One of the three powerlifting exercises, the deadlift is one of those good news/bad news deals. First the good news: The deadlift is one of the best overall body exercises that you can do. Every muscle is involved during the dead lift—upper back, hips, quads, hamstrings, abdominals, you name it. Now the bad news: It's an advanced lift and must be performed with perfect form or you'll risk injury. While we'll omit it from beginning programs, it can become a valuable weapon in your back-training arsenal as your strength training progresses.

The most important thing to keep in mind during this lift is that the back must be held as erect as possible. Never allow your chest to go over the bar—this will bring your body forward as you lift the weight, causing you to use your low back for most of the lift instead of your hips and legs. As you pull the weight, think of pushing your feet through the floor so that you really get your legs into it.

Deadlift start/end position.

Deadlift Mid Range

Deadlift midrange position.

Here is how you properly perform a deadlift:

1. Place your feet slightly wider apart than shoulder width.

2. Reach down and grasp the bar on the outside of the legs with a reverse grip.

3. Lower the hips until the thighs are close to parallel to the floor.

4. Flatten your lower back and look up slightly.

5. Make sure that your weight is on your heels, not your toes. Form is of the utmost importance here, so make sure the first time you do this awesome lift you do it with just the bar.

6. Stand upright by straightening the legs and upper body; pause and then slowly return to the initial starting position. Think of yourself as a piston or as an arrow being shot out of the bow.

7. Look up toward the ceiling because that is where you want to go. (Typically, your body goes where your head and eyes go.) If you look straight ahead, you may come out of the lift going forward. Look up and you'll usually come out going up.

8. As you lower the bar to the starting position, be sure to keep the bar close to your shins. In fact, the bar should actually graze your shins throughout the lift.

The following is a list of don'ts:

> Lift your hips too quickly. This will transfer most of the effort to your lower back. The legs, hips, and lower back should be working together with most of the work done by your legs and hips.

> Snap or lock out your knees as you straighten your legs.

> Lean back excessively.

> Bounce the weight off the floor between repetitions.

The following is a list of do's:

>- Keep your abdominals tight and your back as erect as possible.

>- Keep your shoulder blades pulled together—this will help keep your back erect.

Weight a Minute

Don't attempt this exercise if you have lower back problems. People with long torsos often have difficulty performing this lift because the lower back often becomes the piVot point.

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