Picking up a fallen comrade, a young child, or a case of beer are all instances that you can train for in the gym, to ensure that when the time calls, you're ready.
The deadlift gets its name because you start every rep from a dead stop off the floor, just like in the above scenarios. In order to deadlift, you need to set up properly. That means that every rep is the first rep. There is no way to build momentum or use stretch reflex to make it easier.
Good luck with a CASEVAC if you can't properly pick up your fallen team member
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Paul Peterson/Released)
The deadlift is easily the most butchered exercise in the history of modern man. The following setup will ensure you skip all the common pitfalls and get to pulling 2x your body weight in no time.
1. Stand with the bar over your mid-foot
Approach the bar, without touching it. Stand with your feet roughly shoulder width apart and slightly canted out, at about a 15-30 degree angle.
When you look down, the bar should be over your mid-foot.
Take into account your whole foot, not just the front part that you can see, but the whole foot from heel to toe.
Mid-foot, on most people, actually looks like it is about ¾ of the way back on your foot when you're looking from above.
This is roughly 1 inch from your shin when standing up straight.
2. Bend at your hips and take your grip
Don't bend your knees yet.
Keeping your legs straight, bend over at your hips and grab the bar just outside of hip distance.
You want your grip to be as narrow as possible, but still wider than the legs, so they don't get in the way of your knees as they bend.
The more narrow your grip, the longer your arms will be, and the shorter distance you will have to pull the bar.
3. Bend at your knees and bring your shins to the bar
Up until this point, your shins should not have made contact with the bar.
Now that the bar, your stance, and your grip are locked into place you can bring your shins into position.
Bend your knees and point them out as much as possible.
They should be tracking out in the same direction as your feet.
Do not move the bar, your feet, or your grip!
Just bend your knees and bring your shins to the bar.
You'll most likely feel like you are in an awkward position, as your hips will be higher than feels natural. This is correct.
4. Squeeze your chest up and lock your back into position
Flexion in the back (like a crunch) is generally undesirable, especially when learning the deadlift.
Some upper back flexion is acceptable in competitive lifters. You are not a competitive lifter...yet
Lower back flexion is never acceptable.
Stick your chest out and think about bringing your belly to your ass. This cue sounds weird, but when you do it, you will be exactly where you need to be.
This is also when you should be taking your deep inhale and locking it in to give your more intra-abdominal pressure.
Lastly, you will be taking the slack out of the bar here. It is that clicking feeling of the inner bar hitting the roof of the sleeves on which the weights rest.
You will notice a distinct difference between the barbell resting on the ground and you "holding" the weight in your hands before it actually leaves the ground.
5. Pull the bar up along your legs to the top
You are ready to pull. You already have the weight in your hands, and your entire body is in position.
Without compromising your back position, pull straight up and press your feet through the floor.
These two directly opposing actions will cause the weight to move with ease.
Remember, you are fighting gravity here. Any movement that is not directly vertical is stealing energy that you could be using to fight gravity with.
The best way to overcome gravity is to stay balanced over your mid-foot, where the bar starts the movement, and keep the bar in contact with your legs during the entire execution of the movement.
When to deadlift
The hamstrings are prone to extreme soreness, and for this reason, many trainees only deadlift once a week. But just one deadlift session a week is plenty to spur an increase in posterior chain size and strength.
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