Tag Archives: form

The Deadlift – What? Why? How?

It’s been stated enough times that the Deadlift is pretty much the king of all lifts and has tremendous benefits. But unfortunately not many folks do it. I understand that it is a complicated lift and most people can’t really afford or don’t care enough to hire a trainer to teach them the lift.

I searched far and wide but most websites, though they took at stab at describing the deadlift, fail to “teach the lift” to a novice. So I decided to pay homage to the king by talking about his greatness and introducing him to the masses. Here we go.

What is the deadlift?

Well, it is the king of all lifts!

OK smart-ass… how can the deadlift be described?

Ah! The deadlift is the action of lifting a dead weight off the floor. Typically, a loaded bar is lifted from it’s “dead” position on the ground to a complete lock-out around thigh level (varies depending on length of lifters limbs).

Why should I train the deadlift?

– Because if exercise = food then deadlift = bacon.

– Because it develops amazing core (erector spinae, glutes, abs, back) strength and without core strength you will be as fragile as a 75 yr old granny.

– Because it helps keep the spinal extensors/erectors in good health.

Will I ever use the deadlift in real life? Is it functional?

If you ever plan on lifting anything off the ground… be it grocery bags or a suitcase or a dying earthquake victim… you will be thankful for having trained the deadlift.

What muscles does the deadlift work?

In short – everything except your pectoralis (chest) muscles. To be specific…

  • Erector Spinae/Sacrospinalis (Spine)
  • Flexor Digitorum Profundus (Forearm)
  • Gluteus Maximus (Butt)
  • Adductor Magnus (Thigh – Medial)
  • Quadriceps (Thigh – Anterior)
  • Soleus (Calves)
  • Hamstrings (Thigh – Posterior)
  • Gastrocnemius (Calves)
  • Trapezius, Middle (Posterior Shoulder & Back)
  • Trapezius, Upper (Posterior Shoulder & Back)
  • Levator Scapulae (Neck)
  • Rhomboids (Back)
  • Rectus Abdominis (Abs)
  • Obliques (Abs)

I hear that the deadlift is very dangerous. Is that true?

Did you know texting is dangerous?

I know that some people hurt their back because they deadlifted excessively. But did you know that way too many people messed up their backs for life because they did not deadlift? Dont believe me? When was the last time you heard someone say “Oh I hurt my back deadlifting?” and when was the last time you hard someone say “Oh I hurt my back lifting my 5yr old/suitcase/couch”?? Ha!

Deadlifing, like anything else, is safe (and again, extremely beneficial) as long as it is done with good form and that’s exactly the point of this post – to teach you good form.

What is your experience with the deadlift?

Once I completed p90x, I thought I was super strong. I tried deadlifting. I pulled an awesome 120 lbs off the ground for 1 rep.This was about 0.8 x bodyweight.

Since then I have been teaching myself the deadlift and been training it religiously. Though not elite, I now deadlift 2 x bodyweight for 4-6 reps and 2.5 x bodyweight for 1 rep. As a result my overall athleticism has improved drastically, I’ve packed in a lot of muscle and have literally eliminated any and all kinds of lower back pain.

OK how do I perform the lift?

In layman’s caveman’s terms… grab the weight and stand up. To get a little more descriptive and technical…

Click on image for larger clearer version

Phase 1: The Set-Up

– Stand with feet hip about width apart such that your feet are under the bar with your shins as close as possible to the bar but not touching the bar. See picture below.

– Bend at the hip and grip the bar such that your palms are a thumbs width away from the side of your legs/shins.

– Bend at the knee and go low till you feel your hamstrings. At this point the bar should be in contact with your shins.

– Get your chest up and straighten your back.

– Look up and focus on an object that’s about 5-7 ft from you. If there is a mirror in front of you then look the other way.

– Retract your shoulders and pull them down. This means you need to bring your shoulder blades as close to each other as possible. You should be able to hold a pen between your shoulder blades.

– Ensure that your shoulder blades are directly above the bar.

– Take a deep breath.

– Tighten your abs. Squeeze your glutes (butt).

– Grip the bar as hard as you can. Think you want to deform the bar!

Phase 2: The Pull Off The Ground

– Lift weight smoothly without any  jerking motion. Push the ground beneath you and pull the bar while it scrapes your shins.

– During this phase, the only joint that opens is your knee joint.

– The hip joint is locked and does not open. In other words, the angle of hip flexion i.e the angle between your straight back and ground, should be maintained and not increased.

– One way to check if you’re doing this right is to ensure that your shoulders move ONLY upwards and together with the hips. If your shoulder moves up and back, you’re opening up at your hip. If your shoulder moves down and front, your bending more at the hip and placing unnecessary load on your lower back.

