Picking things up off the ground is part of human heritage. It has been with us since the dawn of man and is still part of our every day lives.

All parents have at some point have, in some form or another, deadlifted. If you have picked up your child, you have performed some form of a deadlift. Probably with improper technique, and without realizing it, you have bent over into a hinged position, placed your hands around your child’s waist, (or under his armpits), and picked him or her up. This is, in essence, a deadlift. Perhaps not with good form, but nevertheless it is in essence a deadlift.

And yet most are scared of the Deadlift and shy away from it. I have heard several excuses, “that will break my back” or “I can’t deadlift, I have a bad back” (who doesn’t!) For some reason there is something fearful in seeing a loaded Barbell just waiting to be lifted.

The deadlift may be the simplest and easiest exercise to learn in all of barbell training.

You pick up a loaded barbell and set it back down, keeping the bar in contact with your legs the whole way, your back straight, and your whole core and abs engaged. The bar should move up and down the legs in a vertical line centered over the middle of the foot, starting from a position with the hands directly over the mid-foot, the center of balance. Simply put that’s about all there is to it. The deadlift is one of the most basic and important movements in strength training.

A properly executed deadlift involves the whole “Kinetic chain”, that is, the musculoskeletal components (the links) of a movement between the load (in this case the barbell) and the base of support (your feet against the floor). The kinetic chain in the deadlift is essentially the entire body, and everything between hands and floor is doing its anatomically determined proportion of the work; moving the bar (legs, hips, back, lats, arms and grip) and each contributing to their function of the lifting, that their individual positions on the skeleton and their relationship to each other.
It would be very difficult to invent a more natural exercise for the body than lifting a barbell. And if you progressively increase the load, always with proper form, then you are getting incrementally and naturally stronger. Your whole body is increasing strength, with one simple and natural lift.

The great thing about Barbell training is that when proper form is used your anatomy naturally sorts out each body part’s contribution. These large exercises, (The Squat, The Deadlift and The Overhead Press) are essentially normal human movement patterns loaded with a barbell to make them progressively heavier – thus eliminating the need for dozens of smaller exercises that train only single muscle groups.  The strength you obtain is directly applicable to your job of being an active human being. (I have purposely omitted the Bench Press as technically it is not a normal human movement, though still important in Barbell Training for reasons that go beyond this blog).

Many seem to fear the deadlift because for some reason they associate the movement with very big, bulky, muscular athletes that lift very heavy weights. This is indeed true, there are very big, bulky, muscular people lifting very heavy weights (The current record in the deadlift is in excess of 1,000 pounds, the women’s record is over 600 at the time of writing). In most cases the lifters walked safely and proudly away from the platform, in a few cases not, but that is an entirely different kind of deadlift, with a different purpose.   These are lifters that have taken Barbell training to a different level, to a competitive level, and once that happens, then Barbell Training becomes a SPORT, and in sports injuries are more prevalent.

However, we are not referencing competitive Barbell training in this instance. I am referring to using Barbell training as a means to make one better and stronger so you can be a better competitor in the ultimate game of life. Basically, the same movements you see at Power Lifting competitions can safely be used by anyone to develop a stronger body, a more resilient body. You just have to start with a lighter weight.

When well executed, the barbell deadlift is safer than picking up a 3-year-old child, because the bar can be placed directly over the middle of the feet, the body’s center of balance. The ability to keep the barbell balanced directly over the mid-foot as you pull it from the floor up to the lockout position enables heavy weights to be safely handled. And heavy weights is what makes people strong. In other words when performed correctly, with the barbell directly above the middle of your foot, the natural balance point against the floor, the weight travels in a vertical path during the movement, the load exerts no net leverage on your balance while the bar travels up and down.

A correct deadlift is performed with the back in “extension” – the normal anatomical position of the spine, which looks “flat” from the side during a deadlift. It is held rigid in extension by the back muscles, the abdominals (the core), and all the smaller muscles that lay between the ribcage and the pelvis that form what is essentially a cylinder of muscular support around the spine. These muscles get so much work during the deadlift that there is no need to do sit-ups or any other back exercises. (Certain types of Sit ups are actually pretty bad for the back, but I will leave that for another day). The deadlift is therefore a mechanically efficient, safe way to lift a weight. It is the way we were built to lift.


Resistance exercise strengthens muscles. Fact! If an exercise requires that you use certain muscles to perform the movement, and the movement is performed correctly, then the exercise strengthens all the muscles used in the movement as you lift progressively heavier weights.  Incorrect form is counter-productive; poor technique means some part of the kinetic chain was not utilized correctly – it failed to do the work, and therefore didn’t get strong…or got injured. The use of less-than-perfect technique allows some of the muscles to weasel out of doing their job, then they fail to get strong, and then they cannot do their job. If you don’t know how to Deadlift correctly, I strongly suggest you invest in a Coach.

Do you suffer from back pain? Then Deadlift. Do you have scoliosis? Then Deadlift. Do you have a bulging disk? Probably a good idea to start deadlifting. Do you suffer from sciatica? Deadlift! Guess what?  There still today is no real cure to back problems. You simply cannot replace the spine, (I wish it were that simple). What you CAN do is strengthen all those big and small muscles that support the spine, creating a cylindrical block of rock-hard muscles that keep that spine in place. Of all the possible exercises out there, the deadlift, when well performed is the most therapeutic of all. It’s a medicine and believe me, an addictive one. Once you feel the benefits of deadlifting, you will get hooked, whether you’re a power lifter or not.

The Deadlift uses all the major levers in the body the way they were meant to be used and works the majority of the muscles at the same time. In addition to allowing the use of heavy weights, this spreads the work over the whole system, thus keeping the majority of the stress off of any one single joint or muscle. As a multi-joint Barbell exercise, the deadlift can gradually increase in weight over a very long period of time and remain effective.

So, whether you want to become big, strong and powerful, or simply want to strengthen your core so that you can pick up your grandkids with ease or get up off a chair when you are 80, invest in the Deadlift. The KING of all training movements.

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