Franco Columbu performing a deadlift.
Deadlifts are a power movement. This simple yet satisfying act involves loading a bar with heavy plates, chalking up your palms, and pulling it off the ground from a dead stop. It’s the essence of strength: you pick it up and then put it down. No fancy footwork or complex movements required — just a strong back and calloused hands.
The deadlift is an effective way to strengthen the entire posterior chain, and it offers benefits to anyone and everyone, regardless of athletic ability. But many people fear it for a variety of reasons.
In the 1960s, half the population had a physically demanding job. In 2011, that number shrank to just 20 percent. Technology has made our work less labor intensive, causing a decline in our overall health. We sit more than we stand, and we type more than we lift.
Today, low back pain is one of the most common musculoskeletal conditions and is typically reported as one of the top three workplace injuries. That shouldn’t deter you from practicing deadlifts though — it should encourage you.
A study conducted in 2015 monitored patients using deadlifts as a part of the treatment plan for back pain. Seventy-two percent of participants reported a decrease in pain and an increase in overall quality of life.
Whether you’re picking up a laundry basket, a child, or a package in the mail — everyone deadlifts. The act of picking something up is a daily occurrence. The more we train our bodies with lifts that mimic life or our job, the more they will resist injury in our life. And if you’re in the U.S. Army, you don’t have a choice: the deadlift is slated to become a mandatory event in the new Army Combat Fitness Test in 2020.
However, people are intimidated because the lift can cause major problems when performed incorrectly. The most common mistakes associated with the deadlift are easily correctable:
Rounding the back: When you lose a neutral spine position, the risk of disc herniation is increased. To combat this is, ensure you have tension applied prior to lifting the weight. Activate the latissimus dorsi muscles (lats) by imagining you have an orange in your armpit that you need to squeeze.
Neck misalignment: Ensure your neck is in line with your back. As you lift the bar, your neck should rise at the same rate as your back.
Improper setup: The bar should rest no more than 1 to 2 inches in front of your shins, and your knees should remain vertical to the ankles. If the knees are pushed forward, the barbell is forced to move around them, putting stress on the low back.
If you’re ready to get started, head down to your local gym — you’ll need a barbell and plates for weight. I recommend trying these three deadlift variations, which offer simplicity and massive benefits. And don’t be afraid to ask a trainer or experienced lifter to take a look at your form!
The term “landmine” indicates that the barbell is anchored into a holder or a corner to angle it. This lift is generally safe because the body remains mostly upright and encourages a flat back.
The trap bar deadlift engages the same muscle groups as a traditional deadlift but puts additional stress on the quadriceps, glute muscles, and hamstrings. The trap bar was designed for the lifter to grip the bar at the sides rather than in front and, in turn, puts less stress on the back.
This variation is beneficial for lifters who want to increase the positional strength of the lower back, hips, and hamstrings. It also serves as an accessory movement to increase traditional deadlifting numbers. The weight you’re able to lift will be less during this variation but will increase when you convert to a traditional style.
As with anything in life, when something is done incorrectly, there is a chance of negative consequences — in this case, possible injury. But with proper execution, the benefits of the deadlift can be lifelong.
Katie Whelan is a contributing writer for Coffee or Die Magazine. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies from Thomas Edison State University and is an active duty U.S. Army staff sergeant, assigned to 1st Special Forces Group. Katie also plays center and defensive end for the Seattle Mist (LFL) football team and is a two-time national champion. She is a Minnesota native but currently resides in Washington state with her daughter.
Lucas O'Hara of Grizzly Forge has teamed up with BRCC for a badass, exclusive Shirt Club T-shirt design featuring his most popular knife and tiomahawk.
Coffee or Die sits down with one of the graphic designers behind Black Rifle Coffee's signature look and vibe.
Biden will award the Medal of Honor to a Vietnam War Army helicopter pilot who risked his life to save a reconnaissance team from almost certain death.
Ever wonder how much Jack Mandaville would f*ck sh*t up if he went back in time? The American Revolution didn't even see him coming.
A nearly 200-year-old West Point time capsule that at first appeared to yield little more than dust contains hidden treasure, the US Military Academy said.
Since the 1920s, a low-tech tabletop replica of an aircraft carrier’s flight deck has been an essential tool in coordinating air operations.
For nearly as long as the Army-Navy football rivalry, the academies’ hoofed mascots have stared each other down from the sidelines. Here are their stories.
Zelenskyy said on his Telegram channel the weapon was produced by Ukraine’s Ministry of Strategic Industries but gave no other details.