Today we are talking about the deadlift! We are getting into how to perform the deadlift correctly and effectively with some top tips. We are also getting into 4 of the most common mistakes to avoid.

The deadlift is a great compound exercise hitting several muscle groups and strengthening that posterior chain. The posterior chain refers to all the muscles on the back of your body, with a big focus on the hamstrings, glutes, and erector spinae.  A lot of people see this as a lower back exercise. However, it’s more of a leg exercise and you want most the focus on the glutes and hamstrings.  The erector spine and other muscles of the back you want in an isometric hold, while the gluteals and hamstrings contract to lift the bar. You’re not trying to lift with the back – you’re trying to lift with a hip hinge.  

So starting off use some bumper plates to get the height right from the start. You want your shins right next to the bar, then sticking your bum out. Let the world see and don’t be shy! Try to keep your chest up, have your feet planted to the floor. Imagine you’re trying to spread the floor apart, which will help with glute activation. Furthermore, imagine you’re trying to bend the bar around your body keeping the back tight and engaged, spine neutral! Next, squeeze your glutes and push the floor away bring the bar up. Keeping it close to your body the whole time! Bam a good deadlift, just make sure each rep follows suit.

There are a few common mistakes that you want to avoid and we have pick 4 most common ones. The most common one that gets overlooked is getting your neck involved. People spend a lot of their time focussing on keeping their lower back straight, you also want the same for the neck, not be pulling it into extension. Another one is avoiding the valgus knee which is where the knees are buckling in, working on spreading the floor with your feet will help to avoid this. The third one is not losing form in the mid-back and letting the shoulders protract forward which can be prevented by working on trying to bend that bar around the body. The final and pretty common one is lumbar flexion, now lumbar flexion as of itself isn’t a bad thing when lifting as it commonly gets demonised. However, when using high loads which is likely in the deadlift you want those bigger stronger muscles like the erector spine involved as much as possible. You can make sure this happens by leaving the ego at the door and not going heavier than you can handle. Most people are going to have more respect in a gym with someone lifting lighter with a good form than heavier with poor form.

So what’s the deal with spinal flexion, I’m sure you’ve been told at some point not be flex your back while lifting, where there isn’t actually any issue with this and you’ll inevitably get some with the deadlift, it’s all about what your body is adapted to, now with spinal flexion you’re likely using the smaller muscles in the back like the multifidus and others which may not be adapted to higher loads, that’s why if you’ve been training the deadlift up you don’t want as much spinal flexion.  Spinal flexion is something however something you can adapt higher loads to, there’s a great exercise the Jefferson curl that you can use to build up your load tolerance for spinal flexion which can actually be great to work on injury prevention, just make sure you start off with a low load and gradually work on the build-up.

The final point is around that adaptation, now there have been a lot of lockdowns around the world but especially in the UK where gyms have been closed for several months, you would have lost some of the adaptations you previously would have made in the gym, this means if you go back in trying to lift what you previously were, you’re increasing that risk of injury, if you’ve not done something for the last 4 weeks you can safely assume you’ve lost some adaptation, a lot of the time it comes back quickly, but just bear this in mind with all the activities give it a couple of weeks to build back into things and stay safe.

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