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Deadlifts: Approach with Confidence

Updated: Mar 4

When it comes to strength training, few exercises have as many benefits as the deadlift. However, many people avoid doing deadlifts because they believe that they can cause back pain, the technique can be complex, and it's easy to target the wrong muscle groups. In this blog post, we will explain which muscle groups should be targeted, how to prepare yourself and work up to a deadlift movement safely, and why they are important to include in your fitness routine.

The Importance of Deadlifts:

Deadlifts offer a wide range of benefits beyond just building muscles. They help to improve physical health and performance in various ways. Firstly, they are unparalleled in their ability to strengthen the spine and improve posture by reinforcing the muscles that keep good upright alignment.

Secondly,  deadlifts can lead to enhanced athletic performance and reduce risk of injury from daily tasks since the movement mimics real-world activities like lifting, bending, sprinting, and jumping. 

Lastly, deadlifts are highly effective in increasing bone density and promoting joint stability, making them an important part of any fitness routine aimed at improving overall health. 

Muscles Targeted in a Deadlift: 

The deadlift is a compound movement, meaning it targets many muscle groups rather than isolating one or two like a bicep curl or tricep extension. In any compound movement, there are prime movers or the “main targets” the muscles that are working the hardest, and the synergists - the muscles that are working but are the supporting actors, the Ken to Barbie so to speak.  

The Prime Movers in a deadlift are: 

  • Quadriceps

  • Glutes 

  • Hamstrings 

  • Latissimus Dorsi (Lats) 

The Synergistic Muscles are: 

  • Erector Spinae (“Back Muscles”) 

  • Adductors (Inner Thighs) 

  • Trapezius

  • Rhomboids 

  • Abdominals 

This information is important because good deadlift technique should use your lower body more than the lower back. The saying “lift with your legs, not your back” is true for deadlifts. 

Beginner Exercises: 

For those new to deadlifting, it's important to have a solid foundation to build proper technique and confidence. Incorporating the following exercises into your training routine will help you develop the strength, mobility, and stability necessary to execute the deadlift safely and effectively:

  • Hip Hinge Against the Wall: this exercise helps prepare the correct movement pattern for deadlifting. Practicing a hip hinge and engaging your glutes is key to proper form and the perfect place to start.

  • Hip Hinge with a Dowel Along the Back: this exercise allows you to feel the hinge motion while keeping good alignment through the spine. If you find you are prone to curling or rounding your back, this is a good exercise to practice.

  • Power Band Pull Back with Lat Engagement: this exercise teaches lat engagement and what it should feel like to grip a barbell or kettlebell. If you feel like your shoulders round or your lower back is the main focus while deadlifting, this is a great exercise to try.

  • Elevated KettleBell Deadlift: this is a safe and easy way to introduce deadlifting. It allows you to incorporate all the above exercises in a safe movement. You may start here and progress to a barbell or dumbbells or decide to keep this exercise in your routine.

  • Split Stance Deadlift: this is a great progression from the elevated Kettlebell Deadlift.

​​Incorporating these exercises into your training regimen will not only prepare you for a safe deadlift but also contribute to overall strength development and injury prevention. Remember, consistency is key when developing technique and it’s all about quality over quantity. 

By understanding the "prime movers" during a deadlift, recognizing the lifts overall benefits, and incorporating essential exercises into your routine to promote safe technique, you can confidently add this lift to your workout routine. 

If you feel like you need something more specific or individualized, please consult with a physiotherapist. You can book an appointment online with Royal City Physio here or call us at 604-553-1203.


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