I love the deadlift! A bit of bias straight away…but shit doth happen. 🙂
The lift itself is such a massive strength builder that crosses most sports and movements.
It works the whole of the posterior chain from your calcaneus to your occiput and promotes strength in extension primarily hip drive/hinge
This along with the kettlebell swing create an almighty combination for extension and thereby ‘acceleration’ in locomotion.
Lets take a deeper dive
In the traditional deadlift the drive should start from ‘pushing the ground away’.
It seems insignificant by if you ‘lift’ it you’ll lift with your hands as they are highly innervated in which most will try and pull it then retracting their shoulder girdle, then through pull through their backs and legs.
This creates a faulty movement sequence which can often overload the upper back and traps. The upper traps are especially susceptible to overuse as they have an Alpha 1 motor unit and will activate rapidly and do any work at the drop of a hat. as you lift it creates a downward eccentric pull (depression of shoulder girdle, the muscle spindles react to the stretch and cause a reflex)This is why you see big traps in Crossfitters! this is due to faulty movement patterns caused by fatigue and to lift at all costs. When fatigued the hip hinge starts to disappear and you rely on a stretch reflex and pull with your hands.
Note: I have nothing against cross fit, and quite like it but you’ve all got big traps for a reason 🙂
As you drive the ground away the foot splays out and all 33 joints start to work together to create an area for ground reaction. You push with the whole of your foot and NOT YOUR HEEL!
Unless you walk on your heels all day…Do you?
Top tip: Big toe activates glutes
So whole foot!
your Soleus and Gastroc (lower leg) will contract as they connect the Achilles to the knee, which then allows the hamstrings (Knee – hip) to contract. Providing there is at least a 20 degree angle at the knee the IT Band will advise the glutes to contract as it will become taught (DO NOT FOAM ROLE, IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE TAUGHT) and this blends into glute max and TFL (tensa fascia late).
Side note: If you have issues with your IT Band there is a very good chance it’s an issue with your hips either sagittal or frontal, so look there. More on this in future blogs!
when the bar is at knee level this then initiates the hip extension/drive/hinge. Between 45 – 90 degrees of hip flexion/extension this is when there is maximum pressure on your intervertebral discs, so technique especially with a heavy load needs to be perfect. It at the 45 degree mark (critical point) that your core needs to be strong. A weak core will normally result in loss of function which could result in injury and/or loss in performance.
Most will feel maximum contraction/pull in their thoracolumbar fascia (lower back) this is where your Latissimus Dorsi, External Oblique, Transverse Abdominis blends in together to create the hydraulic amplifier effect which is a massive team effort to overcome greater forces than if they were just all individuals. It does this by creating a hoop tension in your abdomen, and this added pressure resists the flexion forces caused by the weight and gravity.
As well as this, providing you breathed in just before the bar lift, and as you lift your controlling the breath out, your diaphragm will act as a spinal stabiliser along with your pelvic floor to create what is classically known as your core. This creates an internal pressure to allow you to lift the weight successfully.
As the bar moves further up your thigh, the musculature of the upper back ensure that there is retraction of the shoulder girdle which stabilises the thoracic spine and allows your occiput (head) to remain in place.
you then lower the bar back under control breathing in all the way.
1 rep completed.
How awesome is this movement?
How to adapt it
I’m a big fan of the sumo stance deadlift.
The sumo stance results in a 10% reduction in movement and an 8% reduction in shear force at L4/L5 intervertebral discs https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1758295/
You will also engage your glute max and adductors allot more than conventional. If you do have lower back issues I would recommend going to sumo stance and if you have a knee issue such as an ACL tear then a stiff legged deadlift with still 20 degree bend at the knee will minimise knee movement whilst strengthening the knee to hip and hip hinge mechanism.
But I’m not a weightlifter should I do this?
Yes! If you’re an endurance runner, cyclist etc. Focus on getting the movement correct, then focus on reps. 15-20 reps, 2 seconds lift, 1 second pause then 3 seconds lower. This will equal 6 seconds per rep x 15 = 90 seconds per set 20 reps will be 2 minutes per set which will challenge your aerobic system and stimulate slow twitch fibres. this makes it ideal to strengthen and it’s closed chain movement so no impact.
If you wanted to seriously increase strength as an endurance runner for example make sure you keep the sets fairly low, as an increase in volume may put on weight you don’t need, but ideally 3-4 sets x 5 reps per set with 2-3 minutes rest in between sets.
There are always ways of adapting any exercise either progress or regress to suit ability and/or injury. One Zen Personal Trainers can do this for you. If you found this information useful then please share, or if you think I can teach that, then why not? We have our Diploma in Personal Training that runs throughout the year in Milton Keynes with other regions coming soon.
enjoy your lifting