What if I asked you, “What is the single most important exercise for a bodybuilder to do?” You might say there are many important exercises and that there is no right answer. Well, if you ask me, the deadlift with proper deadlift form is the absolute most important exercise for a bodybuilder to perform. In fact, if I was forced to limit myself to only one weight training exercise, it would have to be the deadlift.
WHY THE DEADLIFT? DEADLIFT BENEFITS
Deadlifts stress so many different muscles at once, all with heavy weight. Think about all the muscles involved in the exercise for a moment: The calves and tibialis anterior for stabilization, the quads for straightening the legs and the hams for extension at the hips. The entire core comes into play; abs and especially the lower back. Then, there are the forearms and, to a lesser extent, the upper arms from holding the weight. The entire columns of muscle running up the back along the spine are worked hard as you near completion of the lift. Then, the middle and upper traps and rhomboids help you finish the lift as you pull the shoulders into place. WOW! After reading these deadlift benefits, if you are not deadlifting, you really are missing out.
Another reason why deadlifts are the best is because of their effect on hormones. The human body releases various hormones in response to the stimuli we face. Heavy compound lifts, like squats and deadlifts, are known to temporarily increase growth hormone and testosterone levels in the body. And this leads me to another point. Deadlifts just make you feel awesome. Maybe it’s the hormones, or maybe it’s the thrill of lifting a big weight, but there is a feeling you get from pulling a particularly heavy weight that is unmatched. When you set down that weight and know you succeeded, you get a rush of confidence and energy. This confidence can carry you through the next couple exercises and help you excel in those too. So, again, if you are not doing your deads and reaping deadlift benefits, you are doing yourself a disservice.
HOW TO DO A DEADLIFT
Pay attention. If you don’t execute this lift correctly and use proper deadlift form, you could do some serious injury. This exercise has herniated or even shattered vertebral discs. But, when done with care, deads are perfectly safe. Anyone who says otherwise doesn’t understand BLOCKING. What is blocking? Blocking refers to the positioning of your body during certain exercises, such as deadlifts, squats and goodmornings. This technique is really quite simple. The goal is to keep the natural curve in the spine to protect from injury. You need to “block” when doing these exercises every time.
HOW TO BLOCK – Look forward or slightly up. Stick your chest out and keep your shoulders back. Stick your butt out and keep your abdominals pulled tight. If you can keep this general form throughout the lift, your spine will remain in a protected position. If you find yourself unable the blocking maintain the position, drop the weight and go lighter. Lifting the weight is not worth a lifelong injury.
Now that we’ve got that down, let's get into how to do a deadlift:
- 1. Set up - Put a barbell on the floor and load it. Walk up to the weight, bringing your shins up to touch the bar. The shins should be roughly shoulder width, but I try to go as wide as I can while keeping the shins along the smooth part of the bar. If the shins are against the rough, cheese-grater-like part of the bar, you may cut your shin a bit.
- 2. Lower your hips into a squat position and grasp the bar about an inch outside of both legs in an overhand grip. You may grip one hand underhand if needed, this will be a personal preference thing.
- 3. Start to lift theYou want to make sure you start raising your shoulders before the hips start rising. If you start the lift by throwing your hips up you will put your back in a disadvantageous position and risk losing proper deadlift form. So, shoulders come up first.
- 4. As the bar reaches about knee level, you should start to lean backPull the bar into your legs. This will make the weight a little easier to get up, as opposed to continuing to pull straight up. Remember to keep the bar flush against your legs the whole time you are pulling.
- 5. Once you are straightened up and standing up all the way, continue the lift by pulling your shoulders back and this part is a lot like adding a shrug and will work the traps harder.
- 6. Now that you are done with the lift you need to let the weight down. Don’t try to do a slow negative with the deadlift. This can overstress the back. Keep your grip but let it fall.
- 7. If you are doing reps just repeat from. There is no need to release your grip, stand back up and reset for bodybuilding purposes.
WHEN TO DEADLIFT
In my opinion, deadlifts should be done on a back day. It makes the most sense to do them first when you are fresh and can pull the most weight with proper deadlift form. A good deadlift session can get your adrenalin pumping and set the tone for the whole rest of your workout. Make sure to give yourself enough rest in between deadlift sessions. They can take a while to recover from. I like to do mine every with other back workout. Any successful powerlifter will tell you that deadlifting too frequently is counterproductive.
Now that you know why, how to do a deadlift and when, you have no excuses for not including the most important bodybuilding exercise in your routine and reap those deadlift benefits!
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