Exactly How To Do A Dead Lift Without Hurting Yourself


Women's Health |

By Michelle October

It’s like the bend and snap, but with way more benefits. You have all the equipment, now read the manual for a tighter tush.

“The dead lift works more muscles than any other exercise, including the squat,” says John Meintjes, Springbok women’s conditioning coach. In one move, you’re engaging all major muscle groups, including your inner thighs, quads, glutes, abs and arms. Elite athletes do them all the time because of their utility (super- ripped rugby sevens player Chané Stadler swears by them).

But the key, says Meintjes, is the rep count. “We like you to be able to dead lift your own body weight for no longer than eight reps,” he says of the sevens players. Anything more and you compromise form, which will lead to injury.

Of course, you won’t be able to lift your body weight right from the start. Julian Thomson, trainer and coach at Planet Fitness Cape Town, says the rule of thumb is to lift 40 percent of your body weight at first, then increase in 10 percent increments.

Ultimately, it’s about what you feel comfortable doing. “Most barbells at the gym weigh between 15 and 20 kilos,” says Thomson. Start lifting that until your form is good, then add what feels comfortable. Thomson says you should be able to complete 10 reps without compromising form before you add any more weight.

Signs you’re doing it wrong

• You’re rounding your back.
Because your back is a key player in lifting the weight, it’s normal to feel it being activated. But rounding your back (relying on it solely) puts you in the danger zone. “You’ll feel that the weight is being carried there – it’s a distinct feeling,” says Thomson.

• Your knees are over your toes.
Major danger! This destabilises the joints, upping your injury risk. Keep your shins close to the barbell. “Doing this allows you to get your hips back rather than shifting your weight forward towards the bar,” explains Meintjes.

Avoid if…

You have lower back, knee or hip issues. If you’re pregnant, speak to your doc first.

Tiny tweaks, major gains

Get these right and you’re on your way to major fat-torching!

Grip it good
Over-hand? Under- hand? How about best of both? It’s how the Olympians do it and Thomson reckons it’s best for beginners too. “With the difference in grips, you’re using opposing forces, so the bar stays stable.” And it tends to be more comfortable.

Hold your breath …
When you lift. Yes, really. “This allows you to maintain core rigidity and a neutral spine throughout the lift,” says Meintjes. “Fill your belly with air, hold it and get tight in your core.” Keep holding until you stand up straight!

Looking for more basic moves to master? Here’s how you can ace the stability-ball pike, the bicep curltricep dip, the squat and the sit-up like a pro.

READ MORE ON: Fitness Fitness Advice