Whether you are a novice or a seasoned lifter, the deadlift is one of the most beneficial exercises that you can perform.
If you aspire to develop full-body strength, mobility, and stability, you should be performing the deadlift regularly.
However, by failing to perform an adequate warm-up, many lifters do not maximize the potential of this movement.
Therefore, this article will begin by evaluating the warm-up and its importance, and then we’ve provided ten warm-up exercises that you should perform to improve deadlift performance.
The Benefits Of A Warm-Up
Warming up properly is an essential part of any workout. Unfortunately, many people often skip the warm-up and see it as unnecessary effort.
However, there are many benefits associated with performing a thorough warm-up.
Warm-ups increase body and muscle temperature. Warming the muscles appears to enhance the amount of oxygen that can be utilized (1).
An increase in body temperature also causes blood vessels to vasodilate thus enhancing blood flow and circulation to the muscles.
Additionally, warm-ups cause the heart rate to elevate. The heart pumps significantly faster to circulate oxygen around the body and to remove waste products, like carbon dioxide.
A combination of increased body temperature, vasodilation, and heart rate will allow oxygen to be supplied to the working muscles much more efficiently.
Many of the joints are also positively affected by an increase in body temperature – particularly the synovial joints.
A comprehensive warm-up will promote the production and flow of synovial fluid within the joints which serves to reduce friction (2).
Warm-ups can also increase the pliability of the inelastic tendons and ligaments which can enhance the mobility and flexibility of the joints.
The benefits of warm-ups extend further than just the physical. Warm-ups have been found to enhance mental readiness allowing you to prepare yourself for the forthcoming workout (3).
There is a wealth of literature to indicate that warm-ups significantly improve exercise performance (4). This performance-enhancement can be attributed to the aforementioned benefits.
Finally, ensuring that you participate in a warm-up can drastically reduce the risk of sustaining an injury (2).
The 10 Exercises
The following ten exercises look to activate the muscles that are heavily recruited in the deadlift while also focusing on enhancing mobility and stability.
1) Bird Dog
The bird dog is a simple but highly effective warm-up exercise that focuses on activating core musculature.
The core muscles play a pivotal role in the deadlift as they work to stabilize the spine and prevent any flexion from occurring.
Bird Dog Technique:
- Start on all fours – place the hands beneath the shoulders and knees under the hips
- Brace the core muscles
- In a controlled manner, fully extend one arm and the opposing leg
- While bracing, hold this position for ten seconds and return to the starting position
- Repeat on the opposite side
2) Downward Dog
The downward dog is a well-known yoga pose, however, the exercise isn’t exclusively for the yoga mat.
What makes the downward dog a great warm-up exercise for the deadlift is the fact that it can stretch out a number of key deadlift muscles including the hamstrings, lats, and low back.
Downward Dog Technique:
- Begin on your hands and knees with hands under shoulders and knees under hips
- Keeping the hands flat and arms extended, gently begin to extend the knees
- Extend until the legs are straight and the body forms an inverted V shape and hold
- Ensure that the spine stays in a neutral position throughout
3) Upward Dog
The upward dog shares a number of differences in comparison to the downward dog in terms of muscles worked and execution.
Instead of pushing the hips up, this pose involves dropping the hips to the floor. This will work the glutes, stretch the abdominals, and open up the chest.
Upward Dog Technique:
- Start by lying facedown on the floor with hands by the shoulders
- While keeping the hips down, press into the floor and extend the arms to lift the chest
- Pull the shoulder blades together and lift the sternum
- The hips should lift off the floor slightly with this pose
4) Glute Bridge
The glutes are hugely powerful muscles that will contribute greatly to the pull in the deadlift. However, many individuals fail to properly warm-up these muscles prior to deadlifting.
The glute bridge makes an excellent addition to a warm-up as it will improve posterior chain muscle recruitment.
Glute Bridge Technique:
- Begin by lying flat on the back with the hands by the hips
- Bend the knees to approximately ninety degrees and place the feet flat on the floor
- Prior to lifting the hips, engage the core muscles
- Powerfully drive the hips up and squeeze the glutes together at the top of the rep
- Control the descent and return to the starting position
5) Goblet Squat
The deadlift is a hip dominant exercise. Therefore, it makes sense to work on improving hip mobility prior to performing the deadlift.
The goblet squat is an excellent hip mobility exercise. The mechanics of the movement allow you to sit very deep into the squat and mobilize the hips, knees, and ankles.
