How to do a Deadlift, Common Errors and Popular Deadlift Variations

In this article you will learn, how to do a deadlift, common deadlift mistakes, popular variations of deadlifts and the benefits of deadlifts

Deadlift is the exercise, which separates the men from the boys. If you see someone performing deadlifts then it is a clear indication that they are serious about their training. However this exercise deserves respect as if performed incorrectly it can mess up your back big time. So lets learn how to perform deadlifts.

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How to do a Deadlift


A classic deadlift is performed with a barbell lying on the floor. Typically an 8 inch plate, which is the standard height of a 45lb/20kg plate is used. The athlete while standing in front of the bar should bent over at the hips to grab the bar at about shoulder width while keeping the bar close to their shins to start.

The spine should be straight, or ‘neutral’ which means the chest is out, core is tight, and head facing forward.

The action of the deadlift starts with digging the heels to the ground to pull the weight up followed by extending the hip and knee fully and coming to a standing position.

The trunk should remain stable and not articulate at any time. The athlete should then return to the start position in a controlled manner, using the same technique in reverse order.

Depending on the size and shape of a person the exact placement of the feet, hands and hips can be adjusted for optimal biomechanics. These are specifics that can be tweaked as you gain more experience.


Common Deadlift Mistakes to Avoid


Mistake 1: Rounding your back: Rounding your back, drooping your shoulders and not keeping your core tight while performing a deadlift is very dangerous and must be avoided at all times. Deadlifts, even the one with strict form, put a lot of compression on your back. Rounding your back will magnify this compression and injure your back

Mistake 2: Not keeping the bar close to your feet: Keeping the bar away from your feet will shift the focus away from your legs to your back. This is not good for your back and can injure it. The bar should be kept as close to your shins as possible.

Mistake 3: Using the arms to lift the weight. The arms in deadlift are there just to hold the weight, they should not be used to lift it. Arms are small muscles groups and lack the strength to lift heavy object. You can tear your bicep if you try to use your arms to lift the weight during deadlifts.

Mistake 4: Bouncing the weight off the floor. Using momentum and bouncing the weight of the floor will not give you full benefit of deadlifts, The weight should come to a complete halt at the bottom before being lifted again, This is how you will engage your muscles correctly

Mistake 5: Too much knee bending: By my moving your knees too much in front, you transfer the emphasis of the exercise from the hamstrings and glutes to the quadriceps. Try to keep your knees as straight as possible and bend over the weight to get full benefit. Now many of us, due to our body shape might not be able to keep our back straight without bending at the knees and that is fine, just try to minimize it as much as possible.


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Benefits of Deadlifts


Deadlift has numerous benefits

  1. It directly targets the muscles of the lower back, glutes, and the hamstrings. Collectively, called the posterior chain.. The posterior chain helps us with our posture and keeps us upright.
  2. Deadlift also engages your quadriceps, abs, forearms and traps.
  3. Deadlift will greatly improve your grip strength. If someone asks you to open a sealed lid, you will be able to open it easily if you deadlift.
  4. Deadlift hits your cardiovascular system really hard as many joints and muscles engage at the same time while performing this exercise.


Different Deadlift variations


Variation 1. Sumo Deadlifts: This version works the adductor muscles of the thighs more than any other deadlift. The start position is with a very wide stance and toes pointed outwards. Knees should follow the toes through the pull and also when putting the bar down. Some lifter find it easier to perform sum deadlift as the height to which the weight is to be lifted is smaller than regular deadlift, also the ankle and spine mobility requirement for this version is not as much as the regular deadlift.

Variation 2. Romanian Deadlifts: They are performed with the legs almost straight with knees slightly bent at the start of the movement. Starting position for this lift is upright. Now move your hips slightly back while the shins are always kept perpendicular to the floor. The bar is brought down to just below knees and then lifted back up. By not bending at your knees, you’ll be focusing more on the hamstrings and eliminate the action of the quadriceps. Since most people are quad-dominant, this is a great variation to help balance off the anterior and posterior chain.

Variation 3. Dumbbell Romanian Deadlifts: This is basically the same movement as the Romanian deadlift, except that it is performed with dumbbells.

Variation 4. Dumbbell Deadlift: Place the dumbbell vertical on the floor and pick it up by holding it from one end. Keep your back straight and core tight. This is beginner friendly version of deadlifts, which is the easiest to perform amongst other deadlifts.

Variation 5. Good Mornings: This is not really a deadlift, however it targets the same muscles as the Romanian deadlift. This movement in fact is the same as Romanian deadlift with the only difference being that the weight instead of hanging from your hands is sitting on your back. Due to the positioning of the weight, for good mornings you might not be able to lift as much weight.

Variation 6. Single Legged Deadlifts: This is a great exercise not only for isolating single leg at a time, but also for balance. Here is how you perform it. Keeping one leg planted on the floor, lift the other foot off the floor. Keeping the knee of planted leg slightly unlocked, dip forwards from the hips. Reach as far forwards as you can. You should feel a stretch in the hamstring of the planted leg. Let your other leg remain straight, following the line of your upper body. Reach a max stretch, then in a controlled manner, return to the start position. Finish all repetitions on one side before moving to the other leg.

If there was only one exercise that I was allowed to perform, I will choose deadlift. Add deadlifts to your routine and you will become stronger and walk around with better posture and mobility.

For most of us deadlift is our max lift where we will be lifting our maximum weights. However the world record for deadlift is 500KG, which is a good 75KG less than the record for squat. Wondering why? The reason is squat suits. Using squat suits, elite power-lifters are now squatting more than they can deadlift.

This concludes our article on deadlift