Building the Case For (Heavy) Deadlifts and You

A few weeks ago, I got into a debate on the interwebz with another strength coach.  

The forum? A message board we both belong to (yes, it's like a secret club of strength coaches).

The subject?  Deadlifts.

While the subject matter is probably no surprise to you, the other coach stated that heavy deadlifts were simply more risk than reward and it didn't make sense to deadlift anything above "laundry weight."

 'Cuz Antoine Dodson said so..

'Cuz Antoine Dodson said so..

To be honest, I think my head exploded when I heard his reasoning.  Why?  Because to me, a world without deadlifts is like....a world without chocolate!

All kidding aside, the debate made me really internalize a few of my beliefs, and think more intensely about why I believe errbody (and I do mean, errbody!) needs to do some form of deadlifting.  

And so, here are my 4 points about why everyone should deadlift:

1. The very first reason I want someone deadlifting has to do with a very large fact: the majority of Americans will experience back pain in their lifetime.  Chances are, this means you too, and the very first thing I want to show someone is that they may be deadlifting incorrectly, and they shouldn't be afraid of picking something heavy off the floor.  I may change the name to keep a client from being scared off (enter: the flat back exercise!), but it's all about teaching someone how to hip hinge and how to control their pelvis.  In fact, if you think about what aspects most people need to learn how to perform (glute and lat activation, plus core bracing and body awareness), they're all important parts of the deadlift.

 The last thing this woman needs is more stretching....enter: The Deadlift.

The last thing this woman needs is more stretching....enter: The Deadlift.

2. Next, I've found that deadlifts actually carry a reduced chance of injury than many other hip-dominant movements (e.g. poorly performed kettlebell swings you see in any commercial gym).  Anecdotally, I've also found that the better someone gets at deadlifting, they less back pain they experience.  While the reasons for that are plenty, I believe it has to do more with causation than correlation.

3. If you're a client of mine, you know I'm very against stretching your hamstrings.  Why?  Science has evolved and we no longer think of the hamstrings as something that flexes your knee.  Instead, we now think of the hamstrings as a pelvic stabilizer, which controls your pelvis.  If you have "tight" hamstrings, you have to realize that there's a reason why they're tight.  On the flip side, if you can palm the floor, or constantly stretch them, you may actually end up with MORE back pain, not less.  While that statement tends to open up Pandora's box (and questions that are bigger than this blog post), just trust me - you need to strengthen your hamstrings.  And, what's one of the best ways to do that?  By deadlifting.

4. Lastly, deadlifts simply tend to get people excited about coming back.  The "cool factor" of picking up one's own body weight (or much more) gets people eager about hitting the gym and walking back through the door.  And as long as you're controlling for their safety with the appropriate lifts, what's wrong with that?