We're working it old school this week with the bench press for your pecs and this, arguably the boss of all classic weight exercises, the deadlift. It's what's known as a compound exercise; one that works multiple muscles rather than just one or two in isolation. It's one of the reasons that men who use free weights tend to be more ripped than those who use machines. However it is also of use to women, and men who lie to wear clothes that fit, and not resemble an inverted pyramid with a pea on top of it. The deadlift is for everyone!
Of all the compound exercises out there, the dead lift is hands down the best one. Deadlifts activate most of your muscles, including the biggest muscle in your body, the glutes, but also the lower back, the thighs, the core, the abs, the traps and your shoulders too.
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The most important thing for you to concentrate on when performing deadlifts is your form. Working with heavy weights can put a lot of pressure on your body, especially your lower back, if your form is sloppy. And serious spinal injuries are just no fun.
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 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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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 went past your knees, straighten your back gradually until you fully stood up.
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It is very important for your back to stay straight all the way. Don't hunch your shoulders and don't slump.
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 one-legged deadlift
- Dumbbell deadlift
- Rack pull
- Romanian (or stiff-legged) deadlift
- Kettlebell swing
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.
There can loads of reasons why one wants to go to the gym. You might want to lose weight fast or maybe you just want to feel more confident in your body. You can also aim to look more buff and to built overall strength. If it is the latter (oh well, both, really), then you want to do more whole body workouts, using what's known as compound exercises.
Compound exercises activate more than just one muscle group at a time and are the best way to build overall strength. You can always just curl a barbell to build bigger biceps but you can also do bent over rows, which works your whole arm (mainly biceps and shoulders) as well as your lats.