Picking up anything from the floor, whether it be car keys or a case of bottled water, requires the most functional of movements. Your most functional movements may be limited and you might not even know it.
Many people avoid dead lifts because they fear a back injury, and for good reason. Lifting something incorrectly will cause injury. That's been one of my common themes throughout this column series.
Once upon a time, dead lifts were called health lifts. That's because they are one of the most functional movements out there. Practicing them and getting to a point where you can do them well brings huge benefits.
One of those benefits is hip mobility. If the hips have enough flexibility to do a dead lift, the spine will be in better health. If the hips are tight and inflexible, then the lower back makes up for the range of motion that the hips lack. This can lead to a tight lower back and eventual injury. In my experience as a trainer, most people have some degree of tight hips. Unlocking the hips with stretches and foam rolling will help increase their mobility and give you a better dead lift.
Another benefit is strength; strength where you need it the most. The butt, legs, core and back are the main areas worked in a dead lift. Dead lifts use all these muscles in the proper ways. Power comes from the glutes, hamstrings and quads. Stabilization comes from the core and upper body. Ladies, if you want awesome hips, practice your dead lifts. Gentlemen, if you want power and a shredded back, dead lifts will be a staple exercise.
To help illustrate a proper dead lift I have recruited Royce Laguerta. He is a CrossFit trainer and dietitian. Why did I find a CrossFit trainer instead of just doing this column myself? Well, CrossFit is a method of training to make well-rounded athletes. CrossFit athletes perform well in many areas because they train in many areas. One of those areas is lifting. Basically, I like the way CrossFit teaches Olympic lifts. They start with the basics and work up from there. If you don't master the basics, you don't advance.
Today's column focuses on the basics. That's why there are no weights in the photos or video. For practicing the basics, Royce uses a PVC pipe. Mops and broomsticks work just as well. Using a pole allows you to practice form without using any weight. It is a safe way to start. Finding major form issues with a plastic pole is better than finding them with intense pain and lots of weight. It is also a good way to warm up before your weighted workout.
The exercises illustrated today are both dead lifts. One of the dead lifts is full range of motion. It starts at the bottom, just as if you were lifting a loaded bar. The other one is a modified version. If your hips are tight, or your back keeps rounding, the modified dead lift is an excellent starting place. It begins from a standing position and uses a decreased range of motion. Be sure to check out the video online for more thorough walk-throughs of both exercises.
Chris Huth is a Las Vegas trainer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Consult your physician before beginning any exercise program.