When it comes to the deadlift, two things are continually certain. First off, it is, by far, the simplest and most obvious exercise on planet Earth. Since the beginning of time, men (and women) have been deadlifting, even if they didn’t have a nice weight belt, chalked hands, and a PR max in mind. Since mankind first roamed this little planet, we’ve been picking up rocks and putting them back down, for a variety of reasons. The deadlift, while often surrounded with the hype of world records, cheering crowds at meets, and sponsored lifting suits, is pretty much the same movement performed by these cavemen. Pick up a weight, and put it back down.
The deadlift has been embraced not for its rich history, but for the fact that it delivers serious results. Those who train with the deadlift on a regular basis see a sustained increase in muscle mass to their back, glutes, legs, shoulders, and other muscle groups of the body. It is a compound movement, which targets multiple muscle systems of the body in conjunction with one another. Along with bench press and squat, the deadlift is the heaviest and most key cornerstone movement in the mass builder’s handbook. You should be using it on a weekly basis if your goal is to grow bigger, stronger, and thicker. Let’s look at some ways you can get more return on your deadlifting investment, and see results faster and in a safer manner!
Width & Pull
When approaching the deadlift, you should be using a width that is about what you’d use for a vertical jump. Stance is a little wider than shoulders, with your toes pointing outward. The bar should be about one inch from your shins. Grab the bar, using an alternated grip (each hand facing the other direction). Keep your knees straight. Then, bend the knees forward just a bit, letting your shins tough. Squeeze the chest up, pulling the back up. Take a very big breath. Finally, it’s time to DRAG the bar up your legs until you’re standing up straight in the upright position.
Many lifters LIVE in their back braces, afraid to bend over at the water fountain without its assistance. While this is a bit extreme, and may lead to the back not developing its own stabilizer muscle strength, there is something to be said for the protection the back brace can provide when training with deadlifts. Tightening the region will keep your lumbar region in place and less likely to jump or spasm as you execute the movement. Don’t worry if it feels tight – you can loosen the belt between sets. Top lifters in bodybuilding and powerlifting always use their back braces to prolong their career while avoiding injury – and so should you!
The simplest thing about the deadlift is that the numbers move in a very ordinal manner. You can deadlift 200 pounds. Then you can deadlift 201 pounds. Then you can deadlift 202 pounds. Each day, week or month, as you grow stronger, you are capable of moving juuuuust a bit more weight. These small changes add up, as you know. The problem with many lifters is that they fail to possess any ability to embrace these very minor changes in strength. They think they have to move from 200 to 250 to 300 pounds. They mock those using the 1 and 2 pound plates. However, these lifters who are using these small plates ARE making gains – and more consistent and steady gains than the lifters mocking them. Add a 1 pound plate (or even a ½ pound) to each side of the bar with each workout. Initially, it may feel silly. However, 2 pounds a week gain means you’re moving 100 pounds more on your deadlift each year, a goal that most people in the gym do not achieve. Stick with small bites, and before you know it, you’ll have chomped down an added hundred pounds to your deadlift power!
No matter how careful you train, there will come a day when you will tweak your back. Small, minor muscle pulls can lead to weeks of lagging muscle pain and inflammation. This is normal and faced by many athletes. The key is to let the area rest. The back is a very big muscle group. You can train around it, targeting your lats and upper back with isolation movements, perhaps scaling back the poundage and sticking with a more moderate set range while you’re working out the soreness bugs! Remember that you’re in this lifting game for the long haul, and you’re probably not competing at the Mr. Olympia show next weekend. Let your body rest and recover, and you’ll come back strong and quickly. Use the lower back down time to target your calves, biceps, forearms, or other lagging body part!
Defeating gravity. That is what the deadlift is all about. Doing so in the most efficient and effective manner will provide you with the quickest path to new strength levels, coupled with increased muscle mass as a result of your efforts, as long as you’re complimenting your efforts with adequate rest, nutrition, and supplementation. Don’t overlook your supplements!
Finding deadlifting success takes time. The body adjusts to the workload you thrust upon it by growing stronger, and small changes to muscle fibers lead – eventually – to new gains in muscle size and mass. Be patient in your efforts. At times, you’ll see slow and gradual results. Other times, you will see little to no change. There will be times, due to lagging energy levels, injury, soreness, or just plain stress, that your lifting performance may actually go DOWN. When this happens, you should find ways to step back, take a week off, deal with whatever stressors stand in your way, then continue down your path.