In weight lifting it is important that you know, and properly perform, all weight lifting techniques to achieve the desired benefit of that weight lifting exercise.
It's not simply that lifting a very heavy weight incorrectly, with poor form, will not only work the wrong muscles, but also may cause severe muscle strain, or other, more serious, injuries. Despite that old popular motivational expression "no pain - no gain", weight lifting, when done correctly, should not necessarily hurt.
It is a fact that people training for competition, will have to endure workouts which will flatten the normal weight trainer. If, however, you are weight training for health or fitness and you are experiencing severe or chronic physical pain during or after a weight lifting workout, there's a good chance you are either using the wrong amount of weight or an incorrect technique.
The Deadlift is a popular weight lifting exercise, both as a competitive power life, and for professional and personal training.
The deadlift is a classic weight lifting technique where the lifter starts in a squatting position, grasps a barbell that is on the floor, and stands up, bringing the barbell up to a point just past the knees. While there are several "power lifting" lifts, the deadlift is considered by many to be the ultimate "test of strength" and is the key movement in competitive powerlifting in which you start from a squatting position.
A Deadlift is unlike a Squat, or most other weight lift techniques, for that matter, because, as its name implies, you are essentially lifting what is a "dead weight".
By definition, a "dead" weight is a weight that is not already in motion or otherwise already off the ground. Due to the physics of inertia, i.e. stuff standing still, in the deadlift muscles are really put to the test. It can also be quite risky if done improperly.
As a training exercise, a well executed deadlift works just about every muscle group of the lower body including the abs, the lower back and the back. Other muscle groups involved in the deadlift include the hips, thighs, hamstrings, calves and glutes. To some degree the Deadlift also works the trapezius muscles (upper back and shoulders) and the forearms.
Proper Deadlift Technique
To Deadlift properly, take a stand in front of the bar with legs about shoulder length apart. Bend over and grab the bar with a comfortable grip.
Next, lower your body into a squatting position, keeping your hips parallel to the floor, back straight, and eyes forward.
Then, tighten your stomach muscles, straighten, raising yourself and the bar "pushing" with your leg muscles and extending your hips.
Note that you are not lifting the weight with your arms or your back. At the completion of the "lift" itself, the bar should come to a position above your knees and in front of the hips. For good form, be careful not to round your shoulders.
To complete a repetition, simply return the bar slowly to the ground and then repeat for the next repetition.
The biggest single mistake most lifters make executing a Deadlift that can cause serious injury is trying to do the lift with the arms, back, or other muscles of the upper body.
While all of these areas will be worked in a Deadlift, the Deadlift is definitely NOT an upper body weightlifting exercise.
To avoid this dangerous process, it is helpful for the lifter to envision trying to push the legs and hips through the floor rather then pulling up on the bar with your arms and back.
Due to the risks of doing the deadlift, one valuable training technique is to practice doing it properly with very light weights, or even with no weights at all, before moving up to heavier lifts.
Risk of Doing the Deadlift
Probably the truly serious risk of injury, due to improper technique in a deadlift, is a back injury. It is imperative to keep the back straight during a dead lift. If you fail to do so, you can put stress on the disks of the spine and lead to all manner of back problems. A lifting belt is one way of stabilizing the lower back and is probably a good idea if you already have a back condition. However, some pros point out that lifting belts prevent you from strengthening the very areas that are in need of help in people with back pain, and some feel the belt may actually contribute to back injury.
Variations of the Deadlift
In the world of weight lifting, as with many lifts, there are a few variations of the deadlift, such as the Romanian Deadlift. Confusingly, this is not really a deadlift at all since in this variation, after the initial lift, you do not return the bar to the floor. It is designed to work more of the thighs and hamstrings.
As I write this, the world record for the Deadlift is currently held by weight lifter Andy Bolton, an English powerlifter from Leeds, and co-author of Deadlift Dynamite, who pulled 1003 pounds (455 kg), the first ever Deadlift over 1000 pounds, but this may have changed by the time you read this.