Our ancestors practiced this ancient exercise on a regular basis, lifting stones and logs for shelter and other survival activities, but now we rarely do it as part of daily life. Yet, while it’s gone by many names and has fallen out of regular use, it remains one of the most important exercises for athletes of all kinds — it’s most commonly known as the deadlift.
The human body is specially designed to pick things up, to lift heavy objects. The ability to lift things well sets us apart from most other creatures. And since we have this special gift, we need to exercise it in order to maintain optimum health.
The largest muscles in the body (the glutes, hamstrings, core, and back) are all activated by this powerful lifting movement. These muscles, in fact, depend on lifting things for health. The ancient deadlift is probably the best overall exercise for strengthening the core, building strength, reinforcing the spine, and improving posture.
The deadlift can be included as part of a variety of fitness routines. Whether you want to strengthen your back and improve general health, burn excess fat, or build muscle mass, lifting heavy things will do the trick. Weight lifting boosts the body’s resting metabolism, which means burning more calories while not even lifting a finger. The deadlift is particularly good at boosting the metabolism because it activates so many major muscle groups at once.
If you want to build strength and muscle mass, deadlifts performed with heavy weight will activate the central nervous system and signal the body to produce growth hormones, increasing the body’s anabolic activity. Deadlifts also help develop a solid foundation of muscle for improved performance of all types of weight lifting exercises and athletic activities. In addition to strengthening the legs, core, and back, deadlifts are effective at improving grip strength, which can have great turnover application for sports like rock climbing.
There are a number of ways you can go about incorporating deadlifts into your fitness routine. If you want to start with something light or minimalistic, pick up a medium-sized rock during your next run. Grasp it with two hands, then pick it up and lower it to the ground in one smooth motion. Try doing three sets of 15 reps. If you want to get more serious about it, the best way to perform a deadlift is with a barbell. If you’re aiming for basic strength and fitness, start with a weight you can perform three sets of 12 reps with. If you’re hoping to add muscle mass, I recommend using a weight you can perform five sets of five with, or try increasing your weight progressively during each set (a pyramid lift).
The deadlift is an extremely taxing exercise, so most people only include this exercise in their fitness routine once a week. Also, it’s crucial that you maintain proper posture:
Keep your feet shoulder width apart, and stand with the middle of your feet under the bar, then reach down and grab the bar with an overhand grip. Your arms should be perpendicular with the floor.
Your knees should be bent and your upper body slightly leaning forward. Keep your back straight or slightly arched, then lift the weight, pushing up with your legs.
Shoulders should be slightly back and down.
Do not jerk the weight. Rely on the legs to lift the weight during the initial phase, then allow the momentum to assist your arms and back in lifting the weight the rest of the way.
Lockout in the standing position, then return the weight to the floor by pushing your hips back first and then bending the knees when the bar is at knee level.
Maintain posture and control as you return the bar.
If you’re a beginner, I recommend watching a few videos first and exercising with an experienced partner that can offer helpful pointers. It’s also a good idea to stretch and warm up with a few body weight squats before performing deadlifts.
Most importantly, have fun joining the ranks of ancient fitness practitioners with one of the most effective and practical exercises known to man!
Originally posted 2013-02-21 19:15:00.