Deadlift – CrossFit Exercise Guide with Photos and Instructions


Muscles Targeted: The deadlift is one of the foundational movements used in CrossFit for very good reason. It’s an incredibly powerful and effective multi-joint compound exercise for adding mass and strength to the physique. Performing the deadlift strengthens the entire back and all of the surrounding muscles. This makes it a perfect exercise for gaining muscle mass and strength, but also for preventative and rehabilitative purposes. Apart from the back muscles, this exercise is also very effective for core strength. The core is made up of all the central muscles in the body including the abdominal muscles and the lower back. The deadlift targets all the muscles around this area along with many other secondary muscle groups. Since this exercise involves a squatting type position, it is also very effective for engaging the big muscles in the legs and butt including the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves and gluteus maximus. This is the reason why the deadlift is such an excellent total body exercise to include in your CrossFit workouts.

Exercise Instructions: It is very important to learn how to properly perform the deadlift in order to get the most out of this exercise and to avoid injury:

  • Step 1: Take the barbell and place it an inch in front of your shins. Ensure your feet are shoulder width apart for this movement.
  • Step 2: Get into a squat position by bending your knees. With your hands just outside your legs, grab onto the barbell with an overhand grip using your left hand and an underhand grip with your right hand. You can also use an overhand grip with both hands if you are more comfortable this way.
  • Step 3: Making sure your back remains straight with your chest up, shoulders back, butt out and head up, exert pressure in your heels by pushing with them and extend your legs in order to get into a full standing position with the barbell hanging just in front of your thighs. To prevent injury, make sure you keep the barbell close to your body when doing the movement. As you pull the barbell up, try to focus on keeping it very close to your legs. Exhale and breathe out while exerting force during this portion of the movement.
  • Step 4: In a controlled motion, slowly lower the barbell back down to the ground to complete a full repetition. Inhale and breathe in during this portion of the exercise.

Things To Avoid:

  • Do Not Point Your Toes Out. To perform a deadlift successfully, you need to ensure that your feet are pointed straight ahead before you start the exercise. Avoid angling them out as you would when doing squats. Pointing the feet too far out prevents you from effectively engaging the hamstrings and glutes which are some of the primary muscles used when doing a deadlift.
  • Avoid Rounding Your Back. Rounding your back when doing a deadlift can cause serious spinal and back injuries. Always keep your back straight when doing this exercise.
  • Avoid an Upright Torso. When doing the deadlift, your torso needs to be bent a little in order to make it easy for you to seamlessly move through the workout. Avoid positioning your torso as you would when doing squats. Instead, bend it slightly to make the lift easier for you.
  • Barbell Too Far Away From Body. It is very important to ensure the barbell remains as close as possible to your body when doing the deadlift. If you hold it too far away from your body, you exert a lot of pressure on your lower back thereby increasing chances of getting hurt.
  • Hitting Your Knees. Most people hit their knees when lowering the barbell. That is a great way to injure your delicate knees. To avoid this, push your hips slightly back and use a slow and controlled movement to lower the barbell down to the ground.

Reps and Sets: The amount of repetitions and sets you perform with the deadlift will be determined by your fitness level and fitness goals. Beginners should focus on perfecting their form first before advancing to heavier weights. Advanced individuals can start with 10-12 reps for 3-4 sets. However, you should set your own repetition and set range depending on what you feel comfortable with. Make sure to rest fully between each set for at least 90-120 seconds to fully recover before starting your next set.

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