Deadlifts. Despite the ominous name deadlifts shouldn’t kill you. Instead, deadlifts can be a lifesaver when it comes to building foundational strength and boosting athletic performance. The key is learning how to do the popular weightlifting movement with proper form, so you strengthen your muscles without stressing out your joints.

There are two different forms from which to choose- bent leg or stiff leg deadlifts. No matter which form you choose, deadlifts are a head-to-toe exercise. Deadlifts recruit muscles in your arms, legs, and middle. If using a heavy barbell, both forms of deadlifts zone in on your hamstrings, glutes, and quadriceps. If you opt for the stiff-leg version, more emphasis will be put on your hamstrings, rather than the quads. Deadlifts should not stress out your back if you keep proper form!

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With Proper Form You Can Reap the Full-Body Rewards of A Deadlift

To do a bent leg deadlift place a barbell in front of you and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees, while pressing most of your weight through your heels so your knees stay behind the mid-part of your foot. Grasp the bar overhand (or one hand over, one under). Keeping your weight focused on your heels, straighten your legs while bringing the bar to your thighs. Push your hips slightly forward as you stand-up. Pause and pull your shoulders back. With control, keep your back straight and bend your knees to return the bar to the floor. Pause, and then repeat.

To do a stiff-leg deadlift start with feet shoulder-width apart. Instead of squatting to retrieve the bar, keep your legs mostly straight. Do not lock your knees. Rise up while keeping the bar close to your thighs. Push your hips slightly forward as you stand, just like you did in the bent leg version. Squeeze your glutes and pull your shoulders down. Pause. Slowly lower the bar, keeping your legs mostly straight and your bodyweight focused on your midfoot or heels until you feel a slight stretch in your hamstrings. Repeat.

Deadlifts can be done 2-3 times a week as a part of your regular strength workout. Consider using different forms of resistance for deadlifts to keep things interesting and productive if you choose to do them more than once a week. In addition to a barbell, try a trap bar. Experiment with single stiff-leg deadlifts using just one dumbbell or kettlebell. If you’re the competitive type, check out the deadlift standards for your weight class to stay motivated.

Explore and discover how deadlifts can enliven your workouts!

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