Strength training for beginners can be daunting, to say the least—especially when terms like ‘deadlift’ are thrown around and you’re not entirely sure what they mean.
What is a deadlift?
The deadlift is a full body exercise that involves lifting and lowering of a bar, normally with a weight on each end, and recruits nearly every muscle in the body.
How? Well, as you have to stabilise your upper body, lats and your posterior chain to actually perform a deadlift, you’re guaranteed a full body workout.
Why should I deadlift?
Good question — it was a great full body move, but the science really did the talking. Whilst researching the lift, Harvard Health Publishing informs us, that strength training is essential for building strong bones and in turn reducing your risk of injury. No wonder so many runners swear by it as their secret weapon for half marathon and even marathon training. Plus, a Harvard study of nearly 36,000 women found that strength training lowers your chances of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes—so it could be beneficial for more than just my fitness levels.
If you’re exercising to lose fat, the deadlift is a winner as the move uses larger muscle groups comprised of fast twitch muscle fibres, which in turn use more fuel in the form of fat and will therefore cause the after burn and burn fat for longer post-workout.
What muscles does a deadlift use?
When performed correctly, the deadlift targets more muscles in your body than nearly every other gym move. You will be working the following muscles each time you lift:
What does a deadlift workout include?
Now, onto the workout behind the deadlift magic. Interestingly, learning to deadlift involves more than just the deadlift.
This means following a training plan including deadlifts but other weightlifting moves, too. You do three to four sets of paired lower and upper body exercises with shorter rest periods and higher reps—normally between 12 and 15. Sounds complicated— once you get the hang of the format, it’s as simple as pairing lower and upper exercises.
Example beginner’s deadlift workout:
A1: Trap bar deadlift
A2: Dumbbell bench press
B1: Weighted step up
B2: Lat pulldown
Finisher: Prowler push
To make sure that learning to deadlift is achievable we at BTB start you trying deadlift workouts. We use a small pool of exercises to make sure we don’t overcomplicate workouts and in turn to speed up the rate of progression.’
Plus, mastering other moves like bench presses, hip thrusts, lateral raises and more help you to build all-round strength and avoid localised fatigue. For example, in a session, a deadlift wouldn’t (always) be paired with squats as they are both target the same muscles so would tire you out more quickly.
Essential form for pre-deadlift includes:
· Feet firmly planted on the floor shoulder width apart—flat and supportive weight training shoes are ideal.
· Hands firmly clasping the deadlift bar shoulder width apart—For some, wrist straps and chalk can really help with weak grip
· Chest held up and proud to avoid lower back injury
· Shoulders blades (or scapulas) drawn back as far as possible, again to protect the back
· Back and spine curved inwards and held strong
If at any point you feel you are curving or doming your spine, it’s best not to attempt the lift, as you could seriously damage your lower back.
Deadlift involves three phases:
· Phase one: Holding the bar pre-lift on the floor with your spine held in a neutral position and shoulder blades pulled together
· Phase two: Lifting from the ground with your core tensed and spine held neutral
· Phase three: A pause at the top, holding the bar firmly with core and back engaged and held strong and the bar against the top of your thighs.
Checklist in your head before I lift:
· Protracting your shoulders: Make sure your shoulders are pulled back at all times or your back muscles will not be properly utilised and spine not protected.
· Arching your back: If you curve your spine, you risk shifting the tension of the lift from full body to the lower back, risking injury.
· Jerking the bar up or not lifting in a smooth motion: Its important, that you should be lifting by drawing your back muscles together, not putting too much pressure on your triceps.
· Turning your hip hinge into a squat: Also important is that one of the key form components of a deadlift is hinging, rather than squatting, at the hips.