Everyone understands that the best way to build muscle is to deadlift. Want to burn fat, you had better deadlift. Want to build bone density, you guessed it, you need to deadlift. But what if you had a bad experience previously? It’s not uncommon to hear many conversational pieces regarding the deadlift as something that “hurt my back.” It’s because as simple as it may seem, there are so many things to consider when doing the movement to ensure you are in your safest positions.
So the next time you decide you are going to deadlift, consider these things.
- Position your feet where you are comfortable.
Ideally this position is directly under your feet. But if you feel stronger and more confidence with your feet a touch wider or narrower, then go where you feel strongest. There’s nothing worse than trying to convince your body that a specific foot position is required. It needs to be something that feels comfortable to your specific body mechanics.
- Hands right outside your knees
On a barbell having your hands too wide or too narrow could be an issue with a conventional deadlift. Hands too wide will stress the muscles of your lat’s and upper back to a point where you might shift your mechanics during the movement. Hands too narrow may interfere with the barbell staying proximal to your body. Having your hands right outside of your knees will allow your arms to hang free directly down to the bar when you get into position. Think of your arms as long straps.. their job is to hold onto the bar, not do the active pulling.
- Shoulders on top of the bar
Before you begin your lift- set your hands and pull yourself down into a semi-seated position with your shoulders directly “on-top” of the bar. If your shoulders are too far in front of the bar it will immediately try to swing away from your body’s center of mass. Shoulders too far behind the bar will result in scraping of the shins during the movement. Shoulders on top ensures you are in the most powerful position to move that barbell
- Think PUSH not PULL
Rethink the movement- you’re picking something up. But most of the time back injuries happen due to poor creation of tension prior to the lift. This means before the bar gets to the knees, you have your back problem. To fix this you simply have to rethink the action. Think push rather than pull. By pushing into the floor you will simply build tension in your hips (stabilizing the pelvis) and will squat yourself and the bar away from the floor. Once the bar gets past the knees, the remained of the lift is simple, chest up and squeeze your butt!
- Spend time going down!
You cannot spend all of your time just pulling off the ground and dropping your bar. You need to pull the bar up and go back down slowly in the same pattern. If you really want to develop the muscles necessary to create safe structure when deadlifting, spend time doing this- they’re called eccentric contractions. This is just a fancy way of saying the muscle is lengthening under tension instead of contracting and shortening under tension. By doing this and going back down the same path you came up, you are teaching your muscles a forward and back mechanical pattern. This is paramount when it comes to achieving total competency in the movements.
- Strengthen your core
Your core muscle help stabilize the spine and pelvis. In most instances with deadlifting back injuries, the tension required to pull is not met with the tension required to stabilize. This just means that your positioning was not strong enough to support the weight, so your body compensated. By strengthening your core, you can work back to creating a rigid structure for your pelvis. Things like planks and overhead stability drill help this tremendously.
The deadlift is the key to a lot of health and fitness goals.
Not too many people can avoid them without consequence. So the next time you approach the bar, remember these points and overcome your fear of the movement!