Functional Training Series: Deadlift

At Forte Fitness our focus is quality of life. A major aspect of quality of life is simply having a functional body. As we age we all lose degrees of functionality. There is a great deal of attention given to cardiovascular health – as it should; however, a healthy body composition and healthy heart is not enough. We need a body that can move freely in all planes of movement.  This freedom of movement involves the integration of strength, balance and flexibility. Often flexibility is perceived as touching one’s toes, but how often do we need to touch our toes to do daily activities? Functional flexibility is the goal, and it involves the ability to bend in full ranges of movement at the ankles, knees, hips and low back. 

A tremendous exercise to develop a functional body is the deadlift. One may perceive the deadlift as a powerlift that is beyond the need of every-day people, but this is a misconception. The deadlift is simply what the body does when one picks something up off the ground properly. It is the kind of movement that was common to all people in a more agricultural time. The deadlift builds strength in the majority of the major muscles of the body – quads, hamstrings, glutes, spinal erectors, abdominals, obliques, lats, traps and delts. As you can see, many muscles of the body are being used in an integrated manner, and this is the best type of lifting to develop a functional body. The deadlift develops true core strength, range of movement and bone density.

There are several important factors to consider when deadlifting . All movement could potentially cause an injury. One should consult a physician, and it may be wise to use a trainer to learn to exercise safely and effectively before training independently. Always warm up first. Correct technique and proper load must be adhered to. Start light and build up.  Moving very heavy weights, although it can be done safely, is not the goal at Forte Fitness. Our goal with the deadlift is a functional body. 

When using the deadlift to build functional strength, it is important first to understand the correct technique. The teaching cues begin with the proper base. There are a number of bases one can use to safely complete a deadlift. The base most commonly used and that you will see in the video is roughly shoulder width. The bar should be close to the shins. One’s butt should be down and back with the chest up. The back should have no bend in it. The back should be straight and flat. The head should be in a neutral position facing forward. There are also a number of grips, but for our purposes a simple overhand grip with both hands can be used. 

In the following videos you will see a deadlift performed two different ways. The first video demonstrates a deadlift using an olympic bar.  An olympic bar weighs 45 pounds; however, there are also training bars that weigh 15 pounds.  It is always best to start light and master technique and then loads can be increased accordingly. Using the training bar allows people who are very deconditioned, older adults and children to learn to deadlift safely and effectively. The second video uses a special bar called a trap bar or hex bar. This bar weighs 45 pounds but is very useful because it allows for a higher starting point relative to the ground. This is helpful for people who have not developed enough flexibility or low back strength to get in the proper starting position. 

Incorporating a deadlift or a deadlift variation into one's workout once a week will have tremendous benefit in terms of developing a functional body.  A typical deadlift workout would include 3-5 sets of 3-8 repetitions.  

To learn more about the deadlift and its importance check out the following links:

Importance of Deadlifts

Why Women Should Deadlift