The deadlift is one the best exercises there is and it’s unique in its capacity for increasing your strength from head-to-toe. It’s a simple exercise in terms of equipment needed. There aren’t any racks or any fancy stuff, just you and the barbell measuring out which one of you are stronger. Whether your goals are to increase strength, decrease bodyfat, get a lean body or just improve athletic performance, the deadlift is for you.
Deadlift requires quite a lot from the body since it’s a team effort from hundreds of muscles, mobility from your hips, ankles, and upper back. Deadlift comes in many forms and variations and with different deadlift variations we can put emphasis onto different muscles and joints. The common feature that all deadlift variations have is the training effect they place on the posterior chain muscles (muscles at the back of your body).
The Romanian deadlift variation
The Romanian deadlift variation is a hip-hinge movement that primary targets all three hamstrings muscles, glutes and upper back (additional work is done by the gripping muscles and the lower back). These muscles of your body are vital in most sports that jumping, sprinting or lifting. The conventional deadlift also targets these muscles but involves also your front tights(quadriceps) to the movement. The Romanian deadlift uses muscles of the spine statically, but still places a lot of stress on your lower back. Don’t allow your spine to round but maintain a tightly arched lower back for the whole movement. With round-back you are supporting the weight on your spine and it squeezes your spinal discs which can cause injuries.
Stiff legged deadlift variation
The Stiff legged deadlift variation and the Romanian deadlift are very similar exercises and the differences in technique are minor. Never the less these two exercises are different and targets your muscles in a different way. The stiff legged deadlift variation is a deadlift that is performed with high hips while trying to target hamstrings. You keep your knees locked, but slightly bended and lean forward, like you are trying to touch your toes. When performing stiff legged deadlift variation, your hips and hamstrings does primary work. However, you’re going to notice that you’re going to fatigue your lower back as well. The stiff legged deadlift is a good variation for those whom have knee issues, but want to have deadlifts in their workouts. When taking the barbell to the upward position, remember to squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement.
The sumo deadlift variation is great for those that are not quite mobile enough to get all the way to the bar or for lifters that have bigger bellies. Sumo deadlift helps you to build mobility that’s needed to perform a conventional deadlift. Sumo is suited for people that have short arms and long torsos, since you don’t have to work so hard to get down so low to grasp the bar. The sumo deadlift variation is a wide-stance deadlift that brings the lifters closer to the ground and allows the lifters to keep their torso up taller. With a wide stance, you are also able to go with heavier weights, since your range of motion is shorter than in the other deadlift variations. The sumo deadlift targets more heavily your glutes and adductors, making it an excellent lift for building great hip strength with little lower back stress.
The trap bar deadlift variation
The barbell is shaped like a diamond or a hexagonal in the middle, allowing you to stand inside and hold the weight out in front of you. Because of you are able to step inside the trap bar (hex bar) rather than stand behind it, force on the spine is reduced and the elevated handles can help lifters that have hip and ankle mobility issues. By stepping inside of the trap bar, you also gain the help of leverage and torque that allow you to deadlift with greater weight. Compared to a straight bar variations of the deadlift, the trap bar deadlift activates less of your back muscles and shifts the load from back and hamstring muscles to your quads. The trap bar is specially for those who want to relieve stress from the back muscles.
Compared to the sumo deadlift variation, the conventional deadlift is a more hip-dominant exercise. It’s an exercise where your movement comes from your hips, not your knees. You are more like sitting back than sitting down. Since your center of gravity is forward over the bar, the conventional deadlift will cause more stress on your spine. The conventional deadlift also requires full mobility in every joint and it’s considered to the most advanced version of the deadlift.
Deadlifts are exercises that use heavy weights and due to the complexity of the movement, potential for injury increases. You must focus on your movement throughout the whole movement with every variation of the deadlift.
Here are some tips that will help you get the most out of the deadlift:
- Don’t hyper-extend. At the top the deadlift some people have the habit of leaning back. This squeezes the discs in your back and can result in injuries.
- Don’t lift it dead. Although the name is deadlift try rolling the bar before pulling it up. The idea of this is that when the bar/weights are in motion they tend to stay in motion. If the bar is moving along the floor, it’s easier to pull it up.
- Perform the movement as smooth as possible. With a fluid motion, you decrease the risk of injury. Never jerk with the weight.
- Build grip strength or try straps. When you start pulling heavy enough you might notice that your deadlift strength is limited by what you can hold in your hands. You can build grip strength by holding the bar at the top position during the heaviest set. Straps are used to help you to hold bar in your hands, so you can focus on the pull portion of the lift instead of focusing on the grip.
- Take your shoes off. Sounds strange at first but there’s logic behind of this. Most shoes that we ware make us 2-5cm/1-2 inches taller, that means that the bar has to travel that amount more when we lift it up. Going barefoot allows you to sit back on your heels more and you have better control of the bar. If you can’t go barefoot at your gym try to wear a flat-style shoes or shoes that don’t have shock-absorbers or gel-fillings.
Which one is the best?
There isn’t just one deadlift that is the best, but for different purposes there are different deadlifts that might be better for your purpose. First, you have decide what is your main goal that you are trying to achieve: strength gaining, fat loss, improve athletic performance or bigger muscles.
Decide what muscles you want to target and with how many repetitions. Different deadlifts target different muscles on your body. With the conventional deadlift, you will activate posterior chain muscles more than you would activate on the anterior chain. For aesthetic or fat loss purposes, higher-rep sets of deadlifts may be something you think about consider.
Do you have some limitations on what variations you can perform? Some variations require more mobility from the spine and joints, and some body types are more or less suited to certain variations of a movement.
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