If you've been to a gym before for long enough, you will know what this exercise is. It's basically picking an object (usually a loaded barbell) off the ground. Some people will say it's GREAT for building strength in the back.
Others say it's DANGEROUS. Can it be an excellent strength builder and dangerous at the same time?
The deadlift is primarily a hip movement, which means it requires you to hinge from the hips in order to generate power It also requires the legs to drive through the ground in order to get the bar up and movin. At the same time, you need to be able to stabilise the trunk so that the power from the hips and legs actually transfer into the bar moving upwards - this is the KEY STEP which a lot of novice lifters get wrong. Instead of effectively bracing the spine to resist movement, they are actually using the back to pull the heavy weight off the ground!
Now you might get away with this for a while... until you injure a muscle/ligament/nerve/disc The best way to move a heavy object off the ground is to use the BIG muscles of the lower body (glutes, quads, hamstrings) while keeping the trunk (deep core) stable
But why do so many people get it wrong?
I believe we are becoming more and more sedentary as technology advances and starts to become an essential in our lives rather than a privilege. Prolonged sitting postures encourage the deep core stabilisers of the trunk to become weak and we lose our ability to move safely and effectively So when we encounter the task to pick something heavy off the ground, your body will choose its most comfortable way to do it.
For a lot of people, this is with a rounded back and straight legs How do we fix this problem and lift safely?
Here are 4 steps that you can implement immediately:
#1 REST (from poor biomechanics) The only time I will ask my athletic clients to take a complete rest from training is if they are not safe to do so due to medical reasons I will however, always ask them to take a rest from doing certain movements if they are not moving properly and safely. This is because you body REMEMBERS how you move... If your deadlift sucks and you continue to practice, your deadlift will continue to suck. You will be much better off in the long run if you can get your technique spot-on, reducing your injury risk and making you a stronger athlete as you destroy your weaknesses
#2 Reduce the Weight
Leave your ego at the door If you can't handle the weight safely, it's time to take a couple of plates off the bar. Decreasing the weight will allow you to work on your technique and really OWN the movement.
One of my CrossFit clients came in to see me with persistent back pain from doing heavy deadlifts. Now this guy is STRONG, with a 200kg deadlift and 130kg squat clean.
Anyway, I showed him how to deadlift at the clinic by using his hips properly. I think he did 3 sets of 10 repetitions at only 40kg that day. He hasn't felt soreness in his glutes that badly for a long time! 2 weeks of daily rehab work and he hasn't had any back issues since.
#3 Modify Your Movement
If you're still struggling with the barbell deadlift, don't fret - MODIFY!
There is always an alternative movement or exercise for you to practice with. My personal favourite is the Kettlebell Deadlift which you perform by holding the handle of the bell. This is great for technique practice because you don't need to bend as far down, and you get used to the proper and most direct path (straight up and down) for the weight to travel.
So ditch the barbell next workout, and perfect your form using a kettlebell or dumbell
#4 Get Assessed
An experienced set of eyes is invaluable... you need to find out how you're moving and if it is correct or not.
Start off by taking a video of yourself performing the deadlift. If you're experienced enough you may pick up a few technique errors to work on. Otherwise ask your trusted coach/personal trainer/therapist and get their opinion.
If you don't have a coach or a therapist, FIND ONE! You're training at the gym to become a healthier version of yourself... it's absurd to me how anyone who values their health doesn't have a trusted team of health professionals looking after them If you want to learn more about how you can improve your deadlift,
Our Foundations of Back Health guide is perfect for you! It's a 5-Step detailed guide with illustrations to help you improve your movements Fill out your details and download it here: www.activtherapy.com.au/back-healthfoundations.html
Now let's do some lifting!
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