How to Deadlift : Proper Form, Types, & Benefits - Old School Labs
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Home » OSL Blog » How to Deadlift

How to Deadlift

May 9, 2019

Deadlifting is a great way to exercise for a lot of people. Most have heard of it through CrossFit, powerlifting competitions, and Strongman. Whether you’ve heard about it before but aren’t sure how to deadlift, or you have no idea what we’re talking about, check out this article.

You’ll learn what a deadlift is, how to do it properly, and why you might want to give it a chance the next time you go to the gym. Just know, that practice makes perfect with this form of exercise. Trying to level up too fast can cause injury.

So, you think you’re ready to start deadlifting?

You’ve been working out and making muscle gains, and now you’re ready to take it to the next level.

Maybe you’ve been checking out the powerlifters and thinking about joining them, but you aren’t sure where to start.

It’s a good thing you’re here reading this article because we’re going to give you:

  • The breakdown on proper form
  • What you should be doing and some things you shouldn’t be
  • What it takes to get on the level of some of your favorite powerlifters

Whether or not it’s something you’ve never done before, you definitely need to have proper form and understanding of the mechanics of a deadlift. Failure to properly prepare can lead to serious injury and kill your chances of ever being able to compete – if that’s your goal.

What’s a Deadlift?

We imagine that there’s at least a couple of people reading this article who don’t know what a deadlift is. This section is for you.

A deadlift is a weight training exercise that uses a loaded bar or barbell which the user lifts off the ground to their thighs and then lowered back down to the ground.

deadlift
A deadlift is considered a full body workout.

Just like the squat or bench press, it is considered a powerlifting exercise.  

The deadlift works the entire body but focuses on quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and low back muscles.

Some people do deadlifts as their preferred way to exercise, while others do it for muscle gain, to lose fat or gain strength. Whatever your reason for being interested in deadlifting, check out our latest article to see how to do it, the right way to do it, and the benefits to being a deadlifter.

Deadlifting in the Golden Era

Back in the Golden Era, most serious weightlifters, powerlifters, and bodybuilders were doing deadlifts to increase muscle gains and build insane physiques.

Whether they were competing in Strongman competitions, Mr. Olympia, or just to be the strongest man on the block, they took their gym time seriously.

Most workout machines hadn’t been invented yet, or gyms simply couldn’t afford to supply them. That left most lifters to use barbells and dumbbells when they were working out. With ridiculous rep amounts and multiple sets, they were able to create muscular bodies that wowed everyone who saw them.

Larry Scott
Larry Scott praised deadlifts for his bodybuilding physique.

Is it any wonder that legends like Larry Scott, Ed Corney, and Steve Reeves had bodies that some lifters can only dream of?

Maybe deadlifting is something you should consider, if you want to get even close to the muscle gains that these guys had. Keep reading to see if the deadlift is the right exercise for you.

Deadlift Benefits

There are a host of benefits to deadlifting. Sure, you get physical benefits that can easily be seen when working out consistently for a few months.

But are there other health benefits to deadlifting? Take a look at the list of benefits we’ve provided and let us know what you think.

Consider adding this type of exercise to your workout routine if you are looking to improve any of the following:

  • Work the entire body in one exercise
  • Streamline your workout routine and spend less time in the gym
  • Increase back muscle strength to reduce back pain – here are some stretches that can help too!
  • Increase testosterone naturally
  • Strengthen your bones
  • Reduce stress
  • Look better physically
  • Improve posture
  • Create or define your abs
  • Sculpt your back
  • Strengthen your grip
  • Reduce or eliminate the need for antidepressants – see others’ stories of success, plus a linked study showing the benefits

We’d love to know if you’ve found any of these benefits to starting a deadlifting routine. Especially if you’ve found a benefit that hasn’t been listed. Let us know in the comments section!

Proper Form

We’ve talked a lot about having proper form and what happens when you don’t.

So, what is the proper form when performing a deadlift?

We’re glad you asked!

