If one wishes to gain muscle mass and strength, the deadlift is one of the best exercises to do on a consistent basis. However, it is important to learn the proper technique to deadlift. There is a ton of information on the internet but if you want to find the best deadlift program one should learn from the best.
Why the best deadlift program is so important for weightlifters
The Deadlift helps develop the strength of the largest muscles in the body — the muscles that are crucial for progress in both the snatch, and clean and jerk.
During a deadlift, the following muscles are primarily involved:
- the lats; one of the largest muscles in your back;
- back extensors;
- and quads.
Different types of deadlifts help shift the focus to different muscle groups. Each type, however, activates the finger flexors, biceps, posterior fibers of the deltoid muscles, and trapezii muscles. By performing a deadlift, an athlete can develop their grip strength which is a crucial skill for a weightlifter.
How To Find the Best Deadlift Program
- A good deadlift program will
- suit those athletes who want to boost the strength in their back and legs muscles,
- and can be used as a springboard both for the Snatch and Clean & Jerk thanks to the accessory exercises included.
- The Snatch and C & J exercises are low-intensity, so a good Deadlift Program also takes into account the importance of recovery. Recovery does not reduce the efficiency of training! Quite the opposite, during recovery days, you warm your muscles up, train the muscle memory, and work on specific technical elements.
- A good deadlift program will be broken into microcycles:
- General preparation period: Basic exercises
- Special preparation period: The intensity is on the rise plus heavier weights
- Competition period: Lifting peak loads, then tapering and recovery.
- A good deadlift program is aimed at developing your Deadlift technique, core stability and gripping strength, AND certain muscle groups:
- Back (your erectors and lats);
- Gluteus maximus and glutes;
- Legs (as most of the deadlift is done with your legs);
- Arms (all muscles in your arm are contracting during deadlifting);
- Shoulders (your traps).
Finally, the most important thing to look for when finding the best deadlift program is to find an expert on the deadlift. This article recommends following the deadlift teachings of two-time Olympian Oleksiy Torokhtiy’s. Mr. Torokhtiy’s has his own website where one can learn how to perform the deadlift, along with the best deadlift programs.
I recommend his program called the 12-week deadlift cycle.
To put a greater load on a particular muscle group, this exercise can be performed with different starting positions and some technical nuances:
- The conventional/clean deadlift. The athlete starts with their feet shoulder-width apart. This deadlift type evenly loads the back, glutes, and hamstrings. Good both for beginners and experienced athletes.
- The sumo/powerlifting deadlift. The athlete’s legs are spread wider apart so that the toes almost touch the weight plates. This deadlift type puts most of the load on the leg muscles. Good for experienced athletes and beginners, especially those with weaker backs.
- The Romanian deadlift. The athlete starts from the classic position, but only bends the knees slightly on the way down, or doesn’t bend the knees at all, which is even better. This deadlift type loads the hamstrings and the upper gluteus maximus. Recommended for athletes with a well-developed lifting technique and strong back muscles.
An athlete can shift focus to different muscle groups with the help of various equipment pieces:
- The barbell is a bar of various diameters, with or without knurling.
- The trap bar is a diamond-shaped hexagonal or octagonal bar with handles for gripping. This device helps beginners learn the deadlift technique.
- Dumbbells weigh less than the barbell and allow the athlete to perform all types of deadlifts. Dumbbells activate a greater number of stabilizing muscles.
If you need to increase your load, or change its nature, use rubber bands or chains. If your palms are on the smaller side, or you currently lack the strength to support the desired weight, use lifting straps, wrist wraps, or hooks.
In his DeadLift Cycle 12-week course, Oleksiy Torokhtiy explains the nuances of working with each equipment piece and tells more about how to build up one’s muscle strength thanks to deadlifting.
The 7 most common deadlift mistakes and ways to fix them
Beginners and sometimes even experienced athletes can slip and commit pretty serious “sins” when it comes to the deadlift technique, not sufficiently loading the muscles, and, in the worst-case scenario, increasing the chances of getting injured.
Be mindful about your actions and train to avoid the following errors:
- Incorrect starting position. The legs are set too wide apart, which makes it impossible for the athlete to hold the barbell comfortably, and they are forced to spread their arms too wide. Sometimes the leg starting position is too narrow, or the toes are turned too much to the sides. In such an unstable position, the barbell’s travel range increases, and the athlete’s progress in deadlifting is stalled.
