I must be feeling gung ho about the new weight training program I started, because for the first time in quite a while, I dragged the kids to the gym in the middle of the day to avoid missing a workout. My teenage son carried the baby around for me while I took my time squatting and relearning the deadlift.
The deadlift trains the back, with a bit of legs and grip-strength thrown in. It is tricky, because you need to have a neutral back, not rounded or hyperextended, and because you must take care not to get off balance. It is the lift where you "bend over and pick the bar up off the floor." All you have to do is stand up, with the bar hanging from your arms. Nevertheless, it is easy to screw up.
I hear it is not a popular exercise. You do not see many people deadlifting at my Y. But that is kind of funny, because it is hard to think of a move that builds a more useful kind of strength. It's the move that trains you to pick up a heavy object from the floor without hurting your back. Think a big sack of rice or dog food or potting soil, there on the ground at the store, that you've got to get into your shopping cart, or a crate of full wine bottles that has to go in the trunk, or a 75-pound kid with a sprained ankle.
Think deadlifts might be dangerous? Someday you are going to have to pick one of these things up, and it will go better if you know how to deadlift a bar that is even heavier.
I started with the empty barbell lifted up on blocks to approximate its height when loaded with standard plates. I took my time with the first lift, carefully going through the steps of a sort of form checklist that appears in the book:
- stand with heels 8-12" apart and center bar over arch of foot
- bend knees slightly so shins touch bar without pushing it forward
- bend at the waist without dropping hips and grip the bar just outside of legs
- rotate chest upward between arms and contract back to normal arch position
- use back to drag bar up shins and past knees, then straighten up and drag bar up thighs.
But I was pleased to note that the motion felt natural and easy to me. It is still in my motor memory from the time I tried to learn it some years ago (using this online resource).
Come to think of it, I never really forgot it because after I learned to deadlift, I always and ever after used deadlifting form to lift heavy stuff; at least when lifting with the legs was impractical, such as getting a heavy box out of a deep car trunk, or certain kid-lifting scenarios.The key is first, to get the center of mass of you and the object close to being directly over the arch of your foot, and then, in the contraction of the back muscles: after grabbing the object, you take an instant to, as Rippetoe writes, "rotate your chest upward between your arms" and put a normal (but not hyperexteded) arch in your back. Just enough to make sure it isn't rounded. Then go slowly so that if it turns out the load is too heavy, or too far from your body (= too much torque) you can stop before you hurt yourself trying.
So without thinking, I have been practicing the deadlift for years.
I lifted the 45-lb bar five times, then added 10 lbs and lifted another set of five, then added 5 more pounds for a third set of five, and called it good. So my starting deadlift is 60 lbs. I also added five pounds to my squat weight. (Still squatting outside the dumb, too-tall, fixed-height rack.)
Next time will be the first lifting workout where I will do all three lifts. Then, after that, I am going to figure out the bench press.