muscles during deadlift

Deadlift is a basic (multi-joint) exercise intended to build total muscle mass, since almost 70% of the athlete’s muscle mass is included in the work during the exercise. Almost all muscles of the back, muscles of the legs and abs are stressed. In addition, the rear deltoids, biceps and forearm muscles are included in the work. Since the deadlift is a heavy, basic exercise, it should be performed at the very beginning of the back workout.

Varieties of deadlift

Deadlift differs in grip width and leg position. Due to this, the load during the exercise can be shifted, more heavily loading either the muscles of the back or the muscles of the legs. Let’s take a closer look at each of the types and analyze the technique.

Conventional deadlift

classic deadlift

Like other variations of the exercise, the classic deadlift is quite difficult to perform. Often athletes perform it with the wrong technique, which leads to various injuries. When performing the conventional deadlift, the stance of the legs is narrow, the shins of the legs practically touch the bar, the grip is straight, wide (double overhand grip).

conventional deadlift

When you are in a barbell lifting position (starting posititon), your back should be straight, the buttocks are slightly lowered, the head should be facing forward (the neck is in line with the spine). After that, the barbell is lifted until the legs and body are straightened, then the barbell returns to its original position.

With this version of the deadlift, the load is shifted to the back muscles. In addition, the back of the thighs, gluteal muscles and abs, which stabilizes the body, are actively involved in the work. The quadriceps is included in the work only at the lowest point, when the bar is lifted off the floor.

This type of deadlift works well for athletes with weak legs, short torso, and long arms. If the grip strength is not enough to perform the exercise, it is allowed to use a mixed grip or lifting straps.

Sumo deadlift

sumo deadlift

This variety of deadlift differs from the classic one in wide stance and narrow grip. Most often, a mixed grip is used when performing the exercise. The technique is similar to the classic deadlift. During Sumo deadlift, the back muscles receive less load compared to the classic one. The load between the muscles of the back and legs is divided approximately in half.

This deadlift is recommended for athletes with a weak back, long torso, and short arms. The Sumo deadlift is a competitive exercise and is one of the three basic exercises in powerlifting (bench press, deadlift, barbell squat). In the Sumo deadlift, athletes can lift much more weight than in the classical one.

Stiff (straight) leg deadlift

stiff leg deadlift

Stiff leg deadlift slightly differs from the previous types of the exercise. The only difference is that it is performed on almost straight legs. Due to this, the pelvis does not lower during the exercise. During the exercise, the legs are shoulder-width stance, the grip is straight (double overhand) and slightly wider than the shoulders. The load falls on the back extensors, the back of the thighs and gluteal muscles. It is better to include this exercise on the day of leg workout, since stiff leg deadlift works very well for the back of the thigh and buttocks.

stiff (straight) leg deadlift

Stiff (straight) leg deadlift is exercise #1 (after barbell squat, of course) for girls, as it forms a round, toned and elastic buttocks.

In general, there are many more varieties of deadlift. For example, the exercise can be performed with dumbbells, kettlebells, or a trap bar. It can also be performed in a Smith machine, done from blocks or a pit (deficit deadlift). The last ones are especially important for powerlifters. All these variations of the deadlift allow you to diversify your workouts, but the most attention should be paid to the conventional deadlift (on the day of the back) and stiff leg deadlift (on the day of the legs).

Types of grips when performing deadlift

In general, there are three types of grips during deadlift (look at the picture below). Let’s take a closer look at each one and compare differences.

Double Overhand Grip

It is the least traumatic, compared to other. If you have a weak grip, you cannot lift large weights using a straight (double overhand) grip. Therefore, lifting straps can be used as an aid.

Mixed Grip

grips during deadlift

It is a grip in which one clenched palm looks outward from the bar, and the other inward. Allows you to lift large weights, even with a poorly developed grip. Traumatic for the spine due to the torque. The barbell unfolds towards the clenched palm that looks inward (to the barbell). Also, the grip is traumatic for the biceps, due to the fact that one hand works with supination and this can lead to a rupture of the biceps when lifting large weights.

If you do use this grip, it is recommended that you change your hands between sets. That is, one set will be done when the right clenched palm looks outward, and the left palm looks inward, the other set is vice versa.

Hook Grip

A grip in which you wrap your thumb and press it to the bar with your index finger and middle finger. Thus, the thumb plays the role of a lifting strap. It certainly helps to lift weights more, but it leads to thumb injuries. Because the thumb with such a grip will work for a rupture.

Tips on performing deadlift

1) Always do 2-3 light sets before working weight to warm up your muscles.

motivation before deadlift

2) Breathe correctly while doing the exercise, do not hold your breath. On lifting the barbell – exhale, while lowering – inhale. Holding your breath, especially with a lot of weight on the barbell, will lead to increased blood pressure. Your blood vessels may burst, your eyes may darken, you may vomit, you may even faint.

3) Do not chase after weights, concentrate on muscle work, perform deadlift with the correct technique, stretching and stressing as much as possible. Large weights will definitely break your technique, which will inevitably lead to an injury of the lower back.

deadlift with heavy weight

4) Keep your back straight during the exercise. This is the most important point, as most deadlift injuries occur in the spine and lower back. Rounding the back leads to an increase in the load on the spine and lower back, which leads to pinching of the vertebrae, displacement of the intervertebral discs, and intervertebral hernia.

5) At the top point of the amplitude, when you are fully straight, do not lean back too much, this leads to an increased load on the lower back.

6) At the lowest point of the amplitude, when you lower the barbell to the floor, do not knock and hit the weight on the floor. This leads to a blow to the spine. Lower the bar until it slightly touches the floor.

7) Use an athletic belt when performing heavy sets. It protects the spine from injury by supporting the body.

8) When performing stiff leg deadlift, the legs should be slightly bent at the knees, this will relieve the load on the knee joint. It is better to lift the barbell off the floor (the first repetition in the set) with the technique as in the classic deadlift, or even better to take the barbell from the rack. Also, do not fully lower the barbell to the floor, this leads to an increased load on the lower back. Leave a small distance between the weight and the floor.

Perfect technique of performing deadlift (explanation video)

2 thoughts on “Deadlift”

    • Hi there! I had the same problem. The prolonged rests from any kind of deadlift helped me. But I also advise you to visit your family doctor. Maybe it will be necessary taking X-Ray of your spine. It depends, I cannot say without details.


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