Truth or false: deadlifts are dangerous. The answer: It depends!

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When a Good Lift Goes Bad: How to Recognize and Avoid Bad Deadlift Form

When done correctly, the deadlift is safe, effective, and nearly unrivaled in its ability to help you develop power and strength. But of all the lifting movements out there, it’s the deadlift that you really need to ensure you’re performing with correct form. Why? Because a poorly performed deadlift can lead to a pretty significant back or leg injury—injuries that may take you out of the gym, out of sport, or even out of work.
No bueno.


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So, before we talk about why we encourage everyone to learn the deadlift (i.e., pick an object up off the ground, here are a few key pointers on maintaining good form:

  1. Keep your chest up, abs tight, and your back neutral throughout the lift—no rounding or hyper-extending your spine.
  2. Start with your shoulders slightly ahead of the bar, with your shoulders pulled down and back (think “break the bar”) to activate your lats.
  3. Keep your heels on the floor and your weight in your heels throughout the movement.
  4. Keep the bar close to you as you lift.
  5. Think about pushing your legs down through the floor rather than pulling up with your back. This will remind you to engage your glutes, hamstrings, and quads.

For a more detailed, step-by-step instruction, check out this page, or watch this simple video.

deadlift-importance
If you can’t maintain these key points of form for any reason (e.g., flexibility issues, body awareness difficulties, etc.), then find a personal trainer who can help you modify the movement or give you some preparatory exercises. Don’t be fooled by its simplicity: the deadlift is a serious lift, and as such requires some serious respect.

5 Reasons Why You Should Learn (and Use!) the Deadlift

There are tons of reasons why just about anyone (from your grandma to your superstar athlete kid) should learn how to do a correct deadlift. Here are just 5:

  1. The deadlift increases your strength in all the right places, including core, grip, and the all important “posterior chain” (back, glutes, and hamstrings). This can translate to gains in other exercises and better movement during your day-to-day activities.
  2. It helps you develop power, which is slightly different from strength. Power = the ability to move heavy loads quickly, and is a critical and foundational skill most sports.
  3. It stimulates your central nervous system and can maximize the efficiency with which your brain communicates with your muscles.
  4. It can increase testosterone and human growth hormone production, both of which are important for both male and female health.
  5. It accelerates fat burning because you have to recruit so many muscle fibers to perform the lift that you end up burning more calories during and after your heavy lifting session.

If you’re a complete deadlift newbie, ask a trainer or knowledgeable gym buddy for some pointers. Don’t be intimidated by this awesome lift, and be sure to add it in at least once a week. Your body will thank you!

Sara M

Author Sara M

Sara M. is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and freelance writer living and working near Boston, MA. As a former CrossFit gym owner and current fitness lover, Sara has a lot of personal and professional experience inside and outside the gym. She loves to write about various topics related to health, wellness, nutrition, human behavior, and self-mastery.

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