Fixing it: Stand up straight and make several consecutive jumps, just make sure you are relaxed and comfortable. Look at the position of your feet on the ground, as this is your natural deadlift stance.
- The center of gravity is located inappropriately. If it shifts towards your toes, you will find it more difficult to tear your piece of sports equipment off the ground and will be raising it too far from your body. The load gets shifted towards the back increasing the risk of disk herniation. In case of overloading the heels, the spine will bend back too much in the final deadlifting phase. Yet another version of the center of gravity’s incorrect location is placing the shoulder joint outside the vertical projection of the bar. If the shoulder is folded forward, the contact between the gear and the body will be too tight during movement. If the shoulder is wound backward, the bar’s trajectory will be incorrect, which is also hazardous.
Fixing it: As you approach the bar, make sure that your toes are showing in the vertical barbell’s projection. Do a half-squat first, and then bend for a grip.
- The knees are not set apart wide enough. If the gap between the knees is too narrow, the lower back gets too much load during the knee joint’s upward movement. Sometimes, the athlete’s position is correct, but the knees fall inward while moving, which overstrains the joints. The knees should track the toes.
Fixing it: Start controlling your knee position before and during the deadlift. Develop and build up the adductor muscles of the thigh.
- Asymmetrical grip. Because of this, the barbell bar is imbalanced, the muscles are loaded unevenly, and the athlete’s body is unstable. If the athlete is using the mixed grip, the muscles are loaded with a different intensity, the biceps of one of the arms are overstrained, and the back muscles work asymmetrically.
Fixing it: For your grip, make use of knurling on the barbell bar to guide you. If you find it too difficult to hold the bar, utilize lifting straps and belts instead of a mixed grip.
- Rounded back. In this position, the back muscles are relaxed and essentially don’t take part in the exercise, while most of the strain is put on the lower back, increasing the risk of injury. All of this happens when the athlete has not worked long and hard enough on the technique of the exercise or grabs too large of weight and the back cannot support it.
Fixing it: Work on the technique with an empty barbell until all the movements become automatic. To keep your back straight, raise your head at an angle of 30-45 degrees and look at a fixed point during your workout. Try reducing your lifting weight and strengthen your back with additional exercises.
- Raising the pelvis in the starting phase. If this is the case, the center of mass leaps too far forward and, when the barbell is lifted, the load on the lower back increases dramatically. Plus, the legs are not loaded properly and basically don’t get involved despite this being one of the goals of the exercise.
Fixing it: Practice each phase with an empty barbell and then gradually “stick” the parts together into one smooth movement.
- Too sharp of a tug in the starting phase. It’s a kind of error that weightlifting novices would often make when they still are lifting lightly. It may be fine in the case of a lightly-loaded barbell, but with heavier weights this “technique” becomes dangerous. A strong yank will help you drive the gear off from the ground, but then you inevitably will have to use more energy to continue the movement. Even in the snatch, the athlete slowly lifts the barbell off the ground first and then gradually accelerates by the final phase.
Fixing it: Perfect your empty barbell technique while controlling each phase of the movement.
With Oleksiy’s help, we have studied the seven most common and dangerous errors athletes are prone to making. Note that athletes make other types of mistakes that are less serious but still can reduce the effectiveness of the exercise. Check out Oleksiy Torokhtiy’s 12-week deadlift course to find ways to avoid them and control yourself better during your training.
Who exactly is Oleksiy Torokhtiy, and why does his opinion have so much weight?
Oleksiy is a Ukrainian weightlifter who, in the span of his 20-year weightlifting career, won multiple European and world titles, and took part in several Olympic Games:
- placed 12th at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing with a total result of 390kg (snatch: 177kg, clean and jerk: 213kg);
- placed 2nd at the 2009 European Championship in Bucharest, with the total result of 405kg (snatch: 181kg, clean and jerk: 224kg);
- placed 3rd at the 2010 European Championship in Minsk, with the total result of 396kg (snatch: 175kg, clean and jerk – 221kg);
- placed 3rd at the 2011 World Championships in Paris, with the total result of 410kg (snatch: 181kg, clean and jerk: 229kg);
- ended up with 412kg in total at the 2012 Olympics in London (snatch: 185kg, clean and jerk: 227kg).
Torokhtiy ended his professional athletic career in 2014 at the age of 28. Since then, he has been sharing his experience with weightlifting enthusiasts.