Timeless movements: Deadlift

Why it works: Done correctly, the deadlift delivers a lot of bang-for-the-buck while reinforcing proper hip-hinging and spinal alignment. This multi-joint movement engages all the musculature of the upper and lower body in one exercise. It is great for strengthening your lower body posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, spinal stabilizers), along with engaging the muscles in your upper body (trapezius, rhomboid, biceps and shoulders).

Proper Form: The deadlift is a hip and glute driven exercise that your back assists with. Start by having your feet hip-width apart, or slightly wider. Feet flat on the floor with the bar over the mid-foot. Engage and brace your core, pull your shoulder blades down and back. Next, pushing your hips back, then at end range of motion bending your knees until you can grip the barbell. Grip width should be just outside your legs for the traditional deadlift exercise. At this point your core is engaged, feet flat, shoulder blades pulled down and back, with arms straight. It is important to make sure you have tension in your arms and there is no “slack.” Begin the movement by maintaining tension and pushing “your feet though the floor.” The bar will move in a vertical path as your hips drive forward contracting your hamstrings and glutes as you stand up. Reverse the movement to lower the bar back to the ground by first initiating the hip hinge while maintaining a tight core and upper back. When done properly the deadlift reinforces proper posture and helps to counter the negative effects of all the sitting many of us do during the day.

How often should you do it: There are several great variations to the traditional deadlift which make it an exercise that could be incorporated  1-2x per week into your program depending on what other lower body exercises you are also doing. Some variations include the Rack Pulls, Sumo deadlift, trap bar deadlift, DB deadlift and the single leg deadlift.

What muscles are in play:  Glutes, hamstrings, trapezius, rhomboids, spinal erectors along with deltoids, biceps and forearms.

Something else you should know: Proper technique is crucial. When executed correctly the deadlift is a great multi-joint exercise that can strengthen your entire body and help reinforce proper hip hinge movement and spinal alignment. This can actually help to improve posture and reduce lower back pain. Seek instruction and coaching from a certified strength and conditioning professional to help guide you through the proper progressions and technique.

Sanford POWER has been developing athletes for 20 years – and the more things change, the more they stay the same. The deadlift is one of those “timeless” movements – as effective and essential in 1999 as it is today. Sioux Falls POWER lead Scott Hettenbach, CSCS, broke down the deadlift.