Back 2 Basics: The Deadlift


If someone is talking about training, and the topic shifts to the deadlift, the first thing that comes to mind for many people is powerlifting or strongman.

Don’t get it twisted. The deadlift has bodybuilding benefits, too. Gym rookies who are looking to build size and strength should learn all they can about the deadlift and apply that knowledge as soon as possible.

Fortunately, M&F/Flex Social Media Director David Baye is here to offer that knowledge. The two-time NPC Mr. Wisconsin winner has put many hours of sweat equity into the gym and is sharing his expertise on this classic lift.

What the Deadlift Does

Even though it’s the most basic movement, Baye explains why the deadlift is the real MVP of big lifts.

“(It’s) an exercise that’s great for the thighs, the back, the traps, something that you can use whether you’re a bodybuilder, a powerlifter, into strength sports, even you Cross Fitters out there. The deadlift is something that really, everybody that anybody that’s a beginner, and pretty much everybody unless you have some physical restrictions due to an injury should be doing.”

The Setup

The bar is obviously on the floor in front of Baye, and he advises to use lighter weight in order to maintain form. Going heavy could lead to injuries and missed lifts. The version of the deadlift that Baye covers here is the conventional deadlift.

“Feet are going to be around shoulder width apart, similar to what you would have for a squat or a bent-over row, a nice and strong stance. I’m going to have my hands grip the bar a little wider than where my feet are placed. My hands are going to be just outside my shins and my thighs. I want to make sure my butt is nice and low when I start. I have a nice arch in my back, and my head is up. Sometimes it’s good to find a spot up on the wall so you’re focusing up higher.”

Lifting the Weight

Now you’re ready to lift. Baye demonstrates proper form by simply standing straight up with the weight and extending past a straight and tall stance so he is slightly leaning back at the top. While this appears simple to do, he does emphasize the importance of timing.

“The timing of it is important. You want to be coming up, extending the legs, and rolling our back, all at about the same time. We don’t want our butt coming up and lifting it all with our back, or we don’t want to be lifting our back up and then push with all of our glutes. You want it to be a nice, smooth motion where you’re working your legs and your back at the same time.”

Bonus Benefit?

Aside from the fact that this movement is a serious size builder, there is another aspect that should be considered. Baye says that doing enough reps of this exercise can challenge your cardiovascular system.

“Be mindful that this is an exercise that can work your cardiovascular system just like squats. So taking a little longer breaks in between sets is not a bad thing.”

Common Mistakes

The most common mistake with the deadlift is the same with almost every exercise; lifters use too much weight. However, there are other pitfalls to avoid. You should make sure that your butt doesn’t come up first before the weight leaves the floor. Another error to be aware of is known as “hitching.”

“Hitching is when you get it above your knees, and you’re kind of bouncing with the weight,” Baye explains. If you get to the point that you have to hitch to lock the weight out, you should go ahead and place the bar down. The risk of injury is not worth the potential extra rep.

Another mistake is limiting your potential for back and thigh growth by relying on your own grip. This is why Baye always advises using lifting straps. He also shares a trick to help apply them onto the bar. “If you get them on the bar, you can roll the bar back, and it just kind of rolls itself up.”

How to Train with the Deadlift

Baye suggests performing two or three warmup sets before doing work sets of 8 to 12 reps. As for when to perform the deadlift, he says that is a matter of personal preference. “Some people do them on leg day, some prefer to do them as a part of back day, and some lifters do deadlifts on their own day.”

The common denominator is that regardless of when you choose to do deadlifts, just make sure you do them.

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