In this article I will demonstrate the proper exercise technique for the deadlift which is one of the best overall mass building multi-joint compound exercises you can do for building muscle and increasing strength. The video below was shot at Maverick Training in sunny Orlando, Florida and if you’re looking for a CrossFit gym with great classes and workouts in this area then definitely come and check them out.
The deadlift is a common exercise that is performed in regular gyms, fitness centers and schools along with being one of the core exercises used in CrossFit gyms. For this exercise demonstration, I will be showing you two different angles (front and profile) so you can really see the body positions during the movement in order to fully understand the exercise and perform it safely and effectively.
In the video, I’m using a women’s Olympic bar which is about 35 pounds and I have 35 pound plates on each side which total 105 pounds that I will be lifting for the deadlift. It’s important to remember that you don’t need to go this heavy when you’re first starting out. Correct form and technique is paramount with the deadlift so make sure you use the right amount of weight for your strength levels.
To begin, I will be demonstrating the movement from the profile view without any equipment at all. Your feet will be approximately hip distance apart. Place your hands on the front of your thighs and slide your shoulders up, back, down and maintain your shoulders in this position. Now, take a bow and slide your hands down to the top of your knees without breaking contact with your legs (keep touching them as you slide your hands down). As you lower your upper body down, your shoulders will remain behind your ears while taking a breath in and then exhaling as you raise back up.
When demonstrating the deadlift from the front view (without any equipment), it’s important to focus on the knees during the movement. I will push my knees laterally (out to the sides) as I lower my upper body down and then my knees will come back in as I rise to the top. I want my knees to do this for two reasons. Since we will be working from the ground up, you want your knees to be out of the way (laterally) as the barbell comes up. The second reason why you will push your knees out is to activate the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes (butt muscles) more as you pull the weight up. This engages the big muscles of your legs much better.
Let’s now add the equipment to the demonstration and perform a complete deadlift exercise. I will position my feet at hip width and grab the barbell by placing my hands just outside shoulder width. It’s important to wrap your thumbs under the bar with your fingers over it. This grip is often referred to in Olympic lifting as the “hook grip”. Next, sit your hips down and push your knees out. The feeling you want to focus on is taking the bar and breaking it over your shins. This feeling automatically sets your shoulders back and beneath your ears which will set your spine in a neutral position. This is crucial for getting your body in the correct position before beginning this movement.
Now, take a breath in and lift or “pull” the barbell up to the top position. Make sure to keep the barbell close to your shins and legs as you bring it up. The barbell should not be far away from you on the upward or downward movement. Try to act like you’re sliding the bar along your legs as it travels up and down. Once again, the knees are important when doing this exercise, so they will turn outward (laterally) a little in order to get out of the way as you lift the barbell up past them and also when you lower the barbell back down to the ground. Your knees will come back into the regular position when you stand and extend your body at the top of the movement.
Now, let’s reposition the barbell so we can get a profile view of the deadlift. Again, you will position the feet hip distance apart and grab the barbell with an overhand grip and then sit your hips down with your shoulders back and your back flat. Make sure to avoid rounding your shoulders and arching your back at all times, since this could result in an injury. As you bring the weight up, focus on squeezing the glutes (butt) at the top of the movement and achieve a full extension with your shoulders back.
When you’re performing the deadlift exercise, always remember safety first. The last thing you want to do is injure your back by doing this movement incorrectly with too much weight. There is no sense in going heavy if your form is not spot-on so focus on proper technique first and then slowly move up in weight. When first starting out, use very light weight and have a spotter there to help you with the exercise.