If you want to learn how to deadlift correctly, as part of your bid to get fit in 2020, you are in the right place. The King of Lifts is one of the best – if not the best – compound exercise to build overall strength and burn fat, all in the same time. The idea is to work with large weights (the best barbell is your friend here) when performing deadlifts – although please start small and work up – so form is especially important. Perform deadlifts incorrectly, and what you'll get is a pulled back, not big arms and toned glutes.
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Should you include deadlifts in your workouts – and do it correctly – you will very soon see changes in your physique. The deadlift works almost all your muscles in your body, mainly your glutes (bum muscle), quads and hamstrings (thighs), but also your core (stabilisation), lower back, lats, traps and even the delts (shoulders ) and forearm, too.
The deadlift is a key part of our Big 5, a set of compound exercises that gives a full body workout. Ready to get into it? Let's start dead at the beginning.
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Better be safe than sorry
As mentioned above, you shift large amounts of weights when doing deadlifts. Incorrect form can put tremendous amount of pressure on your body, especially your lower back. Keeping a straight back all the way through the movement is paramount, as well as focusing on the muscles as you lift – a thing that's called 'mind-muscle connection', or MMC.
Important: if you are new to weight lifting, start even the 'proper' lifting with smaller weights you can easily manage and work your way up slowly, over a period of days, weeks or even months. There is no need to rush; you won't impress anybody in the gym by pulling your back doing 120kg deadlifts. Be sensible and if you are ever in doubt, just ask. There are plenty of PTs lingering around in any commercial gym and also, most of the buff people in gyms are more than happy to give you advice – whether you ask for it or not, in many cases. Just be sensible.
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How to do a barbell deadlift
To perform a barbell deadlift, you need the barbell in front of your legs on the floor, legs shoulder width-apart. Grab the barbell with overhand or mixed grip, legs bent and your back straight, shoulders open. Before you lift, activate your core and focus your attention on your legs and glutes.
First, start pushing with your legs and glutes, driving the bar up your legs. The barbell stays close to the body all the way through the movement. Once the bar goes past your knees, straighten your back gradually until you are fully stood up. It is very important for your back to stay straight all the way. Don't hunch your shoulders and don't slump.
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On the way down, bend your hip until the barbell passes your knees, then bend your knees and place the barbell down. Never just bend your back fully as you place the barbell down. That's the fastest route to the spinal ward.
Barbell deadlift alternatives
- Kettlebell single-leg deadlift
- Dumbbell deadlift
- Rack pull
- Romanian (or stiff-legged) deadlift
- Kettlebell swing
Want to build muscle? Eat your protein.
To avoid any injuries and to help recovery, keep an eye out on your protein intake and always stretch after your exercising sessions. And make sure you drink plenty of water as well. A decent gym water bottle doesn't cost all that much.
Bulking is a popular word among bodybuilders, it means putting on weight so your body can transform your carb and fat reserves into muscle mass. This definitely doesn't mean you can gorge yourself on pizza and pasta all day long, though.
Once you found your maintenance calorie level (if you have an office desk-based job and you are an average built male, that's around 2400 calories per day), eat 5-700 more calories on top of that, mainly more protein and good carbs. That should be plenty to fuel your body to gain more muscle (and not fat).
Supplement-wise, you only really need two: protein powder and creatine. The former will help in the muscle repair process and latter will boost performance. Both are safe to use and there is a wide variety of offerings so you can choose a flavour you prefer.
With creatine, we recommend you get the unflavoured variety because it mixes well with any liquid and you only need a small amount to keep your creatine levels saturated. This means you can mix your 3-5 grams of creatine with anything in the morning (water, juice, even coffee) without having to worry about an aftertaste.
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T3's how-to exercise guides
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- How to do barbell rows the right way: why bent over rows are great to build big back and strong arms
- How to do thrusters: this squat variant is a leg day staple AND a one-move full body exercise
- How to use an ab roller: get a six pack FAST with this cheap home gym staple
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- How to bench press effectively and safely: this classic exercise will build a massive chest and big arms and shoulders too
- How to do hardstyle planks: try this plank variation for quicker summer body six-pack gains
- How to do burpees: master this much loved/hated full-body cardio exercise easily
- How to do renegade rows: this upper back exercise also smokes the core, biceps AND shoulders too