One of the most common lifts in a high school athlete’s strength program today is the deadlift, a total body hinge exercise that works everything from your quadriceps to you trapezius muscles.
But the unfortunate reality of this great exercise is that many athletes are doing it incorrectly, or aren’t using the lift to their full advantage.
This is where we come in to help. Thanks to Thea Vock, a Physical Conditioning Coach with IMG Academy, we have the information you need to make every deadlift a successful one.
Q: Why is the deadlift an important workout for athletes today?
A: “The deadlift is something that many people do wrong. There are so many moving parts to the lift and it’s one of the most difficult to teach, especially to a young kid. Deadlifting is pretty much the only movement that will literally work the whole body. It works all the way from the ground up, so you are using your arms, your core, your legs, your hamstrings, and your glutes. It really is one of the best exercises to do for an overall total body workout.”
Q: Can you break down proper deadlift form for us?
A: “The lift involves a hinging movement so it’s much different than a squat where you are moving just straight down and up. Basically, it’s just moving your hips back and then extending them forward in one fluid motion.
To start, you’ll generally want to put your feet right under your hips, making sure your toes are pointing straight ahead or slightly turned out depending on what makes you comfortable. Make sure your hands are right outside of your hips while underneath your shoulders, and then you want to check your back to make sure it is nice and flat with no arch and that your shoulders are locked in. From there, you’ll brace your core and take a deep breath before driving up feet first while moving the bar up straight, keeping it nice and close to your legs all in one fluid motion. As you pass your knees with the bar while coming up, that’s when you’re driving your hips forward with the bar nice and close to your body. Make sure to repeat those steps on the way down so you don’t hurt your back as well.”
Q: Could you give us a few different variations of this exercise?
A: “What we trainers usually like to start with is a kettle bell deadlifts. The form is the same, they will just do the hinging movement with the kettlebell between their legs. Then you have the sumo deadlift where your feet are out wider than your hips, your toes are facing out, and your hands go on the inside of your legs. Another unique variation I like is the hex bar deadlift, this is a hexagonal bar that you will stand in the middle of with your hands on the outside of your hips doing the same hinging motion.”
Q: What are some common mistakes people make while deadlifting?
A: “The biggest and most common mistake would be the rounding of the back. A lot of times, the athlete will begin in a good position, but as soon as they start to lift the weight, they round their back, meaning the weight is probably too heavy for them. Another mistake I see is people locking their knees out and then driving their hips forward. With that we like to see that the bar is staying close to their knees, and as they pass the knees with the bar coming up that their hips are shooting forward. This keeps pressure off the lower back.”
Q: How does an athlete know when it’s the right time to add more weight to the bar?
A: “Starting out, you’ll want to stay pretty light so you can get the form down. What I like to do is ask the athlete how they feel and if they can do the eight reps or whatever they are doing pretty easily. If they can, then I’ll add weight to both sides, usually in 2.5 pound increments. On the other end of things if they are struggling through eight reps I’ll just keep them there, or if their form isn’t looking good then I’ll have them drop some weight.”
Dedicated weightlifters know the importance of a stable weightlifting shoe. It keeps you locked down through all of your lifts, helps you maintain good form, and keeps you injury free during your training.
In order to keep you locked down and in the proper form to excel during your lifts, training in a standard but stable trainer like the Adidas Powerlift 3 or the new and improved Nike Romaleos 3 is very beneficial.
Dr. Brad DeWeese, head performance coach at the East Tennessee State University Olympic Training Site, is a proponent of his athletes using proper weightlifting shoes during their training sessions. So far Dr. DeWeese has only heard positive things from his athletes about the new Romaleos.
“Honestly I really like the Romaleos, the plastic in the heel is super stiff,” He said. “I have heard from my athletes that toward the front of shoe there is a lot more flex, which they feel allows them to hit better positions while lifting.”
We broke down the weightlifting shoe to give you a better idea of its upgrades from its predecessor:
One of the most important pieces of the Romaleos 3 is the locked-down fit, which you get through multiple features. None are more important though than the strap on the shoe’s upper. The Romaleos 2 offered two skinny straps, with one placed up high and one down low. This model instead offers one wider strap that wraps around your midfoot, for that comfortable, secure feel.