Goblet Squat Technique:
- Start with a stance that is slightly wider than hip-width and point the toes out
- Grab a dumbbell or weight plate and pin it tight to the chest
- Drive the chest up and pull the shoulders back
- In a controlled fashion, descend into a deep squat and pause at the bottom
- While in the deep squat, rock in different directions to maximize joint mobilization
6) Hip Airplane
On the topic of hip mobility, another superb deadlift warm-up exercise is the hip airplane.
While this exercise can be challenging in terms of balance, it is worthwhile practicing. If maintaining balance is a struggle, perform the exercise while holding onto something stable.
Hip Airplanes Technique:
- Begin by balancing on one foot while keeping the back leg straight
- Push the hips backward, let the trunk tip forward, and hold this position
- From there, rotate the entire trunk to the left and then to the right
- Swap sides and repeat
The inchworm is an exercise that activates a variety of core muscles while simultaneously working the hamstrings, calves, ankles, shoulders, and wrists.
Considering the importance of core and posterior chain strength, the inchworm is a great pre-deadlift exercise.
- Begin in a plank position with the hands under the shoulders and legs fully extended
- Engage the core muscles
- Keeping the legs straight, walk the feet in towards the hands so that the hips rise
- Once this has been done, walk the hands forward and return to a plank
8) Lateral Lunges
The lateral lunge is another high-quality warm-up exercise that targets the glutes, quads, and adductors. These are muscles that all assist during the deadlift.
Furthermore, this exercise requires a decent amount of stability and hip mobility which are also required during a deadlift.
Lateral Lunges Technique:
- Start with the feet directly under the hips with the chest up and core engaged
- Take a big step out to the right and plant the foot
- Bend the knee and sit the hips back and down while keeping the inner leg straight
- Push hard through the heel to drive back up to standing
- Alternate leg and repeat
9) Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift
When it comes to single-leg strength and stability, there are few exercises that compare to the single-leg Romanian deadlift (or RDL).
An RDL is similar to a standard deadlift, however, there’s less movement through the knees. The single-leg RDL is an excellent exercise that promotes efficient muscle recruitment and stability.
Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift Technique:
- Begin by balancing on one foot with the trailing leg kept straight
- Lift the chest and engage the core before hinging the hips to tip the trunk forward
- Keep descending and attempt to touch the fingers to the floor
- Engage the glutes to extend the hips and stand
- Upon completion of reps, swap legs and repeat
10) Up And Over The Fence
To improve mobility through the hip, it is important that the adductors, hip flexors, and hamstrings are mobile.
The Up And Over The Fence drill effectively mobilizes the hip joint by stretching these muscles through movement.
Up And Over The Fence Technique:
- Start with the feet directly under the hips, chest lifted and core tight
- Bring one leg up by hinging the knee and driving it up towards the chest
- Once it nears the chest, rotate through the hip and swing the leg out to the side
- Plant the foot and then step the other foot over as if stepping over a high fence
- Alternate sides and continuously repeat
Many individuals underestimate the power of a thorough warm-up. If you are serious about improving your deadlift performance, it’s vital that you take time to warm-up properly.
The ten exercises listed in this article will enhance mobility, stability, and muscle recruitment to most effectively prime the body for a deadlift session.
1 – Racinais, Sébastien; Cocking, Scott; Périard, Julien D. (2017-08-04). “Sports and environmental temperature: From warming-up to heating-up”. Temperature: Multidisciplinary Biomedical Journal. 4 (3): 227–257. doi:10.1080/23328940.2017.1356427. ISSN 2332-8940. PMC 5605167. PMID 28944269.
2 – Woods, Krista; Bishop, Phillip; Jones, Eric (2007). “Warm-up and stretching in the prevention of muscular injury”. Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.Z.). 37 (12): 1089–1099. doi:10.2165/00007256-200737120-00006. ISSN 0112-1642. PMID 18027995.
3 – Park, Hyoung-Kil; Jung, Min-Kyung; Park, Eunkyung; Lee, Chang-Young; Jee, Yong-Seok; Eun, Denny; Cha, Jun-Youl; Yoo, Jaehyun (2018-02-26). “The effect of warm-ups with stretching on the isokinetic moments of collegiate men”. Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation. 14 (1): 78–82. doi:10.12965/jer.1835210.605. ISSN 2288-176X. PMC 5833972. PMID 29511656.
4 -Fradkin, Andrea J.; Zazryn, Tsharni R.; Smoliga, James M. (2010-01). “Effects of warming-up on physical performance: a systematic review with meta-analysis”. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 24 (1): 140–148. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181c643a0. ISSN 1533-4287. PMID 19996770.