Given that I live in my little isolated fitness bubble, I kind of forgot that there is a pretty large angry mob of people that think deadlifting is bad for your back–pitchforks and all.
Given that it is my civic duty to defend the benefits and safety of the deadlift, I felt obligated to write a piece on why a deadlift, with proper form, is one of the best exercises one can treat their body to.
Yes, if you deadlift like a dufus then you will hurt your back. I can understand and definitely agree that you shouldn’t perform an exercise if you don’t know what you are doing. That said, just because you don’t know how to do an exercise safely, does not mean that no one can.
I can’t really blame the deadlift haters. It’s tough to distinguish what is what in fitness, unless you are studying it all day. However, they are still wrong.
I am here to preach the praises of the deadlift gospel and to explain why deadlifts are one of the best exercises ever, rather than the disc destroying monstrosity they are often painted to be.
Baby got Back, because Baby Deadlifts
A properly performed deadlift with an appropriate weight will bulletproof the back from injury. Note the emphasis on “proper”.
Yes, you use your back on a deadlift. If we are trying to avoid straining and injuring something it makes sense to strengthen it. Avoiding exercises that strengthens the lower back means that the lower back is much more vulnerable.
The tendency when lifting something heavy is that your back starts to round because the weight wants to pull your shoulders down. Deadlifts are very good at strengthening the erector spinae–the muscles that straighten the spine from a rounded position. Working these muscles means that you are less likely to go into a rounded, humpback, camel-lookin’-ass posture.
While most highly advanced deadlifters, read Konstantine Konstantinov, can lift with a rounded back, having your back round too much while under load is often a recipe for disaster. And besides, you are not Konstantinov, so you can’t get away with stuff he does.
Note how his back has the greatest curve at the bottom; it doesn’t round anymore than that throughout the lift and only gets more straight. Also, even an untrained eye can see the difference between the two videos.
Deadlifts basically enforce a straight back, which, when lifting anything, is generally a safer position. If you don’t strengthen and solidify that posture there is a greater chance your back will round way too much and set you up for injury.
However, even with good posture and form, injuries are more likely to occur lifting something that is too heavy for you.
Everyone has to move furniture at some point. And guess what? Picking up furniture from the floor is a deadlift. By avoiding deadlifts because they are “bad for your back”, you have essentially procrastinated. You cannot make a couch lighter or heavier, like you can a barbell, so whatever weight the couch weighs, you are stuck with.
And we know that couch definitely ain’t going to pick itself up. By training the deadlift you can adjust the weight at whatever pace you need to, making it a safe way to work up to lifting said couch.
Someone who can safely deadlift 300 lbs will have no problem lifting a 100 lbs couch. However, for someone who has never deadlifted, aside from not knowing proper form, 100lbs will feel much heavier. The sport of couch tossing is now more dangerous because more relative effort is involved.
Deadlifts Reverse the Damage of Sitting
Human posture effin’ suuuuucks these days.
We spend all our time at a computer looking like bummed Neanderthals. We spend our days in a rounded or flexed posture. As mentioned earlier, deadlifts strengthen the muscles that extend our posture.
While Konstantinov lifts with a rounded back, look at his posture as he approaches the bar and at the top. I would be hard pressed to find a world class deadlifter with poor posture. Deadlifting is basically the opposite of sitting, and we all do too much sitting. Thus, logic says we need more deadlifting to counteract all the sitting.
Deadlifts Build a Strong Everything Else
“How come everyone says you’re supposed to lift with your legs?”-quipped my client
“Because you are lifting with your legs”-my smart ass response
A good deadlift primarily utilizes the hips. By using the hips you involve the glutes and hamstrings to a greater degree than when “lifting with your legs” which primarily uses the quads. Not to say that the quads aren’t important, but most people have weak hams and glutes. By working these muscles, along with the rest of the muscles on your backside you can lift more weight, and take some of the load off of your back. Working this many muscles as a unit means you get stronger safely.
While the main muscles used in a deadlift are the lower back, glutes and hamstrings, the lift works most muscles in the human body, making it a very efficient exercise.
Deadlifts Teach Proper Hip Loading
How will you ever learn to dance like Shakira if you can’t even work dem hips enough to deadlift?
Human power comes from the hips, whether you are swinging a baseball bat, throwing a roundhouse kick, sprinting, or jumping. All of these movements stem from proper hip movements.
By learning how to load up your hips, other movements will become easier, stronger, and more fluid. Day to day activities for the modern human don’t promote hip movement, which is a darned shame considering its importance, so it is best to learn good hip habits when lifting.
The Epic Conclusion: Beating a Deadlifting Horse
Well, I truly hope I have convinced you that a good deadlift is a great thing and definitely not something to be avoided. Now, that does not mean that I recommend doing super heavy deadlifts if you feel unsure about your form. However, if you want to see results in the gym it would be in your best interest to do some homework and learn how to deadlift. The time and effort will be much better spent than most things you could be doing in the gym. I’m dead serious.
Below I’ve included some of my favorite instructional videos regarding the deadlift:
Got some of dem questions? Drop a comment below!