Here’s the sequence you will do to perform a conventional deadlift:

Stance – Preparing to Deadlift

  • Do a quick warm up – spend five to ten minutes walking, jogging, or using the elliptical to prepare your muscles
  • Start out with a barbell with no weights or the lightest plates available. These are usually 10 pounds. If the weight is too heavy, start with dumbbells.
    • An Olympic barbell weighs 45 pounds and is 2” wide
    • A standard barbell weighs 35 pounds and is 1” wide
  • Stand with the center of the barbell over the middle of your feet. Your feet should be pointed slightly outward and hips less than shoulder-width apart
  • Grab the barbell in a double overhand grip to start out, with your hands shoulder-width apart. Grab with your fingers and wrap around the bar rather than with your palm to avoid hand pain.
  • Make sure your body is in the proper place before lifting
    • Back straight, not rounded
    • Shoulder blades squarely over the bar and middle of feet
    • Arms locked – you are using your hips and legs to lift the weight, not your arms
    • Head in neutral position with your chin slightly tucked
    • Chest out and forward
    • Core tight

Completing the Deadlift

  • Before you lift the bar, hold your breath so that your core stays stable and activated to help pull the weight up off the floor
  • Begin to lift the barbell up off the floor – remember, use your lower back, legs and hips to lift, not your arms.
  • Keep your feet firmly planted and the weight distributed across your foot and drive with your toes
  • Drive your hips forward to help pull up the weight until it reaches your hips
  • Once there, hold for a second or two, and then release and lower the bar back down to the floor
  • Maintain your form until you’ve lowered the bar to the floor

Now. that wasn’t so hard, was it?

Once you start doing your deadlifts, talk with your spotter about your form. Make any changes necessary, and study yourself in the mirror as you complete your deadlifts.

When you are starting out, reps don’t matter as much until you’ve accomplished the proper form. Once you’ve done that, keep track of how reps you can do and how much weight you are putting up.

Different Types of Deadlifts

Now that you’ve got the conventional deadlift form down, you might want to start trying other variations of the exercise.

Most of these deadlifts can be done with dumbbells and kettlebells. Using different types of weights not only helps you use your muscles differently, but it can also help you target certain muscle groups for activation and conditioning.

Man doing deadlift
Deadlifts have many variations for the purpose of targeted activation & conditioning.

Here’s a list of some other types of deadlifts you can:

  • Sumo Deadlift – take a wider stance and put your hands closer together, helps improve mobility
  • Deficit Deadlift – stand on a short box or bumper plate to increase your range of motion, you will want to use lighter weights but it can help increase your strength
  • Dumbbell Deadlift – uses a dumbbell rather than a barbell, a great way to learn form or do conditioning circuits
  • Romanian Deadlift – also called the roman deadlift, where you hinge your hips and set them back as you lower along the leg to your shin, a great workout to target the hamstring and other back of body muscles
  • Block Deadlift – the opposite of the deficit deadlift, you put the barbell on blocks to reduce the range of motion, allowing you to lift more weight
  • Snatch-grip Deadlift – for this deadlift, you use a wider grip greater than shoulder-width apart, working your back and trapezius muscles even more
  • Trap Bar Deadlift – any version other than a dumbbell or kettlebell deadlifts, can be done with the trap bar rather than a standard barbell
  • Rack Deadlift – all variations that can be done with a standard barbell can be done on the rack machine as well, helps with training and form
  • Stiff leg Deadlift – the knees stay almost stationary compared to a traditional deadlift, great option to focus on your legs, especially hamstrings as well as the lower back.

Deadlift Modifications

If you need modifications for some reason, then there are options when doing deadlifts.

If you suffer from lower back pain, consider the following:

  • Substitute a trap bar for a straight bar
  • Elevate your starting point (put blocks under the bar)
  • Try a single leg deadlift as opposed to using both legs
modified deadlift
Deadlift modifications reduce stress on the lower back.

Any of these modifications can reduce stress on the spine, and offer a way to still complete deadlifts with no back pain. Once you’ve got the form down and have spent some time in the gym on your deadlifts, you should notice more strength in your back muscles.

You can then remove the modifications and try deadlifting without. If you still notice any lingering back pain, go back to the modified lifts.

Some of the deadlift variations mentioned above are actually modifications to the conventional deadlift. Using a trap bar, dumbbells, kettlebells, blocks, and rack machine are all modifications that can be used to help with:

  • Proper form
  • Prevent injury
  • Recover from an injury
  • Focus on specific muscle groups
  • Practice different grips and stances

Things to Consider Before Deadlifting

What How to guide is complete without a section for what to do and what not to do?

Check out our list of Do’s and Don’ts to make sure you are lifting properly and know of things to look out for.

