Some gyms don’t have large barbells. I know, it’s a shocker. So how are you going to work on your dead lifts without a long bar loaded down with plates?
The answer is dumbbells. You can practice your functional lifts with dumbbells. Many smaller gyms will have a set of dumbbells that start at 5 pounds and increase to 50 or even 75 pounds. So next time you gaze into your apartment or hotel fitness center, don’t be discouraged. Make the dumbbell rack your own and try these exercises.
The first exercise is the dead lift. It is a supertransferable movement that can be used everywhere. Today I have illustrated this lift from starting at the top, or standing, position instead of the bottom position with the weights on the floor. I have found this works well for a couple of reasons. First, when you lift a barbell from the floor, the larger plates elevate the bar to the lower shin. It is a comfortable depth to pull from. It’s not too high or too low.
Lifting dumbbells from the ground can be difficult for beginners. Maintaining a straight back and vertical shin can be tricky from a low depth. Starting from the top is easier to gauge your own depth capability. If your back starts to lose its lumbar curve and round forward, then start over and keep the core tighter.
The second reason is for convenience. The dumbbell rack is most often hip height. Starting at that point saves bending and reduces the chance for dropping the weights. Remember your gym etiquette: Don’t drop the weights, and return them when done.
Dead lift form can take some time to master. If you take it slow, you can be ready for more weight in no time. In an earlier column this year, I had a guest professional demonstrate the dead lift form with a PVC pipe. It works wonders for mastering the dead lift form in a controlled setting. Check it out for some more tips on form.
The whole body gets involved with this move. The back and core contract and stay that way during the whole movement. From there the hips hinge backward and the torso subsequently descends with the dumbbells. Keep the weights close to the body. If your shins are vertical then your knees won’t be in the way.
At your lowest position, have a trainer or gym buddy check your form — back straight, shins vertical, shoulders in front of the knees and head neutral. Perform dead lifts with no weight until your form is solid.
Dead lifts are good for both men and women. They help to weather the spine and create strength that lasts. Beginners can use the dead lift form to help develop proper muscle recruitment. I have both men and women perform them to train for powerful hip extension. A powerful hip extension is one of the keys to sports performance.
Dead lifts work every muscle in the body. The back and core stabilize to hold the spine straight while lifting the load. The main muscles worked are the glutes and hamstrings. If you want a fit rear end, dead lift. If you want a shredded back, dead lift. If you want to be more fit, you guessed it, dead lift.
The second exercise is a triceps extension. It is illustrated on a mat but can be done on a padded bench just as easily. Triceps strength is key for pressing movements. If your bench press or shoulder press is lacking, try strengthening the triceps.
Chris Huth is a Las Vegas trainer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Consult your physician before beginning any exercise program.