Ok, so maybe I cant pack in 'everything' you need to know about deadlifts in one article, but my hope is by sharing some of my go-to tips for beginners I start you down the right path to lifting success.
Deadlifts are an essential movement everyone at any age should be able to do. It is also one that gets a bad rap as dangerous. If you go and search deadlifts on Youtube right now you'll have all the proof you need to call them scary. But the truth is there isn't a more important exercise to learn and practice when it comes to overall strength, injury prevention, and weight loss. If you focus on some simple key pointers, the deadlift can be one of the most important tools in your fitness tool-box.
Deadlifts are not squats- What I mean is that typically the first thing we teach to new clients is how to 'hinge' at the hips with a neutral spine. Bending over and utilizing the musculature in the hamstrings as the main 'movers' is the steepest part of the learning curve for most people. It is much safer to hinge over with a flat back then it is to bend at the knees with a flexed spine.
Big Belly Brace- Learning to engage abdominal pressure as a way to create helpful tension to aid in keeping the spine straight and supported is the next step. Deadlifts are the king of 'core' exercises when you take the time to direct your focus on it. Take a big breath in and brace your belly as if your going to get a big punch in the gut. Keep this tension throughout the lift and you will be safe and the bar will feel a lot lighter.
Set From the Start- (Shins tall, Chest Big) When I teach athletes to lift, the work always starts before we even bend over to pick up the bar. I have all my clients walk up to the bar and make contact at the shins. I have them pull their shoulders back and down creating a proud chest (we call this the happy gorilla in our KidsFit class) and then tell them to pick up the bar. If you can pick up the bar without your shin pushing it forward and with your chest big and proud you will probably deadlift well.
Lift with a Purpose, not with Your Ego- There isn't a need to go heavy as a beginner, learning at slower tempos (the speed at which you lift) and at moderate weights is more than enough to stimulate strength and metabolic demand. Also, a lot of newer clients may need to switch up their technique if they are in-flexible. Changing to a sumo deadlift (wide legs, gripping bar narrow) or starting the bar of an elevated surface instead of the ground to limit the range of motion and stress on the back may be a good place to start.
Get a Coach/ Personal Trainer- Deadlifting is a tricky exercise to learn without any feedback. A lot of what needs attention is happening behind you (literally) and is hard to see in a mirror. Deadlifts are not a self-limited exercise, so unlike movements that need a level of technique to perform heavy (like snatch), you can lift a lot of weight with poor technique, so be picky and get help. As a minimum use a camera and take videos from different angles so you can see how well you doing.
Deadlifts are the foundation of any lifting exercise like cleans, kettlebell swings, snatches and more. The 'king' of lifts requires some practice but will pay off royally if you give it the attention it deserves.