The deadlift is one of my favourite exercises. It encompasses raw strength and power and is, in my opinion, alongside squat the best exercise for developing full body strength and size.
The deadlift is a predominantly lower back and hamstring exercise but there is a massive role to be played from the quads, glutes, lats, rhomboids, biceps, forearms and traps. If you want a thick back and strong legs then the deadlift is the exercise for you.
To explain the deadlift in the most basic way possible, would be to say deadlifting is just picking up a barbell. However to perform the deadlift is nowhere near that simple. The deadlift technique is one of the most complex lifting techniques there is. To achieve your maximum potential lift you must understand every part of the lift and how to perform it. Not only is proper form useful for achieving big lifts, but it is also very important for avoiding injury. Lower back injury is common and if you don’t know how to deadlift correctly you run that very risk.
Once you have got the deadlift technique perfected all you need to worry about is improving your lifting. For this there are many cycles of rep ranges, sets, volume and speed that you can do with the deadlift to lead to improvements in your max lift.
However there is only so far you can go by just performing deadlifts. It is often very beneficial to perform assistance exercises that will aid your deadlift. These assistance exercises will not directly improve the deadlift but will increase strength in the muscles used during deadlifting and therefore improve your strength in that lift.
So here are my favourite exercises to help improve your deadlift:
- Body weight Hamstring curls:
These are incredibly tough to perform so before you try I recommend getting your training partner to stand in front of you and hold their hands on your chest to make sure you don’t come too far forward. Come as forward as you can then pull back using your hamstrings. The reason this is such a good exercise is that the hamstrings play a huge role in the deadlift but in general people don’t use maximum tension exercises on their hamstrings. The hamstrings need a lot of work to increase and this exercise will put them under more tension than any other exercise that I have used. Put these on the end of your deadlift and leg workouts and your deadlift will improve massively.
- Rack deadlifts
Rack deadlifts are the same motion as deadlift but you only perform the top portion of the rep. a lot of people struggle to lock out their lifts on deadlift so performing rack deads will allow you to develop strength in the lockout phase of the lift. You can use far more weight with rack deads than normal deadlifts so your lockouts will become very strong with your normal lifting weight.
- Standing broad jumps
Broad jumps might not seem like a usual sort of exercise you would put into a powerlifting and strength routine but they are extremely effective for developing power in your deadlift. Any professional lifter will tell you that speed is key to big lift. If you can lift fast then you can lift heavy. Developing speed and power off the floor from a deadlift is hard. You have to get every motor neuron firing at maximum capacity all at the same time. Broad jumps are a fantastic exercise to get that explosive power. If you watch a broad jump carefully you will see that the movement is very similar to that of a deadlift, the only difference being that you explode forwards rather than straight up. If you can train maximum effort broad jumps then you will develop the tools needed for an explosive deadlift.
So give them a try and enjoy the benefits of a bigger deadlift.