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The deadlift is a weight training exercise in which a loaded barbell is lifted off the ground to the hips, then lowered back to the ground. It is one of the three powerlifting exercises, along with the squat and bench press.
Deadlift refers to the lifting of dead (without momentum) weight, such as weights lying on the ground. It is one of the few standard weight training exercises in which all repetitions begin with dead weight. There are two positions one can approach when doing the deadlift, which include the conventional deadlift and sumo-deadlift. In most other lifts there is an eccentric (lowering of the weight) phase followed by the concentric (lifting of the weight) phase. During these exercises, a small amount of energy is stored in the stretched muscles and tendons in the eccentric phase, if the lifter is not flexible beyond the range of motion.
Conventional deadlift: The deadlift can be broken down into three parts: The setup, the initial pull or drive, and the lockout.
Setup: When performing a deadlift, a lifter will set up in a position that eccentrically loads the gluteus maximus, minimus, biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus while the muscles of the lumbar contract isometrically in an effort to stabilize the spine.
- Set up behind the bar with it touching or nearly touching the legs.
- Begin by hinging at the hips and knees, setting one's weight predominantly in the heels while maintaining flat feet.
- Spine stays long and straight as hips hinge back, taking care not to allow knees to track forward over one’s toes.
- Gripping the bar either between the legs or on the outside, a lifter will depress their shoulders away from their ears in an effort to load the lats and generate force throughout their erectors.
Drive: The next section of the deadlift produces the highest amount of force. By pushing down through their heels while simultaneously pushing up and forward with their hips and maintaining depressed scapula and a long tense spine an individual can remain safe during this motion. This is considered the most difficult part of the entire movement due to the amount of work required to drive the bar off the ground initially.
- Keep the muscles of the back contracted tightly in order to maintain a safe posture throughout the motion.
- Drive up and forward with the hips and legs to move the bar up and oneself erect simultaneously.
- Take a deep diaphragmatic breath and hold it in during the movement. Thus creating an outward pressure on the core to further stabilize the lumbopelvic hip complex and core throughout the motion.
Lockout: The finish is the most critical aspect of the motion. This requires being totally erect with the spine and forceful hip extension to engage the muscles of the lumbar spine and abdomen in unison with the glutes.
- Finish by driving the hips completely into the bar and getting as tall as possible. Contract the glutes while shortening the rectus abdominus to finish the movement with the pelvis in a neutral position.
- Contracting the glutes as well as the abdominal muscles is critical towards low back health and safety.
Lowering the weight: Finishing a deadlift is simply performing these same steps, yet in reverse order. Since the muscles of the back and core have and should remain tight throughout the motion, one must simply hinge at the hips and knees to bring the weight down. Lowering their chest towards their knees while keeping the bar close will be the safest way to ultimately complete the motion.
The stiff-legged deadlift or Romanian deadlift is a variation whereby the knees are only slightly bent and not moved during the exercise.
The Sumo deadlift is a variation where one will approach the bar with the feet wider than shoulder-width apart and grip the bar with a close grip inside of one's legs and proceed with correct form.
Deadlifts can be performed using dumbbells, barbells, or kettlebells with one hand or two hands & with one leg or two legs. Variations are only limited by the athlete's imagination. Other variations are the side deadlift or suitcase deadlift, rack pulls, deadlift lockouts, deficit deadlift or deadlift from a box (pulling from the floor while standing on a built or improvised low platform).
Each of these variations is called for to address specific weaknesses in a lifter's overall deadlift. For instance if the athlete has difficulty breaking contact at max. weight, deficit deadlifts are performed to strengthen the gluteus maximus and hamstrings due to the greater range of motion required by standing on the low platform or low box. On the other hand if the lifter has no problem with breaking contact with the floor but has difficulty locking out, he should perform rack pulls to strengthen his upper back, posterior deltoids, and trapezius muscles while de-emphasizing the gluteus and hamstrings.
The archaic "dead weight lift", or "dead weight lift with lifting bar" involved a T-bar with weight loaded on it while the lifter stood on sturdy chairs or other such platforms. A remarkably heavy amount of weight could be lifted in this manner due to its short range of motion; the main limitations are in the grip. This lift is similar to the modern day rack pulls, where a heavy amount of weight is lifted deadlift style a short distance in a power cage or squat rack.
