A break down of a deadlift
Most of us know that deadlifts are a good test of strength. This exercise is very common in the gym. The guy in the corner shouting..yeah he’s the one doing a million kg deadlift ! Nevertheless, whatever weight you lift for the deadlift, you want to carry it out with the best possible technique. Deadlifts are a fantastic exercise for lower body strength and stability. They work practically all lower body muscles and also improve your grip and shoulder strength. They can be used for strength gains, power lifting, building muscle mass and even for rehabilitation exercises.
Now if we dissect the actual move and look at each component of it, then you will see that there are many muscle groups that work in synergy (together) to help lift the weight with the best possible technique. When you improve on this, you will find that you will be lifting more and more weight, provided that you carry this move out with good technique. This is what we will be elaborating on in this blog, the different ways of improving your deadlift. No need to thank me people…..
1. Strength for the upper body – Although the lower body muscles are the prime muscles which are being targeted, your upper body muscles such as your lats and traps help with stability, lifting and lowering phase of the exercise. This is why it is vital to improve your strength of these muscles. A lot of barbell shrugs and dumbbell shrugs will help improve strength in your shoulders and even forearms. To help improve your lats, try doing chin ups and even weighted chin ups. A lot of pulling motions will activate the lats and improve lower body stability.
2. Grip strength – This is a must! You will notice that your grip plays a massive part when you start lifting heavy weights. A lot of people think that they cannot lift a heavy weight because they think they haven’t got the strength in the legs but in fact your grip may be the main contributor to your inability to lift that weight. So make sure to improve your grip strength by carrying out lots of static barbell and dumbbell holds and farmers walks. This way you are training your arms and hands to deal with the movement of the weights in your hand and this will encourage you to hold the weight even tighter within your palms.
3. Core strength – During the actual lifting and lowering phase of the deadlift, your core muscles are constantly engaged in an isometric manner. Yes granted there is the element of spinal flexion and extension in which your superficial core muscles play a huge role, but throughout the move your deep core muscles must be engaged efficiently to carry out this exercise. This is why you see lots of guys in the gym wearing a weight belt, because this helps their core stabilise so they can lift heavier. Personally, I don’t like these belts as I rather just let my core activate without the assistance. But to help your deeper muscles engage try different variations of exercises such as 1 arm/1 leg planks, 1 leg bridges, hand walks, back extensions and even side plank walks. All these variations will help improve core stability.
4. Flexibility – Flexibility plays a massive part in strength. There are many receptors within your tissues which respond to external and internal stimuli such as muscle contraction, breathing rate, heart rate etc etc. These receptors which are involved in muscle contraction and relaxation really have a vital part in orchestrating your performance in the gym! They are like the traffic wardens, yes everyone has to listen to them whether you like it or not. The same with these receptors, they determine how much and how fast a muscle will contract. In order for muscles to contract, opposing muscle groups must relax and again there are receptors for controlling relaxation too. Therefore, if these receptors don’t allow optimal relaxation, then you will not achieve optimal contraction of the muscles being worked as they will be fighting against each other. In order for efficient contraction of muscles, you must keep these receptors happy to allow that smooth and efficient contraction and opposing relaxation. This is where stretching comes in handy! Try using the foam roller, carrying out static stretches, dynamic stretches, doing some yoga, pilates and even going to a deep tissue masseuse to alleviate any stiffness and knots. With all these different types of stretching techniques, you will improve the elasticity of muscles and therefore improve their receptor signalling which in turn will help improve strength! I hope you understand what I’m trying to say !
5. Corrective exercises – Now this is a big one to know! Without going in to too much detail about this topic I will just try and explain what I mean in a few sentences. Corrective exercise is a programme to improve the human movement system so that each move you carry out is done with the least amount of stress placed on passive structures such as cartilage, bones and tissues. Any dysfunctions within your kinetic chain will cause muscle imbalances, injuries and other problems within your body. This in turn will hamper your progression to lift heavier on the deadlift. Therefore, it is very important to rule out any imbalances within your tissues and correct them as soon as possible. If you feel that your posture or techniques are not up to scratch or are suffering from continuous injuries and joint immobility then I would suggest that you speak to a health professional who has knowledge in this area. You can also look this up on the internet and carry out a few rehab and conditioning exercises yourself too to speed up your recovery. Now remember, these programmes can take time to eliminate your faults, but give yourself that time and patience to do it!
6. Variation of a deadlift – Don’t just stick to the standard one! There are many other variations which will improve your overall strength for the deadlift. Try doing roman deadlfits from the rack position – this way you are just focussing on the lower back and hip area to improve synchronisation between the 2 to help with the lifting and lowering phase of the deadlift. On these rack deadlifts you can load up and focus on that technique!
The steps above are a guide to a breakdown of a deadlift. Now I can go on for a long period of time talking about a million other steps but frankly that’ll bore you reading about them all! This is why, I have just put 6 steps for you to read through which I think are some of the most important ones to practise. Yes there are exercise plans out there specifying to improve your deadlifts and usually they will come with ‘deadlift focus’ exercises too which will again help improve your strength. Have a good read through these 6 steps and put them to practise. If in any of these steps you don’t quite understand what I’m getting at or can’t get an idea of the specific exercises then please look them up on the internet or better yet ask a fitness professional for exercises! So get in that gym and practise if you want to increase your strength on a deadlift. In 12 months I want you deadlifting the front of cars!