I love the deadlift. For me there is no other form of training that is more stress relieving, mood enhancing, ego boosting, and satisfying. The deadlift is, in my opinion, the king of all compound lifts. If I had to choose between the squat or deadlift, I would choose deadlift. When performed correctly, the deadlift will not only hit the lower back, but will also hit the quads, hamstrings, calves, glutes, traps, and forearms. You should deadlift because it recruits practically the whole body, promoting full body muscular development. Correctly performing a deadlift will not only bring balance to a physique, but it will also help prevent injury.
I utilize deadlifts as a back exercise, or rather, I do deadlifts on ‘back day.’ The deadlift will train your entire back area, but of special importance is the aid it will provide for good posture. From the base of your skull down to your tailbone, the deadlift recruits and strengthens the muscles of the spine that help maintain posture and support. You may think it backwards, but if you have back pain, deadlifting may be right for you. Now don’t run out and deadlift with a hernia or slipped disc. Of course, always consult a physician prior to beginning any new workout routine, especially one tailored to injury treatment.
I incorporate deadlifting into my routine once a week and I try to make each routine a little different. My last two deadlifting sessions have been especially taxing. A couple of weeks ago I took a GVT approach to deadlifts and performed ten working sets of ten reps. The standard approach for GVT is to work with a weight of 60% of your one rep max. My current max is 425 which would have put my working weight at 255. I knew I could not perform the prescribed sets at that weight so I made the executive decision to go lighter – and what a good call that was. After a few light warm-up sets and exercises, I loaded up 225 pounds and got to work.
By the third set I was already starting to show signs of fatigue; I was sweating, panting, and shaking. After the fifth set I felt as though I was ready to be done. By the seventh set I was huffing and puffing as if I had just runs sprints. The eighth set made me mad. The tenth set was glorious. At the end of it I was a shaking mess. I couldn’t breathe, the floor was soaked, my clothes were drenched, and I even dry heaved. *Uh oh – I think I overtrained* The result? DOMS set in within 5 hours. The next two days had my back muscles more tender than I can ever remember.
The next variation in the deadlift routine was to utilize cluster training. There are different variations to cluster training, but I went with a hypertrophy emphasis which dealt with a working weight of my 6RM. In my case I used 315 pounds. The program looked like this:
315×6, rest 30 seconds
315×2, rest 30 seconds
315×2, rest 30 seconds
315×2, rest 30 seconds
Repeat for 5 total sets
As hard as I tried, and I tried HARD, I barely completed the fourth set and elected to forego the fifth. I was exhausted, and attempting the fifth set was not worth the injury. As with the GVT method, I was left a panting and shaking mess, sitting in a pool of my own filth. *Damn – I overtrained, again*
The result? DOMS set in within 5 hours and my back is just tender as before, more so in the lower region.
To again clarify my opinion on DOMS, I do not view DOMS as a marker for a successful workout. Yes, DOMS is a good way to tell if you in fact worked the correct muscle (ever had a sore back after heavy bar curls? Go lighter….), but DOMS tells me I worked the muscle beyond what it is accustomed to. This is important to know since variation is incredibly important if you want to experience continued growth.
To perform a correct deadlift, follow these guidelines:
1. Stand centered behind a bar with your feet shoulder width apart. Stand so that the balls of your feet are under the bar. I step forward enough that the bar is actually touching my shins.
2. Begin a squatting movement as if to sit down, bending your knees until you are able to grasp the bar. Keep your back straight.
3. When grasping the bar, the grip is up to you, but I prefer to use an underhand grip on my dominant (right) hand and an overhand grip for my left.
4. To ensure that you have not lost your posture, face ahead and aim your chest at the ceiling. This should lock you in.
5. Stand up. Maintain a straight back by raising your hips and shoulder at the same rate. One ahead of the other will lead to poor form, most like the back bending over the bar, which can result in serious injury. Once upright, lock the shoulder back and let the weight hang in front of you.
6. Return the bar to the ground in the same controlled motion.