The Deadlift

by Eric Bofinger

In addition to Olympic lifts, the deadlift is an exercise where athletes can see great improvements in terms of increased strength and power. Like the clean & jerk and snatch, the deadlift focuses on triple extension (extension of the hip, knee, and ankle joints). The primary movers for the deadlift are the large muscles which cross the hip joint and include the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back muscles. The deadlift is a great first lift to learn and is more easily controlled than the squat. Besides the conventional deadlift their are many variations including the Romanian deadlift and Sumo deadlift and many grip variations including an opposing grip, overhand grip, and snatch grip. Because the deadlift is a foundational exercise many variations are used as a starting block for the Olympic lifts.

The starting position of the conventional deadlift has the athletes feet under the bar, ankles touching the bar, knees over the ankles, pelvis in an anterior tilt, torso angle around 45 degrees, shoulder blades retracted and the head in a cervical neutral position. Upon pulling, the primary focus should be the heels pushing through the ground. The torso angle should remain at or around a 45 degree angle until the knees are nearly fully extended. The last phase of the lift includes the final extension of the hips. Upper body mechanics should remain similar for the entire lift with the shoulder blades retracted and head in a cervical neutral position.

In today’s day and age, sports are becoming faster than ever and athletes are becoming stronger than ever. The key is to increase your power to weight ratio. Allyson Felix, now a world class American Sprinter discovered this phenomenon a few years ago. In September of 2002, Allyson was a senior in high school and was training to break Marion Jones’ 200m high school record. When she starting deadlifting in September she was only able to lift 125 lbs. The weight increased to 270 lbs in mid April and to 300 lbs by June. All of this while her bodyweight increased only 2 pounds from 121 lbs to 123 lbs. In 2003 her 200-meter sprint time dropped from 22.83 to 22.11 in 2004 the fastest time in the world. It goes to show what a strength training program can do for somebody even the best of the best.