Introduction: Strength: Weightlifting for Beginners - the Deadlift

So you have decided to start working out. You have bought all the gear, you found a gym, and now you are there.
Sometimes the options can be overwhelming. All these machines, weights, pads, and balls! What on earth are they all for? What do they do? You can figure out how to run on a treadmill or how to use a stationary bike, but you want to increase your strength as well. You go to the weightlifting area. Now what? How do these
things work? You know they help you get stronger, but HOW?

Here is a great place to start, the deadlift. Don’t worry about the name, the dead part is the weights, not you. This is a great exercise that can improve your whole body strength. However, done incorrectly it can cause injuries. This instructable will show you how to do a conventional deadlift properly, please note that this is not a sumo deadlift. The materials list is pretty small. All that is needed to perform the deadlift is a barbell and whatever the amount of weight desired, and you.

As with all physical activity, injury is always possible. Always remember that no amount of instruction can take the place of a health care professional’s advice.

WARNING: Possible Injury

Step 1: Correct Foot Position

The first step to the a proper deadlift is getting the correct foot position. For most people, the ideal stance width is hip-width or narrower. If your stance is too wide, it can cause your knees to buckle. It is important to keep your knees, hips and feet aligned in such a way that each remain stable. In this case, your knees should go more outward rather than inward. If your knees fall in, it could cause injury.

See step 7, Common Mistakes #1.

Step 2: Hand Placement

Next is your hand placement. Your arms should be perpendicular to the bar because that will give you the shortest range of motion. This will allow you to lift the most weight. Your hands should be placed just outside of your legs.

See step 7, Common Mistakes #2.

Step 3: Grip

Remember the whole body strengthening thing from earlier? This workout increases strength in parts of your body you might not even think of working out. Like your hands...

There are two different ways to grip the bar, double overhand and alternating grip:
Alternating grip (with one hand palm up and the other palm down) is preferred for higher weights because it prevents the bar from rolling out of your hands like it would with a double overhand grip.
Double overhand grip (with both palms facing down) is usually used for lower weights because it works your hands more so you can improve your grip strength.

Step 4: Starting Position

Next, is your starting position right before you lift the weight. See those big mirrors over there? That is really what they are for. Not for vain people to stare at themselves, or for those of us who are not so vain to see how gross we look all red faced and sweaty. They are there for you to ensure that your position is correct without the benefit of a trainer or spotter. Keep an eye on your position with your hands on the bar and your feet already in place, then bend your knees until your shins touch the bar. Be sure your back is flat.

See step 7, Common Mistakes #3.

Step 5: The Lift

When you begin the lift you want to start by pushing into the ground and straightening your legs, when the bar is around knee level, hinge at your hips and start straightening your body out into an upright position. Be sure that all of your body is working together to get the weight up. No one part is supposed to do all of the work. If you are using mostly your back, arms, or legs to lift this way, you may cause yourself harm. Also, you will not be getting the full benefit of doing this exercise.

See step 7, Common Mistakes #4.

Step 6: Lowering the Weight

When you lower the weight, hinge your hips first and then bend at the knees after the bar has passed your knees. Be sure that you control this movement, being mindful of the motion of your hips and knees as the bar moves downward. Both the upward and downward motions should engage all parts of your body.

Step 7: Common Mistakes

1. A lot of people will start with too wide of a stance. And while in the bottom position their knees will cave in which puts their knees under a lot of stress. Also when the knees are pushed inward it makes it harder to drive you legs into the ground to push and pull the weight, losing a lot of power.

2. Another mistake people will make, especially when using the alternating grip, is bending their arms when trying to lift heavier weights. In essence, trying to curl the weight to help bring it up. Having a bent arm when trying to deadlift can cause you to tear a bicep in the arm with the underhand grip. Therefore it is important to keep your arms straight during the lift.

3. One of the most common mistakes is lifting with a rounded back. Lifting with a rounded lower back puts your spine under a lot of stress and can give you a herniated disk. Some people try too hard to not round their backs but actually end up hyperextending it instead. Ideally you want to have your spine in a neutral position throughout the lift to avoid putting your back under excessive stress.

4. Something that also happens for people that have deadlifted before, is that they will squat the weight instead of deadlifting it. They’ll have their hips too low and perform the upward portion of a squat to get the weight up. People who do this will usually lower the weight improperly as well. Some people will bend the knees first when lowering the weight so it gets put on their legs and they slide down their legs when lowering the weight.

Step 8: Remember to Have Fun

It is sometimes intimidating to do something new. Especially in a gym where sometimes it seems like everyone knows what they are doing except for you. No one was born knowing how to use the machines in a gym or how to use all of the different kinds of weights available. It is hard work, and even though it might be scary at first, the fun comes when you see the results. When you feel better, look better, and you are able to look at the next new person and think to yourself "I remember when that was me." Enjoy your new strength and self confidence, you will have earned it!