I love the deadlift. It is my second favourite exercise, behind pullups. Pullups I love because they feel so incredibly amazing. Particularly for women, who tend to find them very difficult. Once you accomplish them, I think the feeling of awesome is increased.

But deadlifts are a different kind of awesome. They are functionally awesome. Everyone deadlifts. In life, that is. And because everyone deadlifts in life, virtually all of my clients deadlift in the gym. Whether you are 16 or 76, if you train with me for long enough, you will deadlift. And odds are, you will probably love it. In fact I have one client who drew a sad face on his workout sheet because there were no deadlifts that day.

Everyone deadlifts in life?

When you bend down to pick up your daughter; that’s a deadlift.
When you bend down to pick up your cat; that’s a deadlift.
When you pick a book up off the floor; that’s a deadlift.
When you reach down to get a beer out of the fridge; that’s a deadlift.
When you reach into the oven to take the roast out; that’s a deadlift.

At the most basic level, a deadlift is bending over, picking something up, and then putting it down again. We do this every day at home and at work. As it turns out, there is in fact a right and a wrong way to deadlift. The wrong way looks like this:

Can you see the flaw? No, it’s not the fashion choice. It’s the rounded back. My back gets sore just watching it. If you round your back like that when you deadlift your kid or your cat or your dinner, you could be on your way to becoming one of the many in our society who suffer back pain.

The right way to deadlift involves bending at the hips instead of the back, and looks like this:

Note how perfectly straight Nia’s back is. Whether you are deadlifting pieces of metal at the gym, or loved ones at home, keep your back healthy by doing it with a nice straight back. The cues I like to use are to stick your butt out and keep the chest up.

Learn the right way to deadlift, and you may be able to spare yourself the back pain that afflicts so many people.

Elsbeth Vaino is a personal trainer in Ottawa, Canada.

Related articles:
6 Exercises for Low Back Health
Lessons about low back pain part 1
Lessons about low back pain part 2
Lessons of the hip & spine

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