrings and back.

    4. The Lowering Motion: Slowly lower the weight to the floor, with the same emphasis on posture and form as in the eccentric portion. Regain your balance and begin again. Do not drop the weight or use momentum to lower it, as this will negate the emphasis of the exercise and may cause injury.

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    Additional Tips/ Notes

    1. Make sure to keep elbows and shoulders locked in position during the movement. Do NOT let them flare out.

    2. Keep your back firmly tightened and do not let it round or arch too much.

    3. Do not lock your knees and do not let them bend inwards - always bend them out to the side.

    4. Make sure to breathe correctly, but there is no need for unnecessary yells or grunts. This will not help you lift the weight and is very annoying to others.

    5. Lift with a spotter or do not go as heavy as possible. Keep in mind that your strength will begin to fail after a few sets and do not keep trying to raise weights when alone

    6. Rerack the weights upon completion.