In complete honesty I did not attempt dead lifting until I was 32 years old, coincidentally it was around the time I decided to do my first show.
Why did I wait so long?
There were a few reasons and I think a lot of people may have thought or continue to think the same things I once did.
Reason number one, I was scared of injury, yes that doesn't happen to often with me in the gym, but after you break your back at the age of 21 you really think to yourself can and should I do this.
Reason number two, was I doing it correctly. The most important and I can not stress this enough is your form. I am sure you all have friends or know of someone that has tweaked their back with dead lifts, it actually happens more often then not if your form is incorrect even with experienced lifters.
Reason number three, do I really need to do this exercise, was it that important? After all I was doing back weekly and felt pretty strong doing the normal moves.
Well, things changed for me. The more I read and researched the more I realized the importance of this exercise and if I was going to take lifting seriously and compete with the big boys, it was time to be a big boy and leave my fear behind.
The 411 with dead lifts.
I am sure most of you know what a dead lift is or at the very least have heard of it. For those who aren't completely sure here you go.....
The dead lift is usually performed with a barbell and plates. There are a few variations that can be done, but I will stick to the simple straight forward move.
- The first step when properly performing a dead lift is your stance. You typically grab at a shoulder width stance inside of arms are against the outside of your thighs, the bar pretty much against your shins while griping the bar with an overhand or over under grip (meaning one overhand and one underhand).
- Step two is adjusting your body after the grip and stance is in place. You want to make sure your spine is neutral, chest is up, shoulders back contracted and never rounded. Before you start the movement up you should tighten your glutes (butt muscle) in order to have full power through the move.
- Step three is the lift. As you start to bring the weight up you want to keep the bar as close to your body as possible, you may bang or rub your shins with the bar, push from the balls of your feet to pick the bar off the ground, you have to initiate your entire lower half of the body to generate power at the beginning of the move. As you get about half way up (around your knees) you allow your upper body to take over the move until you get to mid to upper thighs in order to lock out at the top of the move.
- Step four is the decent back down to the ground. As you locked out at the top of the move around mid thigh to upper thigh, you will repeat step three by initiating your lower body to control the decent the same way you came up. Control should be kept throughout the move unlike most who mainly drop the weight back to the floor. Not known by many but the deceleration aspect of the muscle actually aids immensely in muscle development.
As I mentioned before there are other variations such as Sumo, Straight Leg and Quadricep dead lifts.
Preference is a big deal when it comes to any type of lifting. Some believe in belts, straps, gloves, wraps etc, will others do not. I was always the guy that didn't want to use anything because in my mind it was unnecessary but that changed with dead lifts, yes its true, I made a change and it turned out for the better when I invested in my first belt.
Why is this move so important?
When looking to build muscle mass quickly Squats is always seen as the go to exercise but I truly believe that the dead lift can build both upper and lower body strength and mass faster then any other exercise out there. This is my opinion but I can tell you that as my dead lift PRs went up, every other exercise that I do during my programs jumps at significant rates. Coincidence, I think not!
When preforming a dead lift correctly, these are the muscles that are reaping all the benefits: The back (obvious), glutes, hips and pelvic muscles, legs, arms, shoulders and traps. Sounds to me like a full body workout!
Who should perform a dead lift?
I personally see this as a must for anyone in some variation. There are so many positive things that come along with this move that it would be not the smartest of decisions to ignore this exercise.
All I ask is to try it and see. You don't have to do heavy weight, you don't have to do a thousand reps, you just need to do it correctly. I would also suggest asking someone for help to look at your form, video tape it to see what you look like or use mirrors.
I hope this sheds some light into one of my now favorite exercises.
If you have any further questions, still hesitant to try please reach out to me to discuss and I can help you find some sort of variation to perform.