Mastering the deadlift will give you back way more in benefits than the effort required. The deadlift is an exercise that everyone can use. The key is to learn proper technique and progress carefully prior to heavy loading.
Overview of Four Deadlift Variations
There are numerous deadlift variations. Most trainees will benefit from learning four foundational deadlift movements and then using variations as appropriate.
#1: Romanian Deadlift (RDL)
With the RDL, the knees are bent to approximately 20 degrees of flexion during the movement. The RDL is a good place to start when learning the deadlift because it establishes the correct body position while hitting all the muscles in the posterior chain.
#2: Conventional Deadlift
The conventional deadlift is a progression from the RDL that requires greater flexibility. Because it starts with a fully flexed torso, the conventional deadlift recruits more of the lower back musculature around the lumbar spine and should only be trained once an individual shows ability to maintain the natural curvature through the deadlifting motion
#3: Sumo Deadlift
The sumo deadlift uses a wide stance and has the arms grasping the bar between the legs, requiring a more erect posture. The upright back position increases the involvement of the hip musculature and reduces the force on the lower back giving it a safety advantage while still allowing for massive recruitment of musculature and heavy loads.
#4: Stiff-Leg Deadlift
The stiff-leg deadlift is similar to the Romanian deadlift but with less knee bend and greater recruitment of the hamstrings and lower back. The knees remain relatively straight throughout the whole motion, though they should not be locked out.
Tips For Mastering The Deadlift
Get the set up right
Set up for the deadlift by pinching your shoulders back and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Instead of bending over, squat down to grab the bar.
Learn technique with an unloaded bar. Increase the weight in small increments to avoid overloading the lower back too quickly.
Focus on bar position
The barbell should be kept in contact with the body in the Romanian, conventional, and sumo-style deadlifts.
Move the body in unison
A common mistake is to extend the knees more quickly than the hips. Instead, focus on extending the hips and knee joints simultaneously. Rather than thinking of the initial lift off the floor as a pull with the back, think of it as a push with the legs while keeping your chest up.
The deadlift is a premier exercise that is highly versatile and can be adapted for all populations. By learning proper technique and progressing intelligently, the deadlift can help you reach new levels of strength and athleticism.