Do

  • Have a spotter – preferably someone who has been deadlifting for a while. They can not only help you with form, but they can ensure you are safe during your weightlifting session. If you get dizzy or lightheaded with heavyweights in your hands, you don’t want to risk injury.
  • Have proper form – we know, we know, we are starting to sound like a broken record here. But it’s just because the proper form is key to prevent injury and keep you weight lifting, so if you aren’t working with someone to ensure you have proper form, you’ll never get any benefit from heavy lifting.
  • Warm up before you start – taking five to ten minutes to warm up is exactly what your muscles need to prepare for your deadlift workout routine
  • Set your spine position – and keep it there throughout the exercise. The number one complaint of people starting with deadlifts is back pain. If you deadlift properly, your muscles will help strengthen your back and likely reduce your pain. However, if your form isn’t correct, you can cause more harm than good to your back.
  • Maintain your center of mass – squarely over your feet as your base support

Don’t

  • Lift with your arms – especially not at first. You want to make sure you are using your legs to pull the weight up, not your arms. When deadlifting, you are likely picking up heavier weights than when you are working your arms with push-ups and bench presses. Using your arms before they are ready for the heavy load can cause injury.
  • Increase weight too quickly – sure, you feel like you are ready to increase weights so you can level up and see some more muscle gains. But, increasing weight too quickly can cause injury if you aren’t prepared, and it can set you back in your gains. Don’t let this happen to you – make sure you are able to work through your entire routine with ease before you consider adding more weight to your bar.
  • Copy someone else’s form – unless they have the same build as you. Someone with longer thighs will have different hip position than someone with shorter thighs. If your form is correct, then your hip position will be decided for you.
  • Round your spine – unless you want to injure your back and not be able to work out.
  • Lift your toes – your feet should be firmly planted and stay in position the entire time you are lifting. The force and strength you use to complete the deadlift come from having your feet planted in place and holding the brunt of the force

Deadlift Record

Do you think you have what it takes to compete with a world record holder in the deadlift competition?

Up until last year, United Kingdom native Eddie Hall held the title of not only the World’s Strongest Man, but he was also the world record holder for the deadlift. He was able to lift 500 kg, or 1,102 pounds 4.9 ounces to gain the title.

Check out this article for his astonishing daily workout routine. You can also see the insane amount of calories he had to consume every two hours, even when sleeping, to beat out the prior record holder.

Eddie Hall
Eddie Hall was the world record holder for the deadlift in 2016.

Hall’s recently had some stiff competition in the form of Game of Thrones star Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, aka “The Mountain”. Last year, he deadlifted 472.2 kg or 1,041 pounds at the 2018 Arnold Classic, taking the title of World’s Strongest Man.

He went one step further this year and performed the elephant bar deadlift with 474 kg or 1,044.9 pounds at the 2019 Arnold Classic.

Björnsson now has his sights set on the half-ton deadlift to beat out Eddie Hall. Interestingly enough, Eddie is now stepping back from Strongman and powerlifting to focus on acting.

Maybe we’ll see them together soon enough!

Supplementing for Maximum Gains

Whether just starting out or as a seasoned pro, most powerlifters will tell you that they didn’t get there all on their own.

Not only do they pack on the calories, spend hours upon hours at the gym, and work themselves to near exhaustion. They also get a little bit of help from supplements, to provide what their body and the food they eat can’t.

Pre Workout

If you need some help getting pumped up and ready for your gym session, we’ve got the perfect product for you.

Vintage Blast™ has the right ingredients to provide stamina to get you through your workout, and improve your hydration while crushing the weights.

Take it up to 30 minutes before you workout and feel the energy pulse through you as you start your warm up. Then, get ready to own the bar and work on making weight gains while you perfect your deadlifts.

During Workout

Feeling like you are hitting the wall in the middle of your workout? Having to stop in between sets because you just can’t bring yourself to pick up another weight?

Sounds like you need to get some Vintage Bolt™. With balanced electrolytes and lactic acid buffers, you can be sure to get over the hump and crush the rest of your workout with ease.

Post Workout

Getting a nice, deep sleep is a clear indicator to your body to get to work repairing and building your muscles after a hard workout.

Deadlifting is an exceptionally hard workout, and can really make you spent. Still, some people have trouble sleeping even when they are exhausted.

It’s not good for your overall health and it’s especially hard on your muscles. They do their best work when your sleeping, so consider some Vintage Bliss™ to get you through the night.

You’ll wake up feeling like a million bucks and pain-free, ready to tackle your next weightlifting session.

Do you deadlift? What is your favorite variation and why? Has deadlifting benefited your health since you started? Let us know in the comments!

Disclaimer: None of the individuals and/or companies mentioned necessarily endorse Old School Labs or COSIDLA Inc. products or the contents of this article. Any programs provided for illustration purposes only. Always consult with your personal trainer, nutritionist and physician before changing or starting any new exercise, nutrition, or supplementation program.
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