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Deadlifts are an incredible full-body workout that can build your strength and stamina IF you’re doing them correctly. The key to deadlifts is concentration. Some people may lose focus or not engage the correct parts of their body when performing deadlifts. This can lead to poor exercise results and even personal injury. Whenever you’re taking on a new exercise or routine, you want to make sure you’re educated on the proper form, suitable equipment, and best ways to help your body recover afterward.
Most people perform deadlifts using Olympic bars or barbells however, you can also perform them with dumbbells and even resistance bands. Whatever your fitness equipment of choice for deadlifts, it’s important to make sure starting, maintaining, and ending with good form. We’re going to dive deep into how you can get the best results from your deadlifts and a challenging version of the deadlift known as the Zercher Deadlift.
How Proper Deadlift Technique Can Be Affected
Most people do not lift and deadlift as efficiently as they should with their technique. The problem most people encounter with the deadlift is not just improper technique, but bad technique plus poor general fitness. For example, deadlifts are more effective at bringing the barbell to your chest and pronating your legs than they are from the hips and glutes or any combination of the three.
Deadlifts are very similar to the bench press and squat in that improper weight and movement will cause injury. If your lift technique is poor, it is likely because of inadequate strength in the hips, quads, hamstrings, and calves or a combination. Fitness coaches often educate trainees that they need to build strength in these areas, as well as practicing good form before moving into deadlifts. Improper mechanics such as grip size, elbow position, elbow size, and even body shape interfere with proper technique and results.
The key to lifting efficiently is muscular endurance so you should focus on doing maximum repetitions faster rather than training with lighter weights. Toning the triceps, back muscles, shins and traps will all aid your conditioning to help you achieve your goals. Most bodybuilders use this type of technique when performing deadlifts, inverted rows, sticking or trunk raises. You may hold a 1-2 second negative for assistance. If you start with this technique, you’re helping your body to increase in endurance. You can gradually add more weight to help improve your muscle strength as well as density.
How to Perform Deadlifts with Barbells
You will likely see more people performing deadlifts at the gym with a barbell. This is because barbells can support the most weight, and you want to use heavy weights when performing deadlifts to get the best results. Again, be sure to do your warm-up reps first, then move onto the heavier weights.
If you deadlift using a conventional barbell, the bar should remain directly over the mid-foot. Start with a warm-up set, when performing conventional deadlifts. Your weight load for a warm-up should be between 70-85% of your one-rep max. After performing your warm-up it’s important to use heavy, but not excessive, weight. Using heavyweight will prevent you from shrugging your shoulders or retracting your scapula, and won’t overstrain your muscles.
Here’s how to perform a traditional deadlift correctly:
- Standing in front of the barbell, bend forward at your hips, bending your knees and grasping the barbell with a mixed grip. Position the bar so it is about 1-3 inches out from your shins. Keep your head up and your shoulders back. As a rule of thumb, you should be able to see the front of your chest in the mirror.
- Maintain a straight back and engage your abs to protect your spine.
- Dig your heels into the ground, and straighten your knees and hips to lift the barbell from the floor by straightening your knees and hips.
- Hold the barbell in front of your thighs. Maintain arms straight down, and engage the shoulders. Avoid shrugging.
- Tilt your pelvis forward to conform to the bar through the bottom.
- In a controlled motion, lower the weight. Be sure to engage your glutes and adductors to drive the bar down.
- Warm-up the body with six reps of light weights, then move up to heavier weights, performing 3 sets of 3-5 reps.
REMEMBER: Do Not Sit Back! Avoid rounding your upper back, using your upper chest or lats to pull the bar down. Never raise the weight off the floor until the bar touches the lowest position of the lockout. Unlock your knees as the bar is about to touch your shins. Do not tuck your hips, lower your back into a rounded position. Instead, flex your feet or squat so that you don’t bend your knees too much at the bottom of the exercise. As you lower the weight, keep the bar directly over your shins.
We cannot repeat this enough! Proper form is a crucial component when performing deadlifts. Improper form can put too much strain and compression on the low back, neck, shoulders, and legs. If you need help with your form you can always ask someone to spot you, or if you’re working out alone, you can review how to properly do a deadlift on YouTube.
What Is A Zercher Deadlift and How Do You Do It?
Once you’ve mastered the traditional deadlift, and you want to challenge your body without adding more weight, try the Zercher deadlift. If you ever see someone doing Zercher deadlifts, pay close attention to their form as it takes a lot of practice. Most athletes doing Zercher deadlifts are huge! This movement is crucial for athletes that want to get big.
A Zercher deadlift technique may seem unorthodox to the untrained eye. But for those who are familiar with a Zercher deadlift, it’s an intense movement that requires you to maneuver in a cycling motion. The term “Zercher” refers to where you hold the barbell. When performing this type of deadlift you hold the bar in the crook of your elbows. Some people confuse this with a Zercher squat however, the difference is a Zercher deadlift is lifted from the floor.
This is why only highly-trained athletes should perform the Zercher deadlift as most people trying to cradle the barbell from the floor in the crook of their elbows have difficulty maintaining a safe body position. However, once you’ve built full-body strength and practiced good form with traditional deadlifts, you should give Zercher deadlifts a try. Zercher deadlifts are incredibly beneficial for building your upper back and biceps, strengthening your squat, improving your traditional deadlift, and providing a great metabolic movement.
Here’s how you perform a Zercher deadlift correctly.
- Start in a regular deadlift stance
- Pick up the loaded barbell off the floor like a traditional deadlift.
- From here, squat down and rest the barbell on your quads momentarily.
- Since you’re in a squatting position, you should easily be able to move your arms underneath the barbell and set it in the crook of your elbows.
- Hook the barbell with your arms, and press into your heels as you move from the squatted position to stand all the way up.
- Return to the squatting position, rest the bar on your quads and grip the bar for a traditional deadlift, bring the bar back down to the floor as you would with a traditional deadlift. This completes one Zercher deadlift cycle.
- Perform 3-4 sets of 3-6 reps.
Remember to practice caution when doing a movement like a Zercher deadlift, or trying any compound exercise. Health and safety go hand-in-hand, so when you’re building up your body, use the correct form and proper equipment.
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