Conventional Deadlift

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Conventional Deadlift (Regular Deadlift)

Conventional deadlifts are one of those exercises that stimulate just about every muscle in the human body. The deadlift is often thought of as a back exercise — and it is, but it’s also an incredible leg-builder, as you’re essentially dropping into a squat in the bottom position. Sometimes called “king of exercises” because of its effectiveness in building back and leg strength, the deadlift is also on of the three lifts performed in competitive powerlifting. Deadlifts will pack meat on your upper back as well as any rowing exercise, and build you a set of python-like spinal erectors. And they are about the only exercise other than squats that will build you a thunderous set of thighs.

Conventional Deadlift Exercise Instructions

STARTING (INITIAL) POSITION: Grasp a barbell with a shoulder-width mixed grip (one palm forward, one back) — this helps you maintain your grip on the barbell during the exercise – and squat down, bending the knees and hips. Look up and make sure you maintain the natural curve in your lower spine while bending deeply at your knees. When you are set up, your knees should be bent about 90-degrees or so. Your shoulders should be in front or over the bar, but not behind the bar.

Conventional Deadlift Exercise

Conventional Deadlift Exercise

ACTION (MOVEMENT): Keeping your spine straight and elbows stiff, stand upright, lifting the bar upward to hip level. In other words, lift the bar past your knees with your legs. Then pull the bar to the top using your glutes and back.  Once standing, bring your shoulders back slightly and pause. Lower the barbell along the same path (close to your body all the way down) to the floor. Your back and arms should be straight throughout the movement. Only your knees and hips should be moving.

Conventional deadlifts

Conventional deadlifts

In a manner of speaking a deadlift is just a squat with the bar held by the hands and not across the shoulders.

Muscles Involved in Conventional Deadlift

The conventional deadlift belongs in the multiple-joint exercise category because the hip, the knee, and the ankle joints are mobilized. As a result, the deadlift recruits many muscles in addition to the lumbar muscles: the latissimus dorsi, the glutes, the hamstrings, and the quads.

  • Primary muscles: erector spinae, gluteals, hamstrings
  • Secondary muscles: trapezius, latissimus dorsi, quadriceps, forearms

Key Points To Check When Deadlifting

  • The bar should travel straight up and down, close to your body.
  • The barbell is lifted from the floor up to the top of the thighs, with arms extended and elbows kept stiff.
  • First you have to push your feet into the ground and drive the bar up with your legs. A good deadlift involves a leg press to get started, then a back extension to finish. Once the bar passes the knees, it’s all about hip and back extension.
  • Keep the spine straight throughout the movement; do not round the lower back forward or extend the spine to far backwards.
  • Never drop your head and look down as you lift. This makes your torso lean forward too much and places stress on your lower back. Instead, keep your back at a 45-degree angle, your head up, and your eyes looking forward.
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold them there before lifting the weight. This will help prevent your upper back from rounding – and will enable you to lift more weight.
  • Don’t make the common mistake of using too much lower back; bend deeply at the knees on each rep, and, as mentioned above, keep your lower spine arched.
  • Make sure you don’t ever lower the bar too quickly and bounce the weight.

Conventional Deadlift Variations

  • Start from the top instead off the floor. Lift the bar off a rack, step backward, and then perform the deadlifts.
  • Use a specially designed trap bar to perform this exercise. The trap bar, developed by Al Gerard, is a terrific aid for the deadlift and is much superior to a straight bar. It reduces spine stress relative to the straight bar deadlift, and puts the arms and hands into a near perfect position. It also makes the lowering of the bar a reverse of the ascent. With a straight bar, lowering the weight can be a problem. This is because the knees get in the way more on the descent than they do on the ascent.
  • Use reverse band setup to make it easier to get the weight moving. Loop bands over top of the rack and around the bar.
  • Use a band to make it harder to lift as you come close to full extension. Loop each end of the band over the bar and stand on the middle of the band.
  • Dumbbell Deadlift. This exercise is done with two dumbbells.
  • Sumo Deadlift. Squat over the barbell with a stance that’s wider than shoulder-width, and turn your toes out at about a 45-degree angle. Use a shoulder-width grip as you perform a deadlift. The upright stance afforded by the foot position of this variation means you get less hip and more inner-thigh work.

Replacement Exercises

The deadlift may seem simple, but it is actually a very technical exercise. For this reason it may not be the best way to isolate and therefore specifically strengthen the lower back. Furthermore, it is far riskier for the spine than isolating exercises such as the hyperextension performed on a bench.

If you don’t like this exercise, you can easily replace it with any other lower back exercise (erector spinae exercise) from our exercise database.

Conventional Deadlift vs. Romanian Deadlift

Like many exercises, deadlifts have evolved to many different forms and variations, and Romanian deadlift is one of the new exercises born out of traditional deadlift. Compared to conventional deadlift, Romanian deadlift is easier to learn and perform. It’s mostly due to the difference in its starting point. Traditional deadlift starts by bending down. You lifts weights off the ground from the low point. Romanian deadlift on the other hand starts from a standing position with weights in your hands and bend down from your hips to a lower point where your flexibility allows you to reach. In essence, Romanian deadlift is reverse of traditional (conventional) deadlift.

Closing Thoughts About the Conventional Deadlifts

The conventional deadlift strengthens nearly every muscle in your body (the most complete strength training exercise), including the legs, back, shoulders, and arms. Just about every muscle group kicks in to support the weight and stabilize your body. If you do not have much time to train, the deadlift will strengthen several muscles in the limited amount of time you do have.

When deadlifting properly, you will get very strong and add serious muscle size. But deadlifting improperly can send you to a doctor, fast. This is not an exaggeration. When the back is rounded under heavy loads, internal forces can push your spinal disc backward. If the forces are great enough, the discs can bulge or rupture and jam against nearby nerves. That’s a serious pain, and it can put out of commission for months – or for good. That’s why it is a good idea to stretch a long time at a pull-up bar at the end of the workout.

proper and improper back position during deadlift

Proper and improper back position during deadlift

If you have long legs or short arms, you will have to round your back to lower the bar to the floor, which is not recommended. In this case, reduce the range of motion by only lowering the bar to the knees.

Furthermore, because of the number of muscles that are involved in this exercise, it is exhausting. Also, the conventional deadlift begins with a positive phase that does not allow you to accumulate elastic energy in your muscles during the descent (as occurs during a squat).

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