How Deadlifts Saved My Life?
I have been lifting weights since I was 15 years old. I started with bodybuilding competitions and progressed to powerlifting competitions. At the time, my goal was to become a professional bodybuilder like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Franco Columbu. However, after competing in several contests, I realized that it wasn’t going to happen for me because I lacked size and strength. After all, if you want to look good naked then you need muscles! So I decided to focus on developing other aspects of my physique such as my overall health and well being.
As I continued training, I noticed that my weight training sessions were becoming less intense and more about conditioning than they were about building muscle mass. During these workouts, I would do some form of cardio at least once during the session.
But what did it accomplish? What kind of changes could it possibly make in your body?
Well, I discovered that my heart rate would go up while doing cardio. And when it came time to lift weights again, my cardiovascular fitness level went down. Now, I’m not talking about just your heart rate either; I mean the amount of oxygen you’re able to use in your blood stream. When you start using less oxygen, you begin losing muscle tone and strength. You lose flexibility too which means you’ll get injured sooner rather than later.
To combat this fatigue and to help increase my cardio endurance, I incorporated light deadlifts into my routine. I started out with only one set of 10 reps with 135 pounds. Over time, I increased the weight and decreased the reps. However, I also started adding a couple of other exercises to the mix such as barbell rows and t-bar rows. These assisted me in targeting more muscles in the middle of my back which resulted in the beginning building of a v-shape.
After a few short months of this routine, I noticed that my endurance had increased and I was able to perform more reps per set. I was even breathing easier during runs and hikes! My back pain was practically gone too. So, there you have it. Doing deadlifts saved my life and improved my strength training sessions at the same time!
Heavy Deadlifts: My Journey To A New PB
The deadlift is a unique exercise in the sense that everyone has their own opinion on how to do it. You have your conventional deadlifters, your sumo deadlifters and your stiff-legged deadlifters. However, I’m going to tell you about my own personal experiences with the movement called the heavy deadlift.
As a teenager, I was always fascinated by strength training. At age 15, I entered my first powerlifting competition. I squatted 405 pounds, benched 275 pounds, and deadlifted 500 pounds. Even at that young age, I was hooked on this sport.
One of the problems I encountered early on is that many of my friends didn’t share the same enthusiasm that I did for the iron game. Thus, it made training by myself a lot more difficult since I couldn’t get any spotters.
Over the years, I learned how to train by myself and it made me stronger in many ways. It also challenged me mentally in order to keep focused because I couldn’t have anyone to talk with during my workouts. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still like training with a spotter; it just wasn’t always possible back in those days.
Nevertheless, I managed to set many state records in powerlifting and became very well known throughout the United States. Nowadays, I still train with a group of dedicated powerlifters; however, I’ve never forgotten my roots and the struggles I faced as a teenager.
This is one of the reasons why I started writing articles and recording videos about the sport. I wanted to help out others who had similar problems and wanted to learn more about strength training.
As far as the deadlift is concerned, this is one of the best exercises you can do for overall strength and size. There are many variations of it too, such as: the stiff-legged deadlift, the Romanian deadlift (RDL), the straight-leg deadlift and the conventional deadlift, just to name a few.
When I began powerlifting, my first competition squat was 605 pounds, but my deadlift was only 500 pounds. This was a great disappointment to me because I felt that since I could squat so much, I should be able to deadlift a lot more too. This is not the case though.
As I mentioned earlier, the deadlift is a very unique exercise and the rules are different too. I’ll go more into that later on in this article. For now, let’s talk about form for the deadlift.
When most people first look at a deadlift, they think it’s a very simple exercise; just pick the weight up off the floor, right?
Well, yes and no. It is a very simple exercise, but only if it’s performed the right way. If the lift is performed improperly, then you’re asking for injury.
The primary muscles involved in the conventional deadlift are: glutes, hamstrings, spinal erectors, obliques and your grip. The muscles involved are similar for the other variations of this lift too.
When you perform a proper deadlift, you’ll really feel it in your glutes and hamstrings. Some people feel it more in their lower back. This is because their form isn’t perfect. When you perform a proper deadlift, you should be bending over at the hips and lifting the weight using your hamstrings and glutes almost entirely. If you try to bend your knees too much, you’ll feel it in your lower back.
