Deadlifts are one of the best exercises that anyone can do.
They are great for developing lower body strength and upper body stability.
That being said, do a quick YouTube search of deadlifts and you will see some pretty gruesome things.
I cannot understand how anyone is allowed to pick a weight up off the ground with the posture of a shrimp but that is the reality.
The deadlift is not an arbitrary “pick the weight off the ground by any means necessary” movement.
There is a lot that goes into the lift and it can be very complex.
Conventional deadlifting requires hip mobility, upper body stability, core stability, and good posture before we even start getting into the strength or the actual moving of the bar.
Most people cannot even get into the starting position, so how are they supposed to complete the lift when they are screwed at the start?
Offensive lineman in football have a stance that they use. If they have a poor starting stance, chances are the defense is going to blow right past them.
Having a poor deadlift start means a poor effort is in order.
Learning how to deadlift the pain free, correct way is done through regression, elevation, and variation.
When I teach the deadlift I start everyone with the kettlebell. The weight of the kettlebell is located inside of the feet and below the body.
This allows people to start with a hip hinge, sit into the movement, and then finally grab the bell with low loading on the back.
I stick with reps of 8 on the kettlebell to ingrain the movement pattern into the client. If they do a great job with the kettlebell deadlift and get to the heaviest kettlebell with great technique, then it is time to move on.
I have had people remain with the kettlebell because doing this variation correctly will get them the most benefits for their time. Sometimes taller and tighter people will need to elevate the weight to a reasonable level.
After the kettlebell, I look to the Hex Bar deadlift. Here, the weight is surrounding the body and again reduces loading on the spine.
There are two things to remember with this variation. One is that the movement is not in fact a squat. Since you are standing in the middle of the weight, it is easy to shoot the knees forward and try to squat the weight up.
Remember that this is in fact a deadlift and requires that the hips hinge back first in order to make this movement valuable.
The handles on the hex bar also allow those that are tall or have tight hips to get into the proper hinge position.
The hex bar can also be elevated if necessary. Reps can be done in high or low depending on what you want to get out of the movement.
Once the hex bar is mastered we can entertain the idea of a barbell deadlift. There are some lifters that I know will never make it to the barbell and I am fine with that. I am not on a mission to force everyone into the classic lifts but instead want them to do the most beneficial movement.
Knowing yourself or the person you are working with is good to understand when to elevate the bar.
If someone can destroy the kettlebell deadlift but struggles to get low enough on the hex bar, I would elevate it and gradually bring them to the floor.
Some will have a hip structure that does not allow pulling from the floor and we still need to provide that training stimulus by raising it up a little bit.
With the barbell there are typically two variations, conventional and sumo. The sumo is a wide stance that reduces how much the bar moves and requires a lot more from the groin.
The conventional deadlift is a classic and requires good hips and core stability for a successful lift.
I am going to introduce a third variation that I have been using with success.
I call it the Modified Sumo Deadlift. The position of the feet for this is just a little bit wider than a conventional dead but not nearly as wide as the sumo.
The hands will grasp the bar inside of the knees with an alternate grip.
This variation is great because it reduces loading on the back, does not require as much hip mobility, and is a better fit for different body types.
Everyone has a different pelvis/hip structure and therefore not everyone will be able to do the same variation. Having a couple of options is going to help with successful deadlifting.
Figuring out which variation fits your body best is going to be helpful for long term success. Training with the wrong variation will be like hammering a square peg into a round hole.
Train with all of the variations but pick one to be the “go-to” and primary technique.
Deadlifts are a great exercise but they need special attention sometimes. Start with the basics and perform them until they are perfect.
Once the kettlebell and hex bar are proficient we can move to the barbell. Sometimes that does not work for everyone and they stay with the hex bar.
You can still pull a ton of weight on it and it will make them better and safer.
Find your variation, master the basics, and start the journey to deadlift domination.