Mastering the Deadlift

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Mastering the Deadlift

October 30, 2013

Along with squats and lunges, the deadlift is a functional, compound exercise that is a staple of lower-body workouts—once you master the form, that is. A great exercise for both lower-body strength and power development, this move can assist in sporting or strength activities, as well as in activities of everyday life.

Ready to give it a try? Here are the steps for performing two different types of deadlifts: traditional and stiff-legged.

Traditional Deadlift

The traditional deadlift is great for working your hamstrings, glutes and your entire core, which includes the muscles of the back, hips and abdomen. This tried-and-true move can help improve quality of life by reinforcing proper core engagement and lifting techniques, helping to protect your back from injury.

Starting Position Start with the barbell on the floor. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, with your toes under the bar. Squat down and lean forward slightly, keeping your spine in a neutral position. Grasp the bar with hands slightly wider than your thighs. Pull your shoulders down and back so your chest is sticking out, keep your chest lifted and your head in line with your spine. Brace your core to help stabilize and protect your spine during the movement.

Upward Movement With your core engaged, push through your heels to start the lift. Engage your back and keep your shoulders pulled back to avoid rounding the shoulders. Stand and pull the bar so your hips and the bar rise at the same rate, keeping the bar close to your body as it moves upward. Finish with a glute squeeze at the top of the lift, almost pressing your hips forward against the bar.

Downward Movement Slowly lower the bar toward the ground, while hinging at your hips (shifting them back and down) and simultaneously bending your knees so the bar and your hips lower at the same rate. With the bar in front of your legs, it forces you to push your hips back, keeping your weight on your heels, further engaging your glutes and hamstrings. Finish with the bar on the floor over your toes, with your chest up, shoulders back, core muscles engaged and back flat.

Stiff-Legged Deadlift

The stiff-legged deadlift is similar to the traditional deadlift, but it places much more emphasis on the hamstrings and core. Keep your legs mostly straight during the movement rather than bending the knees concurrently with the bar.

Starting Position Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, with your hands neutral. Grasp the bar with an overhand grip or, if lifting a heavy weight, you may opt to switch the grip with one hand over and one hand under. This locks the bar into position and prevents it from spinning.

Downward Movement - Slowly lower the bar, keeping a very slight bend in your knees. Do not lock out your knees. Keep the bar close to your legs during the whole movement, with your weight on the center of your foot or your heels, but never on your toes. Push your hips back and engage your core to stabilize your spine. Lower the bar until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings.

Upward Pull Once you feel the stretch in your hamstrings, engage your glutes and pull the bar back up. Keep the bar up close to your legs and continue to keep your back straight and shoulders pulled down and back. Pull the bar until you are completely straight, and finish with a glute squeeze at the top of the lift, almost pressing your hips forward against the bar.

Interested in mixing things up? For a little variety try dumbbell deadlifts or, for a great challenge, give single-arm, single-leg deadlifts a try!

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