Deadlifts! Some people love them, others swear them off entirely. So what gives? Should you do them?

First off Deadlifts are really just a hip hinge. That being said they are intended to help you directly load your glutes and hamstrings. Whether or not you choose to deadlift there will come a time in your life that requires you to pick things up using these muscles, so you’ll need to find some way to train them.

Some people swear deadlifts are bad for your back. The truth is that when deadlifts are executed properly and appropriate weights are selected that your backs robustness and strength will improve not degrade it. 

On the polar end of the spectrum some people swear that straight barbell deadlifts off the floor is the only way to go. Minus being a powerlifting purist there is actually not a well defined reason as to why you MUST train Barbell Deadlifts off the floor. 

Is it possible for us to land somewhere in the middle? Absolutely. There is a large range of exercises that are Hip Hinges that allow you to train your Glutes and Hamstrings while staying in a safe range based on your skill and strength level. 

When we are looking at the Hip Hinge pattern we can look at them and how they begin to scale in difficulty. Whether an exercise requires more stability, strength, or skill we will organize these exercises in a way that we can begin to graduate them according to our goals and current fitness.

Let’s look at Deadlifts not as the beginner exercise you should start with but an exercise that you may use one day when you’ve developed more strength and you have deemed it necessary to perform that exercise based on your goals.

How can we Train the Glutes and the Hamstrings safely?

When you’re first getting started we want to limit the length of our limbs and increase our amount of contact with the ground or other surfaces (which will give us a larger base of support).

A great way to do this is to perform an exercise like a Glute Bridge or Hip Thrust. Your back, hips, and heels are in contact with the ground or a bench which gives your body more feedback as to where it is in space. This feedback allows you to adjust your position as necessary so that you can more easily perform the exercise with fewer mistakes. 

We can move beyond these exercises into exercises like the Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift. This exercise requires a bit more positional sense than the Glute Bridge or Hip Thrust but isn’t quite as technical as the aforementioned Barbell Deadlift from the floor. The Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift allows us to start with the weight in a standing position, which will then allow us to load into a position that we have the control and range of motion to perform safely. This exercise could also be deemed a lower risk to your back because of the position of the weight. Since the dumbbells are going to be closer to your side it will make it easier for you to maintain tension in Lats and limit the moment arm on the lower back.

From here we could progress to the Trapbar Deadlift also known as the Hex Bar Deadlift. This exercise would likely cover the range of motion required for a large amount of athletic positions. Does that mean you couldn’t possible need more for your sport? No. But the reward vs. the risk is probably worth performing this exercise for most training populations. You can also ease into this exercise by placing the weights on top of some block or other plate shaped weight so that you can start with a shorter range of motion. After you feel strong and confident in this position and you have the lat strength to perform a few body weight pull ups you could progress to the Barbell Deadlift off of the floor. 

Here at Davis Fitness Method we recognize that most of these progressions aren’t exactly intuitive as to when you should progress and if you’re performing the exercise with good form. Are goal is to help clients gain this level of awareness so they can begin to experience autonomy in their own workout programs. 

In summary, should you deadlift? In short we believe that you don’t need to perform any one exercise. We also believe that you should weigh the potential benefits with the risks associated with them. From there the decision is yours. You will want to find some way to load into those glutes and hamstrings to help support any athletic or lifestyle pursuits you may have. We encourage you to stay health and seek the answers that help you to improve your life.

Big Love,

– Steven Davis (Owner of Davis Fitness Method)