The deadlift is hands down the simplest barbell movement on the planet. After getting into the starting position, we pick the bar up off the floor and put it back down again. It doesn't get any simpler than this - and we like simple things at Strong For Life.
The correct execution of the deadlift necessitates a few, yet very important criteria: the bar needs to be placed over mid-foot in the starting position as this is where the centre of balance lies; secondly, the bar is dragged up the shins and legs in a vertical line as loads that travel vertically are lighter than loads traveling in odd shapes; thirdly, all of this is done by keeping our back in rigid extension – or in other words: by keeping it flat.
Below are three reasons why any human capable to do so should be getting as strong as possible on the deadlift.
1 TOTAL BODY STRENGTH BUILDER
Many people are still concerned with working isolated body parts in their training. Dozens of exercises for each body part for the purpose of “hitting all muscles” in their workouts in order to feel they haven't left anything out.
What many people don’t realise is that isolation exercises have never made anyone strong due to the fact that a) the body doesn’t think in single muscles but in muscle GROUPS; and b) not much weight can be lifted in isolation exercises as a plateau is experienced pretty soon after commencement.
The deadlift, on the other hand, strengthens the legs, hips, back, arms, lats, grip, abdominals, calves, ankles, and upper back ALL AT ONCE. This eliminates the necessity for endless amounts of isolation exercises that would work those same muscle groups – just not in their full kinetic chain, but as separate parts.
The deadlift allows for the heaviest weight to be lifted in any given movement – making it the best and simplest exercise for building total body strength.
And getting strong is exactly what you want. Isn’t it?
2 SAFE AND EFFECTIVE
The deadlift has a better safety profile than picking your cat up off the floor. This is due to the fact that the weight is balanced over mid-foot in the deadlift – thus making it easier to set the back into full extension.
Picking your furry friend up off the floor, on the other hand, requires that you lean over slightly to gain a mechanical advantage. This necessitates a slight rounding of the back, which is less safe than picking the bar up from over mid-foot position in the deadlift.
Once our back is set into full extension, the muscles surrounding the spine form a corset around it which keeps it “locked” and in a safe position. This makes the deadlift the best exercise to strengthen our entire back. We just need to learn how to keep our back tight and rigid as we pull the bar off the floor.
In terms of efficiency, the back muscles transmit force into the bar with the arms and hands forming the chains between the two. Once pulled off the floor against gravity, all the muscles involved in the deadlift get strengthened the way they are meant to: as a whole, together. Not in isolation.
3 KEEPING STRESS OFF SINGLE JOINTS
As the load is distributed over the entire body, the deadlift doesn’t place a punctuated heavy load on one or several single joints.
Take the leg extension as an example where the load is placed almost exclusively on the knee joint. This makes it a not-so-friendly exercise for these structures as it is a rather small surface area which has to bear a relatively high load.
The deadlift, to the contrary, evenly distributes the weight across muscles and joints in the entire body – which indeed makes it a joint-friendlier option than any isolation exercise.
This is also a reason why the deadlift can be progressed for a very long time. And when I say for a very long time, I mean YEARS and DECADES.
Adding small incremental weights to the deadlift accumulates to massive increases in strength over time. This is how people have achieved deadlifts in the vicinity of 500kg.
You may have zero interest in that – but the deadlift is a sure-fire way to build up your total body strength like no other exercise.
Pick the bar up and start now.
What are you waiting for?