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The deadlift is a weight training exercise in which a loaded barbell or bar is lifted off the ground to the level of the hips, then lowered 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 several positions one can approach when performing the deadlift, which include the conventional deadlift, squat 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. Although this exercise uses the hips and legs as the primary movers, it can just as easily be considered a back exercise.
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 stand erect and lift the bar.
- 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 a neutral 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 for low back health and safety.
Lowering the weight: Finishing a deadlift is simply performing these same steps in reverse order. As the muscles of the back and core must remain tight throughout the motion, one should simply hinge at the hips and knees to bring the weight down. Lowering their chest towards their knees while keeping the bar close is the safest way to ultimately complete the motion.
The stiff-legged deadlift is a variation whereby the knees are only slightly bent and not moved during the exercise.
- the Romanian deadlift is a variation on the stiff-legged named for Nicu Vlad. As it begins at the top and does not begin the concentric from a dead stop, it is alternatively called an undead lift.
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. Compared to conventional deadlifts, the Sumo deadlift puts more emphasis on the glutes, hamstrings, hips, quads, and traps with less of an impact on spinal erectors and the posterior chain. Weightlifters with a history of back injuries may find that sumo deadlifts are a viable alternative. If allowed in competition, many lifters favor the Sumo deadlift due to shorter bar travel from floor to lockout.
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, they should perform rack pulls to strengthen their 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 hexagonal 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.
- Core musculature remains braced to stabilize the spine.
The deadlift activates a large number of individual muscles:
- Biceps brachii muscle
- long head
- short head
- Biceps brachii muscle
A deadlift suit is a special piece of power lifting assistance clothing. The suits are made from very tight material. The material tightens on the squat on the way down, storing energy, that gives an extra boost with the stored tension to lift up. Thus, records are recorded with and without the suit. The starting position with a suit is slightly different to maximize use, so training with a suit is different. Wrist wraps are sometimes used to provide support, not necessarily to increase lift, like a suit.
- The world record for a raw deadlift (a deadlift where only a weight belt is allowed) is 460 kg (1,014.1 lb) by Benedikt Magnusson.
- The world record deadlift (using a standard bar and plates but suit, straps and hitching allowed) is 500 kg (1,102.3 lb) by Eddie Hall.
- The world record deadlift for women is 305 kg (672.4 lb) by Becca Swanson.
- "The Free Dictionary: Deadlift". Retrieved 15 February 2014.
- Kavadlo, Al (5 January 2012). "Squats and Deadlifts".
- "Comparing Sumo And Conventional Deadlifts - Muscle and Brawn". Muscle and Brawn. Retrieved 2015-10-19.
- breakingmuscle.com, Suits, Shirts, Wraps, and Sleeves: A Quick Tutorial on Powerlifting Gear Devin Harper
- "Benedikt Magnusson 460kg deadlift at the Ronnie Coleman Classic 2011".
- "Men's Raw World Records".
- "Eddy Hall 500kg deadlift at the 2016 Giants Live event".
- "Is Becca Swanson's 672 lb Deadlift the Heaviest Ever by a Woman? - BarBend". BarBend. 2016-04-15. Retrieved 2017-10-18.
- 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