Weight training for fitness is becoming popular as more and more people become conscious about their body fitness and overall health. The primary aim of weight training is to develop the strength and size of skeletal muscles, but there are many other benefits of deadlifts, which is indeed a form of weight training. The function of weight training is to utilize the force of gravity through weighted bars, dumbbells or weight stacks to oppose the energy generated by muscle through the concentric or eccentric contraction.
There are many types of workout exercises which are meant to work the entire body and there are equally many types for specific body parts, both with and without equipment. The deadlift is among those types of powerlifting exercise that uses various specialized equipment to target specific muscle groups and classes of movement such as the squat and bench press. Powerlifting is an Olympic weightlifting strength sport consisting of the deadlift, squat and bench press. An athlete participates by trying a maximal weight in a single lift of a barbell loaded with weight plates (4).
What are Deadlifts?
A deadlift is a term used to refer to the lifting of a deadweight (weight that does not have momentum), such as weights on a bar, lying on the floor. It is one the few standard weight training exercises in which all repetitions have to start with dead weight. Deadlifting helps to increase core stability, core strength and improvement of the overall posture as it impacts the muscles on the lower back, legs and core.
Proper Deadlift Technique
There are several deadlift variations. One of the common ones is the barbell deadlift, but you can also select a hex bar or a kettlebell. The barbell deadlift has two significant variations which are wide stance and narrow stance. The proper technique follows the following steps (1):
- Both variations begin with a barbell on the ground.
- Add weight plates to the bar (the best are bumper plates because they are standard height). When the plates are fixed, the bar should be at least a few inches above the ground.
- Walk up to the bar and make sure your shins are close to touching.
- If you are doing a narrow stance deadlift, your feet should be under your hips as you stand. For the wide stance, the feet ought to be outside the shoulders as you stand. Also, point your toes slightly outwards.
- While sticking your hips back, bend forward and grab the bar with both hands. For the narrow stance technique, your arms should go outside your legs to grip the bar. On the other hand, the wide stance requires you to grasp the bar directly under your shoulders.
- Sink your hips, make sure your back is flat and then pull the bar off the ground until you are standing upright.
- Lower it down to the ground slowly. Ensure that you back remain as flat as possible.
The bar must come to a complete stop on the ground after every repetition. The weight has to come to a dead stop, and that is how the name ‘deadlift’ came to be. If you bounce the weight off the ground for the next repetition, the exercise becomes less challenging and reduces the deadlift exercise’s benefits.
As indicated earlier, there are several deadlift variations with some being simple, while others could be very complicated. Beginners are advised to start with basic deadlift techniques before proceeding to the more advanced ones. The variations can also be modified to target different muscle groups. Some of the popular deadlifts variations include:
- Single-leg deadlifts: Although a bit more advanced than the regular deadlifts, the single-leg deadlifts are very efficient. This is because all the weight is shifted to one side of your body, thus engaging your core and improving your balance, stability and core control. (11)
- Trap bar deadlift: With the trap bar deadlifts, you stand in the middle of a barbell (hexagon-shaped) as opposed to having it (the barbell) in front of you. When in this position, it helps with your core stability more than your hamstrings.
- Deficit deadlift: It is a traditionally conventional deadlift performed while the feet are elevated. What are the benefits of deficit deadlifts? They are preferred because they increase the range of motion and require more energy to lift. They elongate the amount of time required to do the lift, thus making the exercise more challenging.
- American deadlift: It is a variant of the Romanian deadlift, but in this case, the hip thrust and glute squeeze are added to the top of the movement.
- Romanian deadlifts: In the Romanian Deadlifts variation, the legs are maintained straight during the entire exercise, emphasizing the hamstrings. What are the benefits of Romanian deadlifts? Among other benefits, they enhance the hamstring, hip and lower back performance.
- Sumo deadlifts: In sumo deadlifting, the bar is gripped with the hands inside the legs. What are the benefits of sumo deadlifts? The sumo deadlifts give you an extra-wide stance hence working your quads and your hamstrings.
