As much as I love deadlifting, there are just some people who can’t partake of their awesomeness in its entirety right off the bat. Let’s say they have a few issues, like hip mobility, weak glutes, a pension for rounding the shoulders, or they’re a little miss Fancy-Pants who doesn’t want to lift anything heavier than a chihuahua for fear of developing a Y chromosome.
That being said, while i would love to have people dip it low and pick it up slow on the regular, some people need to step back a few notches and work on getting their body able to handle the stresses of deadlifting. For instance, if the lumbar spine is held in a flexed position, the shear forces it’s exposed to increase by a factor of 10, which can lead to some serious injuries. Additionally, if the muscles of the hips aren’t strong enough to push the weight, the erector group of the spine has to do the work, again pushing the spine into flexion. Couple that with most people’s redonkulous lack of hip flexibility, and you can see how the deadlift can develop such a bad rap for injuring backs.
Meathead: Hey, why do you do deadlifts? Aren’t you afraid it will screw up your back?? I did them for a few years and now I can’t tie my own shoes to save my life without crippling back pain.
Me: Well, how do you do your deadlifts.
Meathead: Like this.
Me: Sorry, I kinda blacked out there for a minute. And now my eyes are bleeding.
In order to do an exercise, you have to be able to DO the exercise. This means that you don’t jump into max weights if you can’t maintain the basic technical components of the movement, or the odds of you getting injured may go through the roof.
Having Said that, one of my favorite corrective exercises for the deadlift is a little gem I thought up after observing a client who had a real bad habit of rotating their pelvis to one side on every rep of a technical deadlift workout. She kept turning into her right hip, like something was preventing it from moving properly. I thought we should look at isolating each hip in the movement, but she couldn’t do a typical 1-leg deadlift to save her life. Enter the Dumbell Bench deadlift.
Why This Rocks
By having one leg loaded for the entire movement, you can isolate left or right pelvic imbalances and work on correcting them, be it in flexibility or in strength. Additionally, by having the dumbell in the contralateral arm as the leg doing the work, the spine and pelvis have to stabilize against the rotational force being put on the body. A third bit of awesome is that the leg on the bench is actively contracting and stretching the adductor muscles, which play a hyooge role in hip stability and strength, so teaching it to fire and stretch can only add up to a nice warm p of awesome-sauce on the stove.
How to Do It.
Set up with a bench roughly knee-high, and hold one foot on the bench with the knee perfectly straight. This is key, because if the knee starts to bend during the movement it will get some torquing forces on it that may cause some injury. If the knee is held locked out it will limit any potential damage, and also make sure the hips and adductor stretch properly.
Holding a dumbell in the same hand as the leg that’s on the bench, perform the movement like a hip hinge, driving the butt straight back while maintaining a perfectly stable and strong spine. Drive the hips forward, making sure you flex your glute as hard as possible. Throw in a fist pump with your free hand on every rep, and your deadlift and testosterone will both increase overnight.