Ode to Deadlifts
I have a serious problem.
I am a deadlift addict.
I have truly gone full-bore deadliftaholic. Heck, I wrote an article about them not too long ago in How to have an Awesome Deadlift Workout (a highly recommended read, by the way), and I’m already back with another one about deadlifts.
I truly have an insatiable, unquenchable love for pulling a loaded barbell off the ground. Because of my love for this powerful, basic barbell lift, I had to write another article – Ode to Deadlifts.
Silly title? Maybe.
Great information and motivating videos? You know it.
Why Deadlifts are Awesome
At the risk of sounding too cliché, deadlifts are a true functional movement. Some people may argue that pulling a straight bar off the ground isn’t really “functional”, but I’ll argue that point as being invalid. Everyone has to lift stuff off the ground in their daily lives in the form of groceries, kids, suitcases, and other random items. By learning how to deadlift properly, even with a straight bar, you are more likely to pick up items in your daily life in a safer manner.
It’s not uncommon to hear of a friend or coworker throwing out their back because they lifted a heavy box off the floor. I’m willing to bet they hurt themselves because they have a weak lower back (which the deadlift strengthens) and they didn’t use proper form (which you learn with a deadlift).
Put two people side by side, one who knows how to deadlift properly and another who doesn’t, and have them both pick a box up off the floor and see who uses better/safer technique. I win, case closed.
There are numerous deadlift variations so regardless of mobility and/or strength limitations practically anyone can perform some form of the movement. Just a few deadlift variations to consider are conventional, sumo, trap bar, RDL, deficit pulls, snatch grip, and rack pulls. You can even perform single leg variations like a single leg RDL or conventional deadlift.
Do you have mobility issues that make pulling a straight bar from the floor almost impossible? No problem, you can perform trap bar deadlifts and rack pulls. Do you want to keep the stress on your lower back to a minimum? Then you should focus on single leg variations of the deadlift.
There’s no cheating in deadlifting. Sure, guys (and gals) can claim to have a big bench press even though they only lower the bar half way down, or if their buddy who is “spotting” does all the work while screaming, “IT’S ALL YOU, BRO!”
There is no “maybe” with a deadlift. You pull the bar off the ground and lock it out . . . or you don’t. Granted, we could talk about things like hitching the weight up, using horrible form and using straps but for the most part, the deadlift in it’s many forms is an honest lift.
This is a video from a fellow Beautiful Badass, Jacqueline.
No matter what your goal may be – get stronger, build muscle, lose body fat, improve athleticism, look better naked, and make daily tasks easier – it doesn’t matter. Deadlifting in some form will help you achieve your goal and that is why you should include some variation of it in your training program.
Singles, Low Reps, and High Reps
I joking say that anything over a single is considered high rep when it comes to deadlifting. In reality however, I think anything over 6 reps can be classified as high rep deadlifting.
Low rep deadlifts are especially important for beginners for two main reasons. One, it allows them to use heavier weight and build some base strength. Two, a beginner usually can’t maintain proper form on higher rep sets because smaller muscle groups fatigue before larger muscle groups. Once someone builds a good amount of strength, then they can start incorporating higher rep deadlifts.
I have a true love-hate relationship with high rep deadlifts. I think they are a useful tool for building muscle and losing body fat, but they are very mentally challenging. As long as you can maintain a neutral spine and your butt doesn’t shoot up on every rep, then you can perform high rep deads.
They are terrific for building muscle, losing fat and strengthening the mind as well. I challenge you to perform a high rep set of deadlifts (10+) and not be breathing like a locomotive after the set is finished. And if you’ve ever performed a high rep set of deadlifts with a very heavy weight, you’ll know how tough it is mentally to keep pushing rep after rep.
Touch ‘n Go Reps versus Dead Stop Reps
Touch ‘n go reps are performed by allowing the plates to bounce or just touch the ground on each rep. Dead stop reps are just what the name implies; the bar comes to a complete stop between each rep.
I’ll admit that I’m a fan of performing each rep from a dead stop. It is called a deadlift, after all. I recommend performing dead stop reps if the focus is primarily increasing strength, and if a trainee is weaker off the floor than the lockout (like I am).
Here is an example of dead stop reps with a video from my most recent deadlift training session.
“Behold, the power of deadlifts!”
Touch ‘n go reps are fine for higher rep sets as long as you maintain your form and don’t get a huge bounce from bumper plates. I prefer a more “controlled” bounce like Bret Contreras demonstrates below.
“Nothing takes the edge off like a hard set of deadlifts!”
And now, to celebrate the overwhelming awesomeness of deadlifts, I am going to finish close this article with some motivating deadlift videos from some of my great fellow fitness friends. Included with their video is a tweet-sized comment about anything they wanted to say about deadlifting (I told them no more than 140 characters).
Kellie Hart Davis
“Deadlifts: it’s what’s for dinner.”
“According to studies, sex is more enjoyable for both partners when they deadlift heavy weights regularly.”
“Single leg deadlifts do a booty good.”
(Disclaimer – I love Molly, but the poor girl is incapable of doing a tweet-sized comment!)
“Deadlifts are super empowering and are the perfect exercise to use in that rare instance when the emasculation of that douchbag next to you in the gym is necessary. (You know, that guy who eyeballs you funny for being in the ‘weights section’ of the gym. The one who asks if you need a spot when you are warming up with the bar on bench press. The one who takes the bar off your bench press station because he assumes you are using the bench to ‘do abs.’ Yeah… that guy. Next time he is deadlifting (if he even does the movement) tell him to leave his working weight on there because you still need to warm up.”
“You can’t cheat a deadlift. Either you’re going to make the bar your bitch, or you’re not. That’s why they’re awesome.”
“Strike a pull…there’s no such words that can describe the feeling!”
(Disclaimer – the following comment drops the f-bomb, so if you are offended by that word you may want to skip this one).
“Don’t make love to the bar, f*** it! Hard!”
“I love to imagine I am Deadlifting to prove myself; because expectations (even our own) are there to be surpassed!”
Jen Comas Keck
“If I had to choose just one lift to increase overall strength and build a better body, it is the deadlift!”
“Whether it’s strength, function, muscle gain, fat loss, booty-shaping, injury prevention, sports performance or all of the above, the deadlift is where it’s at!”
Rog definitely gets style points for rocking out a Beautiful Badass™ shirt while completely dominating those deadlifts! (Note – want more info on trap bar deadlifting? Check out this awesome article Rog wrote that’s all about trap bar deadlifting).
“Deadlifts: The only money exercise that gives you a great ass and the ability to form diamonds between your butt cheeks.”
“If you never did you should. These things are fun and fun is good.” – Dr. Seuss
“The Jefferson Deadlift: For when you’d like to ride that pony, but there isn’t one around.”
“If you don’t deadlift, the terrorist win.”
So there you have it – some great information on deadlifts and motivating videos that demonstrate awesome strength and different variations of this amazing compound lift.
Chime in below and share your tweet-sized comment (no more than 140 characters) about the deadlift!