When it comes to deadlifting, the image that most commonly comes to mind is that guy or girl in your gym ripping a loaded barbell off the ground. And for some, that is their end goal. To pull as much weight as possible off the ground. But for others, that’s not their goal. They just want to look and feel awesome in their everyday life. Deadlifting from the floor may not be for you, but hinging in some capacity will build strength around one of the fundamental movements we do every singe day. The barbell deadlift is one variation of a hinge, and one that may not be the right fit for you, but you’re in luck. There are countless other ways to hinge, we just have to explore your movement capabilities to find the one that is the best fit. Like Cinderellas shoe…or the porridge in Goldilocks.
What if you avoid the deadlift because you already hate the very idea because of all the horror stories you’ve heard from friends, neighbors, or that one guy who couldn’t move for a week after picking something off the floor. If the very idea of deadlifting sends your spinal discs running, then maybe you should read on about building from the ground up. With a properly executed deadlift or hip hinge you can do wonders for creating a resilient back.
“What’s In a Name”
How did the deadlift get its name? Without a doubt it came from picking up the dead during the plague. 100% true story. Probably. Maybe not. But here’s a Monty Python clip anyway.
Deadlift From the Ground Up
When it comes to executing a solid hinge/deadlift, this is the thought process that I go through, especially if we’re working on building back from an injury, like something in the low back. We start from the ground up.
These two patterning drills teach us what constitutes a good hinge vs a sub optimal hinge vs a squat. The quickest and easiest way to execute this is to start from a kneeling position, then progress to standing.
Tall Kneeling Hinge– This is a great place to start as there is no risk of injury in this pattern, and it takes some of the miscues at the ankles and knees out of the equation. What we get is a solid patterning drill to set us up for success when we move to a standing position.
Band Assisted Patterning– This drill is good for two things, teaching a solid bar path, and the band creating some reflexive tension in the lats and core.
Band Pullthrough– While the above drill was great for bar positioning, and teaching lat tension, the pullthrough utilizes a band to actually pull you into that hip hinge position we’re looking for.
Let’s Add Some Load
Kettlebell Deadlift– A great intro into a loaded hinge, the kettlebell keeps the weight centrally located between your legs. This eliminates any problems that mobility restrictions may play in not being able to do it. What you can also do to create an easier transition into loaded hinges is elevate the kettlebell so that there is less movement required.
The one drawback to the kettlebell is that you can only load so much before it becomes easy. At AMP, our heaviest bell is 48kg or about 105lbs. So there is a bit of a ceiling. You could extend that by using two bells, but at a certain point we may need to progress to a new lift.
Hex Bar– The Hex Bar is a great progression and can be a good starting point mostly because of the way it’s designed. Since the weight is on the outside of your body, it’s easier to maintain an upright position, which means a lot less stress on the back. That can ease a lot of people fear right off the bat.
Elevated Surface– This is our first barbell lift. It is important to note that you may never get to this point, and that’s ok. Not everyone is built to use a barbell. With the Hex Bar, the load was on the outside, the barbell creates a new challenge with the bar/load in front of you. This presents a slightly different approach, as if there are mobility restrictions, you may not get to the bar without compensations.
Before you lift from the floor, lets see how you do with an elevated surface. Now this can be off of blocks as shown in the video, but you can also perform rack pulls if your gym allows it. Either way, the elevated surface will create an exercise requiring less range of motion. The decrease in requisite range of motion makes for an “easier” exercise.
The deadlift can have a tendency to make people cringe. It’s probably the one exercise that is met with the most fear and trepidation because it has the reputation for being injurious to the back. However, when you go through the progressions laid out before you, there should be no need for concern.