Building a Bigger & Better Deadlift

December 27, 2019

By: Jared Blincow

With December comes DEADcember and another opportunity to build and develop one of the big three lifts! The deadlift is one of the most important lifts in our training arsenal and comes with a handful of benefits. The posterior chain of the body often gets neglected by gym goers even though our largely sedentary lifestyles means we need to train and strengthen this part of the body more than ever.

The posterior chain is a group of muscles on the backside of the body, including the hamstrings, glutes, spinal erectors, and upper back musculature. The posterior chain also plays a fundamental role in postural integrity and health.

A stronger posterior chain can reduce lower back and knee injuries/pain and is the foundation for a strong, healthy lifestyle. Here’s a few exercises you can add to your training to build a bigger (& better) deadlift this month:

RDL

The RDL is on the of the most important and fundamental movements to master. Learning how to properly hip hinge with a neutral spine will not only strengthen injury prone areas due to sedentary lifestyles but also enhance almost every other lower body lift you are already doing in the gym. The RDL is a true hip hinge and will have a direct impact on your deadlifts. It’s important to focus on keeping a neutral spine throughout the entirety of this movement and the movement is being initiated through the hips and not the lumbar spine. Keep the barbell as close as you can to your body as you push your hips back and focus on coming up explosively, finishing the movement by squeezing your glutes. The video here shows a barbell RDL but this movement can be done with dumb bells, kettle bells, and bands for variety.

Barbell Bent Over Row

The barbell bent over row is essentially an RDL that now includes a row. Forcing your body to hold a hip hinge while going through some dynamic movement will build some resiliency in your hip hinge while strengthening the upper back in the process. A strong upper back/lats will allow yourself to keep tension in the body and stay tight while we are deadlifting off the floor. I like to deadlift the barbell off the floor first and then RDL into position in order to ensure I’m set up correctly before I start rowing. Focus on keeping your back flat and as close to parallel with the floor as possible. Pull the barbell up into your belly button, squeeze your shoulder blades, and slowly control the weight back down between reps. 

Glute Drive/Hip Thrust 

 The glutes and hamstrings are the primary movers in hip extension and the glute drive/hip thrust is a great movement to directly train this muscle group. We use hip extension every day to stabilize our hips as we walk, run, jump, sprint etc. and most of us don’t extend our hips enough on a daily basis due to our sedentary lifestyles. Strengthening both the glutes and hamstrings can build a more resilient lower back and reduce some nagging lower back pain/injuries. The lockout portion of the deadlift involves a strong hip extension and weak glutes can force your lumbar spine to take on a greater portion of the load than it needs to. While performing the hip thrust, focus on pushing through the heels and driving the hips as far forward as you can. The hip thrust is a fairly simple move to master and can be progressively loaded quickly but it’s important to focus on a full hip extension every single rep and try to hold each rep at the top for 1-2 seconds before coming back down. If you are feeling this movement in your quads more than your glutes try dropping the weight down and really focusing on squeezing your glutes as hard as you can at the top of each rep. 

Suitcase Carry

Nothing gets more functional than picking up a heavy weight, walking with it, and then setting it back down. Carrying a heavy weight in one hand forces the core to stay engaged in order to maintain an upright posture without swaying from side to side. The suitcase carry targets the core, upper back/postural muscles, lower body, and grip strength, all of which are important factors to a strong deadlift. Just like any exercise, it’s important to choose a weight that is challenging but still allows you to maintain proper form and posture. Focus on keeping the kettlebell/dumbbell locked into place using the core while packing the shoulder down and back.

KB Swing

The KB swing can help bridge the gap in the hip hinge continuum. While the deadlift is primarily used as a pure strength developer, the KB swing is a more dynamic and ballistic movement that can aid in the lock out portion of the deadlift. Before adding KB swings into your training routine, make sure you’ve got your hip hinge technique dialed in before you start executing it in a dynamic fashion. 

What People Are Saying About Lift Chicago

  • Lift is THE place to go to perfect your training, perfect your form, and have an incredible time while doing it. Josh and the other coaches are the smartest and... read more

    Jake Morrissy Avatar Jake Morrissy

    I have been lifting here with Sam for a couple of months, and couldn’t say anything better about Lift! The gym is clean, equipment well maintained, and the staff is... read more

    Erik Swanson Avatar Erik Swanson

    I’ve been training at LIFT for 1.5 years. Each and every one of the trainers are knowledgeable, friendly, professional, and extremely efficient. It’s surprising how great of a workout you... read more

    Kendra Chavin Avatar Kendra Chavin
  • I’ve had such a great experience here, especially training with Coach Abby! The trainers here are very attentive and helpful, which I definitely appreciate since I’m pretty new to weight... read more

    Linda Quizhpi Avatar Linda Quizhpi

    The whole staff there is great. You cannot go wrong training with any of them. Plus, it is super clean. I feel complete safe going there with COVID-19.

    Timothy McAlister Avatar Timothy McAlister

    Love the Lift classes- they are really unique, with 5 circuits and a mix of weight stations with some cardio, too (rope pulls, sleds, etc.). The coaches are the best... read more

    Carrie Sweeney Avatar Carrie Sweeney
  • Very kind staff. They handle health precautions significantly better than other