Deadlifts. Not performed correctly, they can hurt you badly…they can even take you out of the game for good.
But, performed correctly, they’re probably the single best exercise you can do!
No other exercise comes as close as a deadlift does to working all the major muscles of your body in a single movement. From your entire posterior chain, to your core, to your lats, your biceps, your traps, your glutes, quads, hams and a whole host of other muscles, deadlifts hit them all.
I’ve heard more than one respected bodybuilder or powerlifter say that, if they were told they could only do one exercise for the rest of their life, deadlifts would be it.
How much you can deadlift is not as much about how big you are, nor is it about how muscular you are. It’s about how STRONG you are, and, while strength does often correlate to size and muscularity, it also has a lot to do with training. Powerlifters train for strength, not mass, whereas bodybuilders train for mass more than they do strength. Powerlifters are notorious for being quite a bit stronger than bodybuilders who are significantly larger and more muscular.
Why is this?
Take the case of the guy I watched in the gym yesterday. Probably about 25 years old, maybe 150 lbs, and I watched him hoist 405 lbs for 4 reps. He was neither large, nor muscular, but man was he strong! Contrast that with the 225 lb, 6 foot bodybuilder I watched doing the same weight for the same number of reps last week. Note: the 150 lb guy lifted with no wrist straps, and no chalk. The bodybuilder used straps. The 150 lb guy was stronger.
He was stronger because of how he trains. I watched him lift: heavy, low reps, not a lot of sets. He trains his body to fire all the important muscles involved in a deadlift at the same time. The bodybuilder? He did about 7 sets at high reps, pyramiding up to the 405 and back down. Nothing wrong with how he trained, he was just training for a different reason: size, which requires multiple sets at higher reps.
My point is that deadlifts will get you strong. Bodybuilders don’t actually use them often, because they’re not a real mass-builder. They’d rather use the leg-press, which is great for isolating the quads, but tends to ignore the hamstrings. They will then use straight-leg deadlifts to round out their hams, or perhaps leg curls. Their focus is different.
If you want to get strong, use deadlifts. Higher weight, fewer sets, fewer reps. Next week I’ll give you the inside scoop on proper deadlift form, with a video of my deadlift workout, which I’ll be doing on Saturday. Talk more then!