In fact, one of the big mistakes that people make when performing this exercise is that they hyperextend their lumbar spine. This isn’t a good idea for several reasons, not the least of which is that it can lead to a serious injury. When you perform the deadlift, you should focus on keeping your back neutral and straight (neutral spine).
When you do this, you’ll find that it’s much easier to keep the weight steady and to prevent yourself from losing your balance. Most people have no problems with bending over to pick something up off of the floor; it’s keeping themselves balanced while doing so that’s the hard part.
For many, this is a skill that needs to be learned. Your feet play a large role in this. The best way I can describe the proper stance is to imagine that you’re about to deadlift yourself off of the floor. In other words, your feet should be slightly further apart than your shoulders. You want to bend over at your hips and keep most of your weight distributed toward your heels.
As you lower the bar to the floor, pull it into your hips as if you’re trying to snap the bar in half. Most people make the mistake of dropping the bar lower than their feet and then having to pull it up from that position, which is much harder.
As you lift the weight off of the floor, you should push your hips forward and keep your head up. Dropping your head and pushing the bar backward increases the strain on your lower back and makes the movement a lot harder than it needs to be.
Most people will experience some sort of back twinge when they start lifting weights. This is especially true of deadlifts, but if you’ve been doing them incorrectly, you’re more likely to hurt yourself.
Most people are used to bending over and picking up something off of the floor and it isn’t usually a heavy object, so your body has adapted by creating all sorts of weird back muscles to help you out in this area. When you start lifting weights, your body doesn’t know that and it can cause problems if you don’t lift properly.
When I first started lifting, I had trouble with my back. I couldn’t figure out why since I was deadlifting more than I ever had in the past. Then one of the veterans at the gym showed me the proper way to lift and it immediately corrected my problem.
There are some real benefits to deadlifting properly too. When you use correct form, you’re less likely to hurt yourself and you’ll get stronger faster. It may seem impossible to most non-lifters, but a proper deadlift can be safer for your back than a squat!
You probably won’t reach your leg muscles much when deadlifting, but your entire lower body swings the weight. Even your abs get involved to some degree. I’ve found this out first hand over the years. It’s a great exercise for someone like me who has lower back problems. I can still lift heavy weights, but if I didn’t use correct form it could easily flare up my problem and keep me from training legs at all.
Finally, a word of advice. Never try to impress people at the gym by lifting more than you’re able. I see this happen time and time again with new lifters. There’s always someone there who sees what you’re doing and they think they need to lift more.
This is how people get hurt a lot of the time. As a beginner, it can take years for your muscles, tendons and ligaments to grow accustomed to this activity. Trying to move heavier weights before your body is ready can lead to all sorts of problems.
Just because you see someone else do it doesn’t mean you should follow suit. I’ve seen some big guys try to lift super heavy weight which surprised me since you’d think they’d know better, but then I’ve also seen some scrawny guys there too and I wouldn’t want to get into a grappling match with any of them!
Just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should. This is especially true for women who seem to be even worse about this than men. It’s great that women are getting into lifting weights nowadays, but I’ve seen ladies try to lift far too much for their own good and it’s not a pretty sight!
If you’re concerned with how much you can lift, then you’re concentrating on the wrong thing. You should instead be concentrating on proper form and getting the most out of every rep. This is what will build muscle and getting more reps than the guy next to you is how you’ll build endurance. If you want to compare how much you can deadlift, then find someone close to your own strength and go head to head with them. This is more beneficial in the long run and will keep you focused on what’s important.
This is just the beginning of a wonderful journey on the road to being huge! I wish you all the best of luck in getting there.
If you haven’t done so already, then take the time to subscribe to the website and join the rest of us on the forums. You’ll find many like-minded people there who are happy to answer any questions you may have.
Until next time!
Sources & references used in this article:
Gymtimidation by CPT Richard Hashimashi
Effects of kettlebell swing vs. explosive deadlift training on power by NL Finnen – Literary Cultures, 2020 – journals.ntu.ac.uk
Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by M Maulit – 2017 – search.proquest.com
Why Do You Lift—Defining Hope, Motivation, and Risk by T Ferriss – 2017 – books.google.com
The life-cycle of methanogenic granular biofilms by J Barnum
A physical activity intervention to improve the quality of life of patients with a stoma: a feasibility study by M Coutinho – elitefts.com