Similar to the squat, regular deadlift workouts will do wonders for the development of your overall strength and physique. Many trainees fear the deadlift, and past experiences may have left them terrified when waking up the next day wondering if they will ever be able to walk again.
Opposite to what many may believe, deadlifting is not bad for your back. In fact, the opposite is true. The vision of the spine representing somewhat similar to a fishing rod is not the goal for the exercise.
Respect The Exercise
When explaining this misconception, I use the analogy of first learning to drive a car. If you haven’t learnt to drive before, the probability of crashing and hurting yourself is high. On the other hand, if you are a competent driver and have good technique, the risk of hurting yourself is very low. Now the same applies to deadlifting.
“It is not deadlifting that is dangerous; it’s your ability to execute the deadlift.”
From the outside, the deadlift may look very simple. Simply lift the bar from the floor to the hip. However, the reality is there is a lot more to it, and it’s not something we naturally know how to perform.
Many trainees may even just avoid the deadlift altogether because they feel it’s specific to competitive powerlifters however this cannot be further from the truth.
“The deadlift is beneficial for both athletic and general populations. “
My observation is that most trainees perform the deadlift incorrectly, what we commonly see is the inability to get into a good start position and hold posture throughout the lift. One of the primary reasons for this is not following a progressive model when learning the lift.
“Earn the right to use a barbell, learn how to hinge and brace before adding load to the pattern.”
Below are three tips that will help the trainee improve their deadlift technique. These are not exercises that are to be done on the first day of training but are more concepts to understand the pattern.
1. Practice The Rack Deadlift
The Rack Deadlift is a variation of the lift where the bar starts from a rack utilizing a smaller range of motion. Once the trainee is familiar with the hinge pattern, this variation is an excellent way to practice the lift as it is a pure hip extension. The height we recommend starting with is just above the patella.
This is a great way to start overloading the hinge pattern. Starting from the rack means the trainee does not have to worry about the coordination of the knee joint and simply focus on the loading the posterior chain.
This variation is great because the trainee can tolerate higher loads leading to further development of their central nervous system.
2. Practice Generating Tension
Generating tension in the deadlift may be a foreign concept to some but is essential for proper execution. The tension created is what stabilizes the spine and protects the lumbar from injury.
The tension starts with the intent to grip the bar as tight as possible regales of the weight. This is important because of a concept called “irradiation.” Irradiation can be defined as “the spread of muscle activity to other muscles besides those primarily responsible for the task” and is the reason why you cannot hold your posture in a deadlift when your grip is failing. A stronger connection with the bar will improve your technique dramatically.
The goal is to use the weight as the bar to wedge yourself into position. The lats play a critical role in packing the shoulder and creating a rigid torso. The goal is to actively pull down and back to engage the lats like the video below.
Try this Hip Hinge with Lat Activation drill before your next session.
3. Practice The 1&1/4 Deadlift
One of the most common errors we see with the deadlift is the knees extending at a greater rate than the hip. This causes the hips to shoot early and the torso angle to be compromised. The angle of the torso will cause an excess load to be placed on the erectors and the trainee waking up the next day with are very sore lower back.
A great exercise to teach the trainee how to hold their trunk positioning is the one and one-quarter deadlift.
To perform this, complete a quarter rep to the knee, pause for 1-3 seconds then return to the floor. The back angle must remain constant as the bar moves from the floor to the knee.
The cue for this exercise is to push or ‘leg press the floor away‘. We use the cue ‘push not pull’ to ensure the weight leaves the floor smoothly and there is no jolt because of a lack of tension.