Often times people hear that the deadlift is a great exercise to add to your arsenal of compound lifts, and it is, but only if it can be performed properly. Too many times people step up to a bar, load it up with weight, and proceed to attempt pulling the bar off the floor by any means necessary because they read somewhere that doing deadlifts are great for your posterior chain. Deadlifts are by far one of the best exercises for recruiting your posterior chain but it can also lead to a debilitating injury if done improperly with bad form and rounded spine, which is often the case when people attempt it without the right kind of teaching and supervision.
From a mechanical standpoint one of the most important things to master before actually trying to do a deadlift with a barbell from the floor is a proper hip hinge. The hip hinge is the basis to every kind of deadlift done properly but every hip hinge isn’t necessarily a deadlift. Being able to hinge at your hips while keeping a neutral spine is essential to proper mechanics for the beginning of a deadlift. If the spine is rounded the risk for injury is much higher. Practice doing Romanian deadlifts with dumbbells first by holding dumbbells in front of the body against the thighs. Establish a hip width or slightly wider stance with toes pointed straight ahead and soften the knees. Keep your knees in a slightly flexed position and begin the movement by reaching backwards with your hips and butt while tracing the dumbbells down the front of the legs slowly making sure to keep the spine straight as your torso leans forward. Keep your bodyweight situated on your heels and be sure not to lock your knees out as you bend more at the hips. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and stick your chest out to help maintain a neutral spine. You don’t have to get all the way to the floor with the dumbbells if flexibility is limited. Once you feel a stretch in the hamstrings, hinge back up by pulling your shoulders up and back, squeezing the glutes as you extend your hips forward finishing in an upright position just like you started.
Once you feel you have gotten that movement down, progress to doing the same movement with a barbell. Take your time progressing and be sure your mechanics are spot on before attempting a more challenging progression. Seek out a fitness professional to help you with your form if necessary so that you can ensure you are doing it right and you can feel what the proper technique is like. Once proper hip hinge mechanics are established you can then move on to deadlifting with a barbell with the weights elevated on blocks about 3-6 inches off the ground. This is to ensure you are keeping proper spine alignment before starting with the barbell on the floor. If you lack proper flexibility in the hamstrings and lumbar spine this is also advantageous for you because it allows you to keep proper technique until your flexibility improves. Learning to do a proper deadlift starts with proper hip hinging mechanics. It’s a great lift to perform but only with the right form. Don’t rush into it, take the time to properly learn how to do it so you aren’t one of those people in the gym with a curved spine setting themselves up for a visit to the orthopedic doctor. Embrace the journey of learning and get strong the right way!