Why is The Deadlift Important? Good question, which is frequently asked by trainees. Admittedly Deadlifts are not an absolute prerequisite to getting bigger and stronger, and certainly not everyone has to do heavy Deadifts. Those who can’t learn to perform the movement correctly, or have a back injury for example, shouldn’t do them. The importance of deadlifting for functional back strength however, cannot be overstated.
The Importance Of Deadlifting
From a functional perspective, lower back strength is obviously an important component of sports conditioning, and effective force transfer. Deadlifts have been shown to build back strength more effectively than any other exercise. Back strength is obviously useful for lifting, carrying, sporting activities etc, and therefore the importance of deadlifting should not be overlooked.
Being old school, I learned many years ago, that often the exercises we tend to hate the most, and therefore generally avoid, are the ones we should be doing, and would derive the most benefit from – the Deadlift is a prime example.
Deadlifts are brutally hard, and can be problematic for trainees if they are performed incorrectly – which they often are. The reason for this misdemeanour is that some people never master their correct execution for some reason. Additionally, they are also very easy to overtrain. A heavy workout will require a long recovery time. At this stage of my life, I only train Deadlifts every three weeks and often for only one work set, as it’s easy to get beat up doing this move. Additionally I sometimes replace it with Snatch Grip Deadlifts, and Rack Pulls.
The Development Of Grip Strength
Aside from building back strength, Deadlifts work grip strength more effectively than any of the other barbell moves. Grip strength is important, and can be a limiting factor on Deadlifts, as your back becomes stronger.
Unfortunately the human body is only as strong as its weakest link, as I am ironically discovering, as a result of Rheumatoid Arthritis. My grip strength has diminished as a result of the illness, but my back is still relatively strong. I have to virtually tie myself to the bar, with weights that I could formerly lift without straps! Having to use straps to lift anything heavy is a pain in the ass, but my wrist strength is now irrepairably compromised unfortunately.
For healthy trainees at the beginning of their weight training career however, this is not a problem, and rarely an issue. At this stage the hands are usually stronger than the back is, and so long as you only use straps for your heaviest lifts, and not on your warm up sets, your grip will get stronger as required.
Deadlifts done correctly are hard, and most trainees don’t like doing them. Many will simply leave them out of their workout at the slightest opportunity, even if they maintain the fortitude to Squat regularly.
The Benefits Of Deadlifts
Deadlifts however, have huge carryover to other lifts, because back strength is necessary to those lifts, and other functional pursuits. Deadlifts build great overall body strength, and use more muscles than any of the major movements. Additionally they are probably second only to squats, in eliciting the increased production of hormones responsible for systemic muscle growth.
The Deadlift also develops all of the major muscle groups responsible for correct posture and core strength.
Correct Form And Execution
The Deadlift is admitedly sometimes difficult to learn, and as previously stated, often performed incorrectly – the dreaded rounded lower back, is the most common problem encountered by the majority of those learning the lift. The teaching and execution of this lift however, warrants an article in itself.
In the meantime check out ExRx.net or You Tube, for correct exercise form videos.
Once proper technique is learned however, you don’t have to work with maximum loads – I would certainly avoid limit singles. After warm-ups, one work set of five is usually sufficient, and an estimate of your one rep max can easily be made from your five rep max, if the ego requires it.
Additionally whilst the importance of deadlifting over a full range of movement should not be underestimated, some of the partial variations of this lift are also beneficial, and in some cases better at building a more muscular back, due primarily to the potentially increased loading. When performed with the bar in an elevated position in the power rack, Snatch Grip Deadlifts and Rack Pulls are prime examples.
I remember that when I first did Rack Pulls from around knee height, I could use weights in excess of 50 kg over my deadlift max for reps! This gives you a tremendous feeling of power, and gets the central nervous system used to holding a very heavy weight.
Rack Pulls put meat on my upper back and traps, more effectively than any Rows had previously done. So much so, that I received a number of comments about it from people, so the physical change was evidently significant!
Lifting a big weight off the floor, using virtually the entire body musculature, is primordial in its appeal. Standing and holding a big weight also creates a wonderful feeling of immense strength, unmatched by any other exercise.
The deadlift is probably the truest benchmark of overall physical strength.
Don’t underestimate the importance of deadlifting regularly and ensure these are an integral part of your program. Every time you deadlift, you will get stronger both physically and mentally. This is a great feeling.