Phase 3:  Knee Extension

– Continue lifting the bar higher by opening the knees more.

– Your hips are still locked, the bar is still scraping your shins and everything else mentioned in Phases 1 and 2 still apply.

Phase 4: The Hip Drive

– Once the bar is at knee height, start opening your hip and drive your hip in front in a thrusting motion.

– You are now opening your knees and your hips  and the angle of hip flexion increases (from a to b as in the figure).

– Your shoulders, which were moving only up, should now move up and back.

– The bar should now be above knee height and scraping your thighs.

Phase 5: The lock-out

– Continue to open your knees and hips and squeeze your glutes (butt) to reach lock-out position.

– It is acceptable to extend your hips slightly during lockout.  The lock-out serves no other purpose than completing the lift and an exaggerated extension is unnecessary and dangerous.

The Return:

– Slowly lower the bar sliding it on your thighs. At this point hip flexion occurs but the knee is still straight.

– When the bar reaches the knee, initiate knee flexion (bend the knee) and continue to lower the bar, sliding it on your shins, till the plates touch the ground.

– Note that your abs and glutes are still tight, your grip is still solid, your eyes are still focusing on the same object, your back is still straight, your chest is still up and your shoulders are still in place.

The Next Rep:

– Now you loosen your grip for a fraction of a second. Re-grip and lift again. The reason for this brief loosening is because this is a “dead”lift and hence each rep should be performed on a dead weight.

– Bouncing the weight off the ground is not legit.

Videos exhibiting good form

Here’s a heavy one…

And here are some fast ones…

And here is some Mark Rippeto…

– providing an intro to the deadlift.

– coaching the deadlift set-up.

– explaining the deadlift anatomy

And here is an article from Stronglifts talking about how to lower the bar.

Hope this post gives you enough reason, information and confidence to start deadlifting. I’ll follow this post up with some other types of deadlifts and grips, common errors and fixes during deadlifting and some sample workouts.

Peace out.

Function > Looks

At some point of time in history people lost their marbles and around the same time fitness became synonymous with looks.

I don’t know what the hell happened but when I read stuff published in the 30s, 40s, 50s and even the 60s, all I read is about strong men doing stuff to improve and exhibit their strength. They trained smart, exhibited their strength very frequently and got paid handsomely. Fast forward to today and I read BS like “Six pack abs in 6 days” or “Acai berry = Ripped abs without exercise” or “Contour Abs: Too good to be true?”. Makes me sick.

Back then…

  1. People did not do hundreds of repetitions of isolated abdominal thrusts (except in the bedroom of course).
  2. People trained primarily for strength and intensity.
  3. People ate a lot of real food (meat, eggs, vegetables, dairy) and did not eat donuts for breakfast.
  4. People did not sit on their asses all day looking at food porn and fantasizing about dinner.
  5. People looked great and could do awesome stuff.


  1. People lose sleep if they did only 328 crunches out of the 330 they were asked to do by dimwit trainers.
  2. People freak the shit out about eating egg yolks but have no issues downing cereal bowls by the gallon.
  3. People spend all their gym time in front of a mirror doing either bicep curls or ab work.
  4. People drive 30 miles, have their cars valet parked, take the escalator and spend 45 mins running on a treadmill while sipping on energy drinks sugar syrups.
  5. People are skinny fat, weak and can’t lift their own suitcases.

Don’t get me wrong here, wanting to have a nice body is very healthy. But, unless you are a body builder or aspiring to be one, you have no business doing hundreds of situps or 30 sets of bicep curls everyday. Body builders, for one, have successfully lost a shit load of body fat and are already super lean and, for another, have possibly reached their max muscle growth potential and hence go for crazy training protocols like low weight and super high repetitions. For the average fitness enthusiast, these high rep workout programs are useless to say the least. You know how a dress looks bloody hot on a celebrity, but you look like a hippo when you wear it?

Similarly, what works for bodybuilders wont quite work for you!

Realize this and focus on what you want to be able to do instead of what you want to look like. In other words, get your priorities right.

  • 16 strict pull-ups > 16 inch biceps
  • 3 min plank hold > 100 situps
  • 1 arm chin-up > 250 lbs bench press
  • 6 min mile > 6 mile run

But here’s the kicker – With performance comes looks. Once you understand this and start training for functional goals aesthetics will follow. I, for example, lift for strength not for mass, sprint for endurance/conditioning not to burn calories, eat right for health not for abs and all this is because I train for life not for looks.

Let’s keep it sane and simple folks – Eat clean, train smart, sleep much, repeat often.

Peace out.


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