By: Art O’Connor, Strength and Conditioning Coach WUKAR Fit
I get asked a lot, “If you could only do 1 lift in the gym what would it be?” For the sake of argument, I won’t ask my usual snarky follow up, “Why on Earth would you want to go to the gym and only do 1 lift?” So… pretend I didn’t say that. Assuming you don’t have any pre-existing conditions, I would say that hands down the deadlift is the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to gym work. The professional cyclists that I train deadlift at least once a week year-round.
Back in the old days, when physical culture guys all had handlebar mustaches, trained in leopard print singlets, and lifted those cartoonish dumbbells, the deadlift was called “The Health Lift”. The deadlift trains your entire posterior chain, most notably the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back muscles which all have fancy names that Dr. Cerami could impress/bore you to tears with. The deadlift also hits the quads, traps, grip, and lats pretty hard as well. In other words, it covers a lot and that is the beauty of the lift. Every movement we do involves recruiting and firing muscles in the proper order to get the response we want. The deadlift is no different. For such a simple looking lift, it is actually very complex because there are so many muscle groups involved. By training our bodies to recruit and fire muscle groups in the proper order we are becoming stronger more efficient human beings. Every movement we make depends on our back functioning properly. The great thing about the deadlift is it will not only make your back stronger but it also makes all the supporting musculature stronger as well. Every muscle group works as a system and they are all either directly or indirectly dependent on a strong back.
As simple as the deadlift looks and is to do it is crucial that you learn to do it properly. I cannot stress this enough. Done properly your back will be happy and you will be strong and mobile. Done incorrectly and you could be in for a lot of pain and Netflix marathons. YouTube is probably the worst place to learn how to deadlift. A lot of the videos there are from powerlifters and Cross Fitters going for personal records. In this case this is their sport and for some their livelihood so they are willing to let form slip in an effort to lift as much as possible. You are not. You are just trying to be healthy and strong so that means you NEVER cheat the form.
After years of training others, I have yet to see anyone who is self-taught from YouTube have good form. Yes, I can watch a Tiger Wood swing instruction video and when I go to the driving range in my head I am sure I look just like him as I crush my 120 yard drives, but video evidence exists that proves that theory 100% wrong. Same for the deadlift. You need to spend a session (or 2) with a coach who can watch you lifting little baby weights and correct your form there so you can go heavier safely.
If you are looking for a way to make your body stronger and more resilient take the time to learn the deadlift. After a few sessions, you will be lifting your kids like stuffed animals and tossing around those Costco bags of rice like pillows.
Art O’Connor owns and operates WUKAR Fit out of Modus Fitness, 1 block west of Utah Sports and Wellness. He has over 30 years of personal training experience and is passionate about helping people get strong and healthy using simple but effective programs either one on one, or remotely. Dr. Cerami has used his services personally and can attest to the quality of his training. He can be reached at 801-671-6338 wukarfit.com