The deadlift is an awesome exercise, and it’s fundamental to any successful strength training program. And for years I neglected it. I naturally took to squatting: my body is built for it and it’s a more exciting, dramatic lift. But ignoring the deadlift eventually caught up with me. The strength of my legs outpaced the strength of my back which led to injury and chronic pain. Once I began to seriously train my deadlift again, my back healed up and the pain went away. It’s still not my favorite exercise, but it is vital to keeping my back healthy so practice it regularly.
This is the Year of the Deadlift: if there’s one exercise you can focus on to make everyday life a little easier, it’s this one. In 2020, we’re aiming to build your deadlift and make you stronger than you ever thought possible. So pick a weight: it could be a new century mark like 200 or 300 pounds, it could be a certain percentage of your bodyweight, or whatever the significance, and go for it.
For me, that goal is 600 pounds. My best deadlift is only 15 pounds short of that mark, but various setbacks have kept me from eclipsing that barrier. And now that I weigh just above 200 pounds, it’ll put me close to a triple-bodyweight deadlift.
That’s where my sight is set this year and I’ll be training hard right along with you — not just to hit another personal record, but to keep pushing all my limits and keep improving every aspect of myself.
5 Reasons to Love the Deadlift
- The deadlift is the best exercise for your back. I’ve learned this the hard way many times over: neglecting the deadlift means you’re neglecting your back, and weak back is a vulnerable back. The deadlift builds the entire musculature of the back and abdomen in a very simple yet functional way: by picking a heavy object up from the ground. And by doing that with a barbell, you can progressively lift more weight over time to further challenge and strengthen the muscles that support the back.
- The deadlift is one of the best ways to train your grip strength. As you get stronger and gradually lift heavier weights, the strength of your hands will improve as well. That’s good news considering grip strength is one of the best indicators of longevity and quality of life according to a number of studies.
- Along with building the muscles of your back and improving your grip strength, the deadlift is a great exercise for the often underdeveloped hamstrings. This muscle group which runs along the back of your thigh plays a big role in stabilizing the knee. The hamstrings also play a big role in hip extension, or picking something up off the ground. While the muscles of the back and abdomen lock your torso into a rigid position, it’s the hamstrings which are largely responsible for actually moving the weight. And there’s no better exercise than the deadlift at training both back/midsection stability along with hamstring strength.
- One of the beautiful things about the deadlift is that it’s a very simple exercise, but it’s not easy. There’s something to be said to practicing something that is simple yet difficult. There’s no finesse when it comes to the deadlift: bend over and pick up the bar. Though the set-up is simple, executing a heavy deadlift takes a little more mental fortitude than in other exercises. It takes time to even get the bar to budge from the floor, you pull for what feels like minutes, and every part of your body is working to stand up with the weight. But once it’s over, there’s few feelings more satisfying than completing a heavy set of deadlifts.
- When in a pinch, you can always deadlift. We have access to high-quality barbells and weight plates, but you might find yourself in a situation without such conveniences. Fortunately, you can always improvise a way to train your deadlift. You could follow the example of Milo of Croton who lifted a newborn calf each day and grew stronger as the calf increased in size. Or if you can find heavy rocks like many ancient European tribes did to test and develop their physical prowess. Regardless of the tool, you can always find a way to deadlift!