How to do a dead lift
When executed correctly, a dead lift is a fantastic back exercise and a particularly popular move to improve upper back strength, as well as engaging the glutes and legs. However, a dead lift with poor technique can sometimes do more harm than good.
Failing to engage the upper torso and not engaging the glutes, quadriceps and hamstrings will mean that a dead lift becomes deadweight, resulting in injury to the lower back rather than physical improvement.
With proper technique, however, a dead lift engages lots of key upper body muscles, including your trapezius, rhomboids, erector spinae, latissimus dorsi and rear deltoids, at the same time as firing up the larger muscles in the lower body.
Before attempting a dead lift, it is important you have full mobility in your ankles, hips, and upper back.
The Dead lift Movement: A how-to guide to the dead lift
Load a barbell with the appropriate weight. You can also use dumbbells to begin with, particularly if a weighted barbell is too heavy.
Roll the bar against your shins. Bend at your hips and knees. Grab the weight with your hands over the bar (not underneath like you would hold a weight in a dumbbell press). Your hands should be just wider than shoulder width apart.
Keep your lower back naturally arched. Engage your upper torso and your legs, pulling your torso up with the weight. Thrust the hips forward as you lift your torso and stand up with the weight.
Lower the barbell or dumbbells, keeping the muscles engaged. Repeat.
Perfecting the dead lift
A flawless dead lift is the key to all-over body strength. Make sure your core is engaged at all points when performing the deadlift.
Become on-point to dead lifting with these 8 tips for an ultimate dead lift:
- Pay attention to the position of your feet. Your feet should be in a position where you would feel most powerful to make the highest jump possible, upwards into the air.
- Walk under the bar so the bar is halfway across your feet before lifting. The correct position of the bar will minimize the distance your knees must travel towards the floor and the overall stress on the body. Make sure your shoulders are directly over the bar.
- Drive your feet and body weight into the floor. Once you are happy with the position of your feet (they should be facing forwards and not too far apart), push them towards the floor when you lift for maximum performance.
- Move your shoulders and hips at the same time in the same motion. Keep the core tight and make sure, when you lift, your dead lift is one sweeping movement upwards.
- Don’t lose the control on the way back down. Make sure you have equal control when you’re placing the bar back on the floor. It is important not to lift too heavy to ensure you can manage the weight efficiently.
- Keep your chin tucked in. Don’t tilt your head back or lean back with your neck as you lift. Tucking your chin will help you keep form.
- Utilize your armpits. Squeeze your armpits to fire-up your latissimus dorsi, some of the largest muscles in your upper back.
- Thrust your hips forward when you’ve lifted the bar. Stand tall and engage your glutes by squeezing your buttocks. Your glutes are amongst the largest muscles in the body and you should engage them to take most force from exercise. Engaging the glutes can prevent injuries in other areas of the body, particularly for runners who can be sufferers of overuse injuries in smaller leg muscles, tendons and ligaments.
What do dead lifts work out?
A dead lift offers an all-over body strength exercise and can make you a stronger athlete, no matter what your sport.
The movement is also excellent for toning muscles all over the body. The muscles firing up in a deadlift, include:
- Glutes: The dead lift targets the large muscle in your butt and upper leg, the gluteous maximus. Because the gluteous maximus attaches to both your pelvic bone and sacrum (upper leg), and femur (lower leg), injuries to the muscle can restrict hip movement. Just take care that you have full extension in your hip when completing this exercise.
- Hamstrings: Although the hamstrings don’t take the largest amount of force in this exercise. They act as the stabilizing muscles and, as a result, a dead lift does indeed offer them a solid work out.
- Quadriceps: The quadriceps at the primary activator muscle in the dead lift exercise. Take care not to put too much pressure on your knee when overloading the weights. The quadriceps attach to the tibia in the lower leg and, therefore, too much strain on them can lead to issues with knee extension.
- Rhomboids: Your rhomboids, both major and minor, are initiated when performing a deadlift. The rhomboid muscles are working when you are squeezing your shoulder blades at the top of the lift.
- Trapezius: A dead lift forces the whole of the trapezius to contract, pulling the shoulders back.
- Latissimus Dorsi: Squeezing your armpits can really engage the Latissimus Dorsi. An important muscle in sports like swimming and water polo.
- Rear Deltoids: The rear deltoids are small muscles that work in a dead lift to support the upper torso. Because the muscles are small, there is often less focus placed on these muscles, however, a few deadlifts can definitely work towards strengthening these shoulder muscles.
- Erector Spinae: The three muscles that make up the erector spinae, the iliocostalis, the longissimus and the spinalis, are all fired up when practicing a deadlift. The muscles run from the base of the skull to the lower vertebrae of the spine. During the dead lift, the erector spinae help extend the torso and pull the spine back when standing.
When should you do a deadlift?
If you separate your workouts into “back days” or “leg days”, it is fine to incorporate a deadlift into either.
As with any exercise, make sure you stop if it is too strenuous. Equally, if you are racing or competing within a week of strength training, it is generally recommended to avoid heavy lifting.
How many times a week do you dead lift? Can you do dead lifts and squats on the same day?
There are reports that the general advised time for dead lifting, when squatting as well, is 1 full hour once a week. If you are not squatting though, then one full hour 3 times a week is sufficient. That said, it is not a case of one size fits all. Listen to your body.
How many sets of dead lifts should you do?
The number of dead lift reps you do will depend on whether you are body building or powerlifting. Power lifters tend to perform 3-5 hugely heavy reps, while bodybuilders tend to do 8-12 reps.
How can I increase my dead lift?
If you are looking to increase the weight on your dead lift, the following tips can help:
- Check your technique and make sure you are performing the dead lift correctly
- Focus on the task in hand. Relax your mind.
- Make sure your training is well-balanced.
- Hone your rapair & recovery, use a protein powder like ULTRA WHEY (we love the chocolate flavour with crushed ice) for the ultimate muscle growth support.
Get stronger. Dead lift heavier.