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How to Deadlift

Despite its common association with hardcore bodybuilding, the deadlift is a genuine full-body exercise that (done correctly) can support even a beginning strength training program. Lifting, as many of you know, is one of The Primal Essential Movements [1]. Ideally, lifting heavy things should mimic the activities of everyday life and build the strength necessary to make these activities easier for us—throughout our lifespan. Deadlifts do just this. They’re one of the big, compound lifts that trigger the hormonal response systems and build functional strength that make carrying bags of groceries (or the occasional kid) less strenuous—and safer. It’s the kind of strength our ancestors enjoyed, whether they were building shelter on the savannah or working farmland.

By engaging all the major muscle groups in the arms, shoulders, abs, back and legs, deadlifts (done safely) can be a top exercise for building overall strength—with added benefits to grip strength and core stability, which are more important than ever as we age. If you have back, shoulder or knee issues or are recovering from any kind of injury, you’ll want to work with a physical therapist or (with your physician’s approval) a properly certified trainer.

How To Deadlift

Layla McGowan (co-author of The Keto Reset Instant Pot Cookbook) put together this awesome video that demonstrates proper form and execution. Watch and learn, but we’ll include an outline of the major points for review, too.

Just a note: you’ll see she’s using a trap bar deadlift, commonly found in gyms. Particularly if you’re new to deadlifting or are getting back in the game or if you have wrist issues, a trap bar can be a more accommodating choice.

1. Put your feet at a jump-width stance (about shoulder width apart).

2. Exhale, then inhale against your diaphragm, pushing your air into your pelvis to center your strength there. Keep your core column solid and straight.

3. Next, come down on the bar with your hands at mid-foot position (parallel to your feet) and grip the higher (as Layla demonstrates) or lower handles.

4. Visualize driving through the ground with your legs as you come up, keeping your back straight, until you’re fully upright. Put your chest out (“pigeon chest”) for the top of the lift.

5. Then come down (using hamstrings and glutes) in the same posture you used to come up, again keeping your back straight.

6. Put the bar on the ground between lifts.

How Often Should I Deadlift?

For beginners, aim to do 4-6 reps, but listen to your body’s signals. Don’t sacrifice form to get in that last rep. If your body is done, it’s done. Take a rest. Try for 3-5 sets total within that workout. Choose weight that will allow you to achieve or come close to these numbers.

Remember, these big, compound movements tax the system with an emphasis on intensity and power. Deadlifts are particularly rigorous. Start by incorporating deadlifts just once a week. As you progress, there’s generally no need to do them more than twice a week.

Thanks for stopping by, everybody. Let me know your thoughts on the workout video series and if you have requests for future fitness videos. Have a great end to the week.