Deadlifts are for Everyone by Stuart MacEwan

All my clients’ deadlift; every single one.  They deadlift to lose weight, to gain weight, to add muscle, and to eliminate back pain.  You should deadlift too.

It is asserted that the deadlift works more muscles with one simple lift than any other exercise other than the squat.  If done properly it will bulletproof your entire back, strengthen your hamstrings, boost your metabolism and hormone production, and make you feel like a bit of a badass.

There are 4 major types of deadlifts; Romanian, sumo, floor, and stiff-legged.  They all primarily work the hamstrings, glutes, spinal erectors (lower back), and upper back muscles.  Which deadlift you pick depends on your level of expertise, your primary muscle targets, and your environment.

When I first meet a client, we start on a Romanian deadlift on our first day together.  It tends to be the safest of the deadlifts to teach since the body is already in an upright position when first addressing and picking up the bar.  This puts all the major muscle groups of the entire body under tension before lowering the bar and limits the possibility of accidentally rounding the lower back with your first upward pull.  When starting to learn the Romanian deadlift, ensure you keep your back straight the entire time, from start to finish.  This will keep your spine in alignment and safe.  Focus on keeping your weight back in your hips while you lower to a floor parallel position and rising back to your upright position.  Romanian deadlifts should be the first thing you do in your exercise program, with other lighter exercises following after your complete 4-6 challenging sets of 4-12 reps.  I use the Romanian deadlift to strengthen the lower back specifically to prevent future injury and allow the lower back to become very strong for other exercises like the squat.  I also use it to boost my clients’ metabolism by increasing their testosterone and growth hormone.  It is wonderful for helping maintain bone density for those worried about early osteoporosis. 

If someone has shown significant aptitude with the Romanian deadlift, we might move to floor deadlifts with an Olympic bar, or a hexagon bar.  The floor deadlift still works the lower back, but because of its low-hip drive from the starting position there is increased focus in the glutes and hamstrings.  Some folks with very long legs and shorter arms might prefer the comfort of a sumo deadlift variant instead.

For clients that want to really target their hamstrings specifically, the stiff-legged deadlift is the great grand-daddy of all hamstring moves.  This particular lift limits participation from the quads and puts a special focus on all of the 4 hamstring muscles.  A common mistake is to round the back or perform the reps too quickly.  Focus on your form for best results; keep your back ramrod straight and stay at the bottom portion of the movement for about 3 seconds to make your hamstrings really engage and work!

It’s very possible to begin to learn to deadlift with a chronically injured back.  Using and developing the muscles of the legs, hips and back as a whole helps distribute weight and forces away from the spinal column which can help alleviate spinal and nerve issues.  This kind of work should be overseen by a physician and an experienced strength coach to observe a clients condition and progress.  I’ve worked with many clients that no longer suffer from lower back pain and sciatica.  Contact A2O Fitness if you have concerns about back and innervation issues.    

There’s a brand new year coming up soon fitness guys and girls.  Make sure you include some kind of deadlift in your program to change your entire body from the inside out!