A trainer explains why you should incorporate them into your strength-training routine.
Incorporating strength training into your regular routine has a ton of benefits—it not only helps you become a stronger, faster runner, but it helps prevent injuries, too. And while deadlifts may seem intimidating at first, Noam Tamir, C.S.C.S., owner and head trainer at TS Fitness in New York City, says this lower-body move is worth keeping in your rotation for a few very specific reasons.
Deadlifts strengthen your glutes.
The deadlift move recruits a lot of muscles in the lower body, including the hamstrings and the glutes, says Tamir. Plus, your quads get majorly activated as you extend your knees and lift up the weight.
“Since the gluteus maximus is one of the main movers in this move, the deadlift will definitely build muscle on your butt,” says Tamir.
But wait, there’s more—Tamir explains that deadlifts also work your traps, along with your lower, middle, and upper-back muscles. And your entire core gets a challenge, since it’s responsible for stabilizing your spine through the movement.
But deadlift variations affect your body in different ways.
When performing a deadlift, you can use whatever weight you prefer: dumbbells, a medicine ball, barbell, trap bar, or kettlebell. And you can opt for a conventional stance, or sumo (where your feet are wider than hip-width)—whatever feels most comfortable to you.
There are a few variations on deadlifts to keep in mind, all which affect your body a tad differently:
How to: Hold your weight down in front of your thighs at arm’s length. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Brace your core. Bend your knees, and hinge at your hips, lowering until your thighs are almost parallel to the floor. Pause, then squeeze your glutes and raise your torso back to starting position. That’s one rep.
What it works: In a typical deadlift, you lower the weight all the way to the ground, which “uses more of the posterior muscles of the back,” says Tamir.
How to: The difference here is that you don’t lower the weight all the way to the ground. Hold a weight at arm’s length in front of your thighs. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Brace your core. Without changing the bend in your knees, bend at your hips, and lower your torso until it’s almost parallel to the floor. Pause, then squeeze your glutes and raise your torso back to starting position. That’s one rep.
What it works: “These are more hip dominant, so you’re therefore using more of the hamstrings and less glutes,” explains Tamir. “The goal is to keep the barbell or dumbbells close to the body.
Pay attention to your form.
Of course, you’re not going to properly work your muscles if your deadlift form is out of whack. Tamir says it’s crucial to keep your spine stable during the lift, otherwise you’ll “go into flexion, meaning you round your back, and put pressure on the discs and/or muscles.”
To avoid this, be sure to keep your spine aligned, and core tight to support the spine. Also, make sure you bend from your hips (not your back) to complete the movement.
And don’t ditch that good form when your body starts to get tired, says Tamir. Your best friend? A mirror. Watch yourself as you do the lift to be sure your back never rounds. You can also ask a certified trainer to watch and give you feedback, too.
You should do deadlifts once or twice a week.
If deadlifts aren’t already part of your regular rotation, Tamir suggests starting light (think: 20 or 30 pounds) and working up in weight slowly. Do three sets of eight to 12 reps, once or twice a week.
And be sure to warm up first. “Research has shown that prior to doing deadlifts, you should do bodyweight exercises such as bridges or body weight hip thrusts for high reps,” explains Tamir. “These help to activate the glutes, so you get more out of the deadlift exercise.”
[By Amy Schlinger]