Throughout the Romaleos 3, Nike’s Flywire technology is used to give the weightlifter a comfortable fit that keeps your foot from moving inside of the shoe. This feature isn’t very noticeable, but it can be seen surrounding the eyelets on the shoe, giving your foot that tight, glove-like fit.
The Romaleos 3 boasts the large, stable, plastic heel found on previous models. This heel is lighter and a tad bigger than the last models’ to offer more cushion, which is important for extra strength during deadlifts and squats. The heel also features a honeycomb pattern, which removes weight with its cut-out but stable style.
This Romaleos 3 was made to keep your feet from sweating as much as they did in prior models. The shoe offers built-in mesh slits near the toes that offer breathability, and ventilated mesh near the ankle and tongue of the shoe. These added holes and slits help to circulate more air around your foot, keeping sweat away.
“The Romaleos have done a great job,” DeWeese said. “They are stiff, they are secure, they’ve got the needed heel lift, and they’ve been able to withstand a year or two of training for people on the road which is awesome.”
Having a stable training shoe for weightlifting is important, and something DeWeese advocates for instead of a running or flat platform shoe.
“When you try to go into the weight room with a typical running shoe or even Chuck Taylors, a really flat shoe,” he said. “The shoes are stable, but what you don’t notice is that you have a lot of compression that comes through the shoe’s foam.”
“Running shoes are meant to displace some of the force that occurs during the impact of running, DeWeese said. But you actually want to use those forces in the weight room.” The lack of compression during your lifts, he also said, results in a more proper form which will work your muscles harder and help make you a better athlete down the road.
At eastbay.com we are advocates of making the right footwear choices when it comes to your training. No matter how you train, step up your workouts this season and tag us in a photo of your training shoe using #Prepare4Greatness.
By Travelle Gaines
For this week’s training segment with athletic trainer Travelle Gaines we chatted about the topic of motivation. Motivation and goal setting is something that has been very important to Gaines throughout his career, and he looks to pass that on to others. Below are some thoughts Gaines had on the topic.
TT: Trent Tetzlaff, Eastbay Copywriter
TG: Travelle Gaines, Professional Athletic Trainer
TT: How would you define motivation?
TG: Motivation, to me, is what changes your behavior about something — it drives your actions to succeed.
TT: How were you motivated as a young athlete?
TG: We all are motivated in our own ways. For me, growing up and being around sports all the time made me want to participate in those sports and either get a scholarship or become a pro. Not knowing any better at the time, my motivation was that they made plenty of money.
TT: Can an athlete make it in their sport without clear motivation of some sort?
TG: You can’t tell me that getting up at 5 a.m. every single morning to train, eat, work out, and go to class are things done leisurely or without purpose. There must be something deep within that drives those acts. Often I ask the kids that come into our Athletic Gaines facilities, “What’s Your Why?” Their responses vary, but every successful athlete is able to define their motivation — that someone or something — that pushes them to success.
TT: Why is becoming motivated and setting goals important for any athlete?
TG: Motivation is very important; it impacts your approach and essentially keeps you working towards something. Without it, it’s much more likely you’ll quit short of your goals. Remembering your why behind your actions and setting goals — short and long term — will keep you waking up at 5 a.m. for workouts, staying late after practice to run more sprints, or doing more reps than required in the weight room.
TT: How would you tell a young athlete today to find motivation and to stay on that track to success?
TG: First of all, Think of something that you enjoy doing or do often (i.e. working, lifting weights, catching a football). Secondly, think about the possibilities of becoming the best you can at it, and where it could lead you (i.e. making varsity, getting a collegiate scholarship, making the pros). Lastly, Set goals to reach those heights and constantly work toward them (i.e. wake up at 5 a.m. for workouts, do 25 push-ups every night, run 10 sprints a day).
TT: Any final words of wisdom for the young athlete out there?
TG: Once you find what really motivates you, stay consistent and work hard until you ultimately become successful.