Benefits of Deadlifts
The benefits of deadlifts go beyond building body muscles or the mere satisfaction of participating in the exercise. It is the health benefits of deadlifts that people tend to focus more on, but they offer more than that. So, what are the benefits of deadlifts? Deadlifts work muscles, contribute to the body’s posture, and have other benefits for sports. Athletes like deadlifts because they are good for things like jumping. The top benefits of doing deadlifts are:
Increased Fat Burning
Deadlifts work for several muscle groups, thus leading to high levels of fat loss. Generally, lifting weights and resistance training can burn more fat than just dieting or dieting with cardio alone.
Since deadlifting is a compound exercise, it works on many different muscle groups including glutes, quads, hamstrings, low back, adductor Magnus (inner thigh), calves, mid-back, traps and abs. The use of multiple muscle groups triggers increased fat loss because more calories are burned in the process. Simply put, deadlifting requires a lot of energy to perform.
To add to that, deadlifting can be one way through which hypertrophy (muscle growth) is increased, so long as the workout variables such as reps, sets and weight are structured properly. The importance of this is that muscle growth boosts the resting metabolic rate (RMR). As a result, more calories will be burned long after the workout, even if you are resting (3).
Increases Primary Anabolic Hormones That Stimulate Fat Loss and Muscle Growth
Deadlifts have the ability to generate a neuroendocrine response. This is a reaction that involves the endocrine (hormone) and nervous systems of the body. After a heavy deadlift session, natural hormone levels such as testosterone and growth hormone increase. Such hormones impact the body by influencing the growth of muscle, fat loss and strengthening of bones.
One of the roles of testosterone is to repair muscle. It is also important in the inhibition of the generation of new fat cells and the growth of additional muscle tissue.
Growth hormone aids in tissue healing, muscle growth, fat loss and bone strength. The hormone can be stimulated when a person is doing intense weight training sessions. Reduced growth hormones can cause obesity because of its metabolic effects on fat cells. When the growth hormones are present, the body can break down fat cells and stimulate the liver to produce an insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), contributing to muscle growth (2).
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Increased Cardio Endurance
When doing deadlifts with high intensity, you should expect the benefits of heavy deadlifts. As a result of the exercise, the heart rate is elevated and maintained during the entire workout. Incorporating short rest periods between sets will make you feel like you have had a cardiovascular workout too. You can also increase the rest time and add a high-intensity interval training session.
Burns More Calories Compared To Running
Deadlifts demand high amounts of energy because different muscle groups are involved in the training. Because a substantial amount of energy is utilized, there is a greater expenditure of calories burned even long after a deadlift workout session. The amount of calories burned in this process is referred to as the Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) and is responsible for returning the body to its original state.
Through EPOC, your body works to restore several processes of oxygen levels, removing any lactic acid build-up and creating new energy stores. Doing deadlifts at between 15-20 reps using loads up to 50% of your 1 rep max can make your body burn up to 60 calories through EPOC alone. This is the same amount of calories you would burn by running for a mile. As such, this is one of the benefits of deadlifts for females (5).
Results in a Stronger Posterior Chain
The posterior chain is a muscle group that stretches all the way from the base of the skull down to the heels. This muscle group is responsible for generating power and explosive movements such as sprinting as well. Doing deadlifts engages the entire posterior chain, which has several benefits, such as higher vertical jumps, faster acceleration, and general physical performance improvement.
Can Lower Injury Risks
When done correctly using the proper form, dumbbell deadlifts have many benefits in reducing injury risks. Deadlifts can help correct muscular imbalances, strengthen the back, develop muscles that protect the spine and toughen the tendons. By doing this, your body will become stronger, thus reducing injury risks. However, deadlifts can be unsafe if they are not performed correctly (12).
Deadlifting is the most effective powerlifting movement when it comes to targeting the butt. When combined with other forms of workouts, this exercise has even better results on the body. What are the benefits of squats and deadlifts? When combined with squats, deadlifts can have amazing results on the glutes. The gluteus maximus happens to be the biggest muscle in the body, and when strong, it translates to better endurance, power, and pain prevention.
Increases You Grip Strength
Heavy deadlifts require a firm grip, especially when you are doing it without straps. In addition to building your body strength, doing deadlifts also builds a stronger supporting grip. This becomes useful when called upon to lift the heavy load at home or in your workplace (7).
Improves Overall Body Performance
With deadlifts, one can become able to push the body beyond initial limits. Athletes can improve their jump performance thanks to this exercise. Older adults can benefit from it through the reduction of muscle loss. Athletes, especially those in contact sports, perform them to increase their bone density. It is also a recommended rehabilitation exercise for people who have undergone lower limb surgeries.
It is Cheap and Easy
Unlike many other exercises, deadlifts do not require a lot of equipment, and for that reason, they are relatively cheap and easy. All you need is a bar and some weights, and you are ready to start your training. The free weights and bars can easily be found in most stores (6).
There is a special powerlifting assistance clothing set called a deadlift suit. The suit is made from extremely light material. It is made so that it tightens on the squat on the way down, allowing it to store energy which provides an extra boost along with the stored tension to lift (6).
Wrist wraps are also part of the deadlifts equipment. They play a critical role in providing support, but they do not necessarily increase lift as the deadlift suitcase does.
The use of straps is only encouraged in case of a weak grip. For instance, the strongman competitions allow straps because with them the lifter can hold the bar with the fingertips, thus taking off over an inch from the pull.
Deadlift Mistakes to Avoid
Generally, if you are lifting weights, then you have to include deadlift as part of the routine. You burn more calories by doing it this way.
Failing to Warm Up or Doing It Wrongly
When it comes to warming up, you can make the worst mistake if you avoid it completely. Your muscles need to adapt and prepare for the heavy lifting, and that is why you need a warm-up session. Avoid complicated mobility drills in your warm-up. Start with low-rep and lighter deadlift sets before moving on to heavier ones (9).
Too Many Reps but Not Enough Weight
An average of between 1-5 reps on conventional deadlifts is enough to achieve the best results. Those who intend to increase their volume can do so by doing more total sets instead of more reps per set.
Deadlifting Too Often
Deadlifts demand a lot from body muscles and the central nervous system. Doing them once per week is the perfect frequency for most people. Doing them more than once a week increases the risk of getting injured or overreach.
Your deadlift exercise’s success or failure can be determined by the way you set up. Things to avoid when it comes to the set up includes weight on toes instead of heels, back too close to vertical, hips too low or too high, back to close to horizontal and beginning the rep with too much slack and little tension. Most importantly, do not rest or dawdle in the setup position. You are supposed to get up and lift immediately.
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Using Straps Incorrectly
You can opt to perform deadlifts without straps, but if you must use them, then do it correctly. Have in mind that using straps makes your grip weaker as compared to not using them (10).
your mental setup is as important as your physical form in deadlifting. Despite the emphasis on strength as an important skill in deadlifting, you cannot achieve much if your mental well-being has not been cared for. Mental and physical strength go hand in hand.
Not Grinding through Difficult Reps
Avoid slowing down your repetitions intentionally, but it is normal to grind for 3-5 seconds longer in the heavier reps. When you slow down, you are likely to break the lifting cycle.
Rounding the Lower Back
Keeping your lower back neutral helps the lumbar muscles to prevent dangerous shearing forces from causing harm to your lumbar spine. On the other hand, Rounding the spine is a common mistake that makes the lumbar muscles powerless and unable to protect your spine.
Dropping or Throwing the Weights Down
There is a tendency of people dropping or throwing the weights down after a deadlift which is wrong. The portion of lowering weights is important for building muscle and strength.
Benefits of deadlifts are endless, which is why this type of weight training continues to become popular both as an Olympic sport and as a workout. Because deadlift is a compound exercise, it involves many muscles such as quadriceps, adductor Magnus, hamstrings, erector spinae and soleus. It is useful in working for several muscle groups, and the good thing is that not only are they easy but also cheap.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
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