Typically, there are two grips used: overhand (pronated) or a mixed overhand-underhand (supinated) (sometimes called "offset," "staggered," "alternating", or "mixed") grip. Depending on forearm strength, the overhand grip may result in the bar potentially rolling about. Mixed grip is capable of neutralizing this through the "physics of reverse torsion." The mixed grip allows more weight to be held for this reason.
In order to prevent the bar from rolling out of the hands, some lifters have been known to use an Olympic weightlifting technique known as the hook grip. This is similar to an overhand grip, but the thumbs are inside, allowing the lifter to "hook" onto them with the fingers. The hook grip can make it easier to hold heavier weights using less grip strength, and keeps both shoulders and elbows in a symmetrical position. While it theoretically takes much of the stress off of the joints which might be created by the twisting of a mixed grip it has the disadvantage of being extremely uncomfortable for the thumbs, something which those who advocate it says will pass once a lifter becomes accustomed to it. Another, but rarely used method is a combination of the mixed overhand-underhand grip and the hook grip, preferred by people who lift heavier weights than their grip can handle, but who don't want to rely on lifting straps or other supportive gear.
Many powerlifters adopt the overhand grip for their lower weight sets and move to the mixed grip to lift larger weights so they can achieve their one rep max.
The trapbar deadlift is a variation of the deadlift using a special U-shaped bar (a trapbar). This allows more clearance for the knees to pass "through" the bar. To perform the trapbar deadlift, one loads the bar, steps inside the hollow portion of the bar, bends down, grasps the handles, stands erect, then lowers the bar to the ground in the exact opposite path. This is very helpful for both the handgrip and the lifter's hips.
The deadlift is a compound movement that works a variety of muscles groups:
- The grip strength (finger flexors) and the lower back (erector spinae) work isometrically to keep the bar held in the hands and to keep the spine from rounding.
- The gluteus maximus and hamstrings work to extend the hip joint.
- The quadriceps work to extend the knee joint.
- The adductor magnus works to stabilize the legs.
The deadlift activates a large number of individual muscles:
- The record for a raw deadlift (a deadlift performed without the aid of a deadlift suit, where only a weight belt is allowed) is 460 kg (1,010 lb) by Benedikt Magnusson. This lift currently exceeds the equipped record.
- The record for an equipped deadlift (a deadlift performed using a deadlift suit using a standard bar and plates where straps are disallowed) is 457.5 kg (1,009 lb) by Andy Bolton.
- The world record deadlift in strongman competitions (using a standard bar and plates but straps and hitching allowed) is 463 kg (1,021 lb) by Eddie Hall.
- The world record in strongman competitions (partial deadlift with wrist straps from 18" off the floor with high bending bar) is 535 kg (1180 pounds) by Tom Magee in the 1983 World's Strongest Man competition.
- The record for the tire deadlift (a deadlift performed using hummer tires instead of weightplates) is 524 kg (1155 lbs) by Žydrūnas Savickas.
- "The Free Dictionary: Deadlift". Retrieved 15 February 2014.
- "Benedikt Magnusson's Training Leading Up to His 1015 Deadlift World Record - LIFT.net". LIFT.net.
- Soong, Michael: "Men's Superheavyweight Weight Class Top 20", "Powerlifting Watch", Retrieved: 2009-06-20
- "Eddie the Beast Hall Sets New World Record".
- "Zydrunas Savickas 1155 Lb Tire Deadlift - World Record - LIFT.net". LIFT.net.
- Mark Rippetoe with Lon Kilgore, Starting Strength, The Aasgaard Company Publishers, 2005, ISBN 0-9768054-0-5
- Frédéric Delavier, Strength Training Anatomy, Human Kinetics, 2001, ISBN 0-7360-4185-0
- Deadlift Technique Reference Photos
- Benedikt Magnusson breaking the record under WPO powerlifting rules
- Romanian Deadlift - Core Performance
- Romanian Deadlift should be renamed - Taco Fleur
- Deadlift Variations & How To Perform Them