What’s the Big Deal About Dead Lifts?

“We see you make all the dead lift comments and entries into the Dead Lift Photo Gallery…So what’s the big deal about dead lifts?”

DL function

Why are dead lifts useful and awesome? Oh, here are a few of the reasons.

-Because dead lifts are a part of everyday life, unless you’re going to “seated shoulder abduction” a ladder over to the clogged gutters or leg press a suitcase up the airport stairwell. So we may as well train the brain and body to “pick things up and put them down” well. Dead lifts demand ground reaction forces and core stability, naturally teaching us how to maintain a rigid neutral spine and efficiently push with the legs, benefiting us well after the training ends.

-Because you feel like (and eventually ARE) a beast when you can easily move a boat load of weight. Dead lifts provide a fairly straightforward route to seeing and feeling fairly drastic improvements. For example, exercises like bench press and bicep curls recruit a relatively small amount of the body’s muscle mass, and adding 10 pounds to these movements is unreasonable. But a ten pound increase in the dead lift is no big thing because the work is distributed across a broad area of the body.

-Because dead lifts are one way to truly learn what we are capable of. Very few people, athletic or non-, understand how to coordinate multiple body segments, bracing some joints like a stone while others push and pull with intensity. BUT…once you learn how to be a rock in some areas and a piston in others, you find that moving your body weight off the ground is easy. And you’re are a legitimate game-changer, dishing it out rather than being trucked on the athletic field.

-Because most people, athletic and non-, make poor use of their gluteal and hamstring muscles. The “posterior chain” includes the largest muscles in the body, yet most people move with knee-dominant patterns that emphasize quadriceps activity, which eventually leads to knee and lower back problems. Dead lifts are a direct route to train up stronger hips and a faster, quicker athlete.

-Because when you think of training the core for peak performance, you need to think less 7-minute abs and more dead lift, split stance squats, and single arm overhead presses. This is a matter for another essay, but there is no other endeavor that will provide more core strength than learning how to easily move one- to two times your body weight. Not a single crunch, leg raise, TRX or physio ball rehab movement, Pilates, Yoga, home DVD fitness plan, or machine-based exercise will cause the core muscles to work more than handling a relatively heavy load of free weights. Not everyone can jump into heavy dead lifts without some preparatory work. But as far as core strength for sports performance, dead lifts are king.

-Because dead lifts are a not too technical total body exercise. There is definitely an art to learning how to dead lift well, knowing how and when to implement progressions and regressions, and safely building up the resistance on the barbell. But they are somewhat safer and much easier to learn than the Olympic lifts that require the use of heavy resistance with momentum and fast bar speed.

-Along those lines, dead lift are relatively safe when programmed well. By this I mean using appropriate form (or progressions/regressions to achieve good form) as well as reasonable increases in resistance, recovery, and a sound over-all training plan. I recently looked at a collegiate off-season weight training packet that had athletes deadlifting the day after heavy squats and power cleans. This is terrible programming.

DL huge
World Record Deadlift >1100 lbs probably not “healthy” and definitely unnecessary. But yeah…I’m still impressed!

It is important to note here that all things can be taken beyond what is beneficial, to unhealthy extremes. Easily dead lifting twice your body weight is a reasonable and exceedingly beneficial long-term goal that pays great dividends in performance and body appearance. But dead lifting triple body weight, or dobule body weight for 20 continuous reps, or body weight for 120 reps, are all fairly berserk endeavors and probably not exactly healthy. And I do not wonder why my hip hurts : /


Let the Dead Lift Gallery Roll On!

The Doughty brothers had some recent dead lift PRs! Jackson 300 lbs and Spencer 315. Ridiculous strength given their age, size and less than one year training duration.

Watch out for them this fall!!



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