by Charles Poliquin Iron Magazine
If you’re reading this, you probably agree that the deadlift is one of the BEST exercises out there.
It makes you strong and lean, athletic and confident. It inspires motivation and builds mental toughness. Deadlifts simply make everything about your life better.
The truth is everyone should be doing some form of deadlift because they work the whole body and can produce all the following benefits:
• They strengthen everything from your handgrip to your calves.
• They favorably train your posterior chain for a healthier back and hips.
• They build bone and muscle for health and longevity.
• They strengthen the core and give you six-pack abs.
• They can improve speed, power, and athleticism.
In simple terms, what all this boils down to is that deadlifting gives you a better-looking behind, killer abs, and an all-around bangin’ body.
Besides aesthetics, deadlifting teaches you to move properly, a skill that is increasingly lacking in modern life. In case I still haven’t convinced you, here are five excellent reasons you should do some form of deadlifts on a regular basis.
#1: Do deadlifts to get lean.
The deadlift is the perfect exercise to include in a training program geared at losing fat and improving muscle mass because it uses the biggest muscles in the body, eliciting a huge calorie burn during and after the workout.
You have more flexibility to push your limits with the deadlift than with most other lower body lifts such as the squat because the deadlift doesn’t require spotters.
If you fail on a deadlift, all you have to do is release the bar, which is much safer than dumping a few hundred pounds from your shoulders in the squat.
Further, less experienced trainees who haven’t mastered squat form can use the hex bar deadlift that distributes the weight more evenly over the center of mass instead of the barbell deadlift when training in a fatigued state.
You can throw a ton of weight on the bar and pair it with other multi-joint lifts, performing a “death” circuit in which the goal is a large metabolic disturbance for fat loss.
#2: Do deadlifts to run faster and jump higher.
Deadlifts are a valuable exercise for training power and improving force transfer from the lower to the upper body. They can also help you avoid stagnation and boredom from always training squats.
Research shows that deadlifts trained “as fast as possible” can build speed by improving your ability to accelerate through the entire motion of the lift.
This is critical for people who don’t have the time or skill to learn to Olympic lift because we know that it’s not enough to build maximal strength with “slow” tempo-controlled lifts if you want to be fast. You have to train the body to use that strength powerfully.
For example, by training with a light load that is 30 to 40 percent of the 1RM, research shows that by deadlifting with a hex bar you can produce the same amount of power as with a power clean.
#3: Deadlift for a strong lower back and better abs.
Compared to the exercises typically used to train the core and low back, properly trained deadlifts are superior because they activate all the muscles in the trunk, including the rectus abdominis, the obliques, and the paraspinals, of the lower back.
For example, an analysis of muscle activity in the core found that the deadlift was far better for training the musculature of the lower back than all other exercises tested, including the back extension and lunge.
Typical “core” exercises such as a bridge exercise on a BOSU didn’t effectively activate back muscles, making them largely useless for preventing back pain.
Now, what you might now know is that as good as the deadlift is for strengthening the lower back, it’s not the BEST exercise.
The squat actually requires greater activity of the lower lumbar region of the back than the deadlift.
For example, when a heavy squat (80 percent of maximal load) was compared to a heavy deadlift, the squat required about 34 percent greater activity of the lower lumbar region than the deadlifts. Deadlifts produced greater activation of the upper region of the lower back.
So, train both squats and deads, and if you’re training both in the same workout, do squats first, when your lower back is fresh. This will warm it up for pulling heavy loads off the floor.
#4: Do deadlifts for better mobility and less pain.
The sad truth is that the people who will benefit the most from deadlifting are the ones who think it’s dangerous.
These are the same poor people who people don’t even know how to pick up their shoes properly by maintaining a natural arch in the lower back. The only solution is to come armed with clear facts about what the deadlift and the other big but scary lifts (like the squat) can do for them.
First, training deadlifts along with other compound lifts has been found to improve movement patterns in the lower body. For example, trainees had better coordination in the hip and knee joints after a 6-week program that included deadlifts, which will reduce risk of hip and knee injury, such as the ubiquitous ACL tear.
Second, deadlifts will improve bone strength and reduce chance of fracture because they load the hip, knee, and ankle joints. In conjunction with spine-loading squats, they’re they perfect exercise for trainees to “bank” bone for later years.
Third, the deadlift is a fundamental movement, which can teach people to perform everyday activities with ease and grace. No more pulling your back when hoisting luggage in the car.
Fourth, based on studies testing the effect of squat training in the elderly, it’s highly likely that appropriate deadlift training will improve balance, walking speed, and quality of life.
#5: Do deadlifts to break training plateaus.
If you program your deadlift training sensibly, it will make you stronger from head to toe. You’ll have stronger glutes, hamstrings, and back, but you’ll also build strength in the arms and grip, making it extremely useful for driving your numbers up in other exercises.
Here are a few special tricks for breaking plateaus so you get more out of the deadlift. Enjoy!
• If you’re weak off the floor, perform “dead stop” deadlifts to eliminate the benefit you get from stored elastic energy on the descent.
• If you‘ve plateaued in the squat as well, do dead stops in the bottom squat position. Try a 4-second eccentric phase with a 2-second pause in the down position of the squat followed by an explosive concentric motion.
• Do eccentric-enhanced deadlifts. For novice-level trainees, simply lowering on a 4-, 8-, or 10-second count can increase your time under tension.
• More advanced lifters can do supramaximal eccentrics in which you load the bar in a power rack, pick it up, and simply lower it to the ground.
• If you’re an advanced lifter and your lower back is a limiting factor, do eccentric wide-grip deadlifts on a podium.
• Train with chains attached to the bar, which can be done with the hex or straight bar, to challenge your natural strength curve. This technique isn’t intended to make you stronger off the floor, but it will train you to produce greater force during the latter stages of the concentric action.
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