- The correct deadlift form involves placing your feet about shoulder-width apart from the bar.
- Then, grab the bar on either side of your feet while sitting your hips back and hardening your core.
- Drive through the floor until you come to a complete stand before setting the bar back on the ground.
If you're working on your overall fitness or building strength, deadlifts are a great exercise to incorporate into your routine.
Put simply, a deadlift is a type of weight training exercise that involves picking something up off the floor and placing it back down. Most commonly, the equipment used is a barbell.
Here are some tips for how to do deadlifts as well as the benefits of this exercise.
There are many ways to do deadlifts and different types of equipment or stances you can use.
Below is a graphic offering five key tips to keep proper deadlift form:
In addition, here's a 9-step guide on how to do a deadlift correctly, according to Summers:
- Walk up to the bar so your body is close to it and your feet are midway under the bar, around where your shoelaces are tied. Your feet should be about shoulder distance apart.
- Bend your legs while sitting your hips back, keeping your chest up to ensure that you have a strong flat back and aren't in a rounded position.
- Place your hands just outside your legs on the bar with your hands fully wrapped around the bar.
- Keep your eyesight slightly in front of you on the ground, with your head angled slightly down.
- Create tension in your body by taking a big deep breath in and tightening your core. It may help to envision that you are creating a brick wall with your stomach.
- Tighten your grip on the bar and drive through the floor, pushing through your legs to stand. As you come to stand up straight, raise your hips and mid-back all at the same rate.
- Once the bar gets to your knees you can begin to drive your hips forward, to come to a complete stand. The barbell will be in line with your hips.
- While still holding your breath, drive your hips behind you and lower the bar back to the floor slowly and with control. Release your breath either on the way down or at the bottom.
- Repeat, being sure to take a big deep breath and create tension in your body before lifting.
As a plus-size inclusive trainer, Summers notes that if you live in a larger body, you may be better off starting with sumo deadlifts, which is when you're in a wider stance, rather than traditional ones.
The only difference will be your stance and hand placement –– having a wider stance and keeping your hands on the inside of your legs versus the outside. Remember to always keep the bar close to your body and follow the rules of the breath.
How to do a deadlift workout
The ideal amount of sets and reps depends on you as an individual and your personal goals. However, here are some general guidelines, according to Summers:
- Beginners: Eight to 12 reps, two to four sets
- For strength: Six to 12 reps, three to five sets
As you continue to work on your deadlifts and want to build strength, slow and steady wins the race, says Summers. It's important to have proper form and get in the groove of deadlifting with lighter weights before moving onto heavier weights or more reps and sets.
Be sure to err on the side of being conservative when you add on more weight, says Jakob Roze, NSCA certified strength and conditioning specialist at RozeFit. As a general rule of thumb, if you do the number of sets and reps that you normally do and it starts to feel easier, then it might be time to add weight," says Roze.
Roze suggests adding weights in increments of 10 pounds, but if that sounds like too much for you add however much feels reasonable. Don't risk overdoing it and injuring yourself.
Additionally, keep in mind that there should be an inverse relationship between weight and reps –– meaning if you're adding more weight, you should do fewer reps. If you're sticking with a lower weight, you can add more reps.
Tips for deadlifting and preventing injury
- Always engage your core by bracing your abdominal muscles and holding tension in your core. By doing this, Roze says you protect your lower back from injury.
- Pretend like you're pushing the floor away by driving your feet and legs into the ground. This helps to evenly distribute the weight, activating your legs and putting less pressure on your lower back, Roze says.
- Be sure to set your stance up so when you look down, the bar is directly over the middle of your foot. Roze says this ensures that when you bend over to pick it up, your shins will be close to the bar. This sets you up in an optimal position to take it off the floor.
Roze says one of the biggest mistakes that people typically make when deadlifting is not bracing the abdominal muscles before picking up the bar, since this can cause your lower back to round, putting a lot of pressure on the disks in your spine and potentially causing injury to them.
Another mistake is yanking the bar off the floor instead of driving pressure though their feet as they push into the ground. This can also lead to disc injuries, says Roze. Be sure to follow those tips to lessen your chance of injury.
Benefits of deadlifting
Deadlifts are a great addition to your workout routine. Roze says benefits of deadlifts include:
- They work your entire posterior chain: The posterior chain refers to the group of muscles that runs down your back and the back of your legs. Deadlifts work the whole posterior chain, increasing strength and endurance while helping to reduce lower back pain.
- They carry over to everyday activities: Since a deadlift is essentially picking something up and putting it down, the action and strength carries over to everyday activities that involve lifting heavy items, which may prevent injury.
- They help with overall body composition: Deadlifts aren't an isolated exercise, meaning they don't just target one specific muscle group. Since the exercise is broad, it helps you keep an even muscle distribution and body composition as you build strength and muscle tone.
- They improve your posture: Since this exercise works the extensor muscles in your back, which help keep you upright, this can improve your posture.
Deadlifts are a simple addition to your fitness routine that work the whole backside of your body. Based on your fitness level, you can modify the number of reps and sets to make the workout work for you.
As you build strength, you can easily increase the number of reps and weight to enjoy the health benefits of deadlifts. If you need help figuring out a personalized workout plan, a personal trainer or strength and conditioning coach can assist you in coming up with a safe course of action.
Ashley Laderer is a freelance writer from New York who specializes in health and wellness. Follow her on Twitter@ashladerer