The Deadlift

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Dr. BledsoeAuthor: S. Bledsoe, M.D.

The deadlift has been called the “King of Exercises.”  I love that title.  The deadlift used to be called the “health lift,” because with this one lift, you are exercising all of the major muscle groups in your body.  Obviously, everything from the mid-back down is firing on all cylinders during a properly performed deadlift, but the upper body benefits are often overlooked.  The shoulders, chest, upper arms and forearms are all supporting the weight making it great for the upper body as well.  While the debate will continue as to which lift is “king,” everyone agrees that a properly executed deadlift is a great exercise.

Allow me to show a brief video that introduces the deadlift to those of you who may be unfamiliar with this foundational movement.

If you paid attention to the narration from Coach Glassman during the above video, he points out something that most people never appreciate, “the deadlift is nothing more than the biomechanically sound approach [to picking] things up off the ground.”  You may want to ponder that for a minute.

I have had many patients tell me that can’t do something because of a bad back, bad knees, bad hips, or bad whatever.  A deadlift merely teaches you the proper way to pick your shoe, your keys, your child, your pencil up off the ground.  I would suggest that if your back is so bad that you can’t pick up an object off the floor, you are bad off.  Virtually no one, from cradle to grave, is immune from that need.  So the point is, don’t avoid the deadlift…learn to do it properly.  Now, for your viewing enjoyment, a video designed to make you cringe.

Holy ruptured disk Batman!!  Don’t do that…ever!  That’s a great way to end up in traction at your local ICU.  Please compare that to the proper deadlift form.

Now that you know how to (and how not to) perform a deadlift, all you have to do is start.  If you have never done it before, start with low weights and go slow.  Start without weight if necessary.  You may want to enlist the help of a personal trainer or a strength and conditioning coach.  Work on your form first.  Once you know your form is great, start moving some weight.

Lifting heavy (defined as > 75% of your maximum lift) with compound movement exercises- such as the deadlift- has significant benefits.  Testosterone and growth hormone are best stimulated under these conditions.  This is good for both men and women.  Stabilizing muscles that are often overlooked during routine training are stressed by the deadlift.  Grip strength is increased.  Core muscles are improved.  The spinal muscles are strengthened resulting in improved posture.  There is an immediate functional improvement to your life since everyone performs deadlifts multiple times daily.   Even the cardiovascular system is tapped during a properly structured deadlift workout.

Overall, the deadlift is an exercise that should be performed- often and heavy.  First, get proper training in order to prevent injury.  Then, get started on the “King of Exercises.”

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