The deadlift is perfect if you want to add rock solid muscle head-to-toe, strengthen your posterior chain and increase your athletic performance across the board. The deadlift works the hamstrings, glutes, entire back, and grip.
A well-developed network of traps, mid-back, glutes, and hamstrings are especially important for athletes due to their ability to generate power and explosiveness.
But not everyone is able to pull huge loads off the floor, at least not at first. I’ve always struggled with the deadlift. I never really learned to hip hinge properly until college, and as I grew larger with training it only became more difficult.
It’s a powerhouse move, hands-down.
So how can you optimize your deadlift so you are getting all those benefits instead of creating an opportunity to twist and rip something important?
1. Technique, technique, technique
No matter what style you choose to deadlift, either conventional or sumo, you must first focus on technique. Screw this one up and you could cause weakness or injury—completely compromising why you want to deadlift in the first place.
Regardless of style, here are some key tips:
Your lower back should be in a neutral position. Rounding your lower back can be dangerous.
Your arms should be straight at all times (bending them is a recipe for bicep tears).
Your abs and lats should be tight throughout the duration of each and every rep. This will make you stronger. It also helps keep your lower back from rounding.
The bar must stay close to your body at all times. If you let it drift away from you, you’ll put extra stress on your lower back and you will severely limit the amount of weight you can lift. Great deadlifters have scars on their shins for a reason.
2. Train sub-maximally
Instead of maxing out your lift, ideally you want to train with sub-maximal weights, lifting doubles or triples as fast as possible. This builds your power and strength better than maxing out every few days. Instead, test your max every 8-12 weeks. If you increase your max, then increase the sub-max training weights, but not before.
3. Warm up properly
Why warm up? Many of us skip this part. It seems like an easy shortcut if you’re strapped on time. When you warm up, not only do you help prevent injury, but you also increase your performance.
What does a decent warm up look like? Here’s an example:
Assuming you have a 400lbs maximum, here’s how a good workout could look, including warm up sets:
135lbs x 5 x 2 sets (warm up sets)
185kg x 3 x 2 sets (warm up sets)
200lbs x 2 x 2 sets (working sets)
225lbs x 2 x 2 sets (working sets)
245lbs x 2 x 2 sets (working sets)
260lbs x 2 x 1 set (working set)
280lbs x 2 x 1 set (working set)
While these tips may not be new to you…they’re great reminders. Applying these has helped me make the deadlift one of my key training moves.