Deadlifts demystified

Deadlifts demystified

My all-time favourite training move is deadlifts. As a compound exercise, they work your entire body and I recommend that everyone should incorporate at least one type of deadlift into their workout. However, it can be confusing to pick a type given the number of variations out there.

I mostly do conventional deadlifts, but my favourite is actually straight-legged – I love the stretch it gives your hamstrings and you can almost feel your booty getting tighter! They are also said to be the best exercise to fight cellulite in women.

A lot of people outside of the weight-lifting world don’t even know what a deadlift is. Whenever I explain it, their automatic response is that it must be bad for the back. Quite the contrary: deadlifts build up your back strength so you’ll never be one of those old people that throw their back out while picking something off the ground! BUT if you lift with a rounded back it can certainly be very dangerous.

Deadlifts are addictive and I find it’s the one exercise I’m always trying to increase my numbers on week after week. It’s easy to get carried away doing that, but always remember that proper form is more important than ramping up the weights! Keep your reps low to get maximum benefits.

Conventional deadlifts:
Usually when people talk about deadlifts, this is what they mean. This type of deadlift targets the most muscles. Unlike others which are more hamstring-focused, conventional deadlifts bring in the glutes, quads and lower back more. Start with the bar on the ground and bent knees. Push through your legs to come to a standing position, before lowering back down to the starting position. As for all deadlifts, keep the bar as close to your body as you can and keep looking forward.


Sumo deadlifts:

This type of deadlift takes a lot of pressure off the lower back. Take a wide stance and grip the bar on the inside of your legs. Fully straighten your hips and legs, being careful not to lock your knees. Some also think this is the best type for tall people (FYI, shorter people can usually lift heavier because they are closer to the ground!).

Straight-legged deadlifts:
These are deadlifts where your knees are almost completely straight, with most of the focus on your hamstrings and lower back. Usually you would do a much lighter weight for this type of lift. This time the starting position is standing straight, and you then extend from the waist until your back is parallel to the floor. Contract your hamstrings back to a standing position to complete one rep.

Of course, I had to feature an Erin Stern video. The only criticism I have is that she is going slightly too low.


Romanian deadlifts:

These are very similar to straight-legged deadlifts, but your knees are bent slightly more. Another difference is that you should try to think of the movement as a horizontal one where the hips move forward and back rather than raising the bar up and down. This time extend from the hips while fully arching your back until it’s parallel to the floor. You can also do these with one leg, even using a dumbbell instead of an Olympic bar. Single-leg Romanian deadlifts were the first type of deadlift I ever did – they’re great for building up balance!


These are just the most common types of deadlifts – there are other lesser known versions too. At the end of the day, it’s all about finding what works for your body and what your muscles respond to best.

What’s your favourite kind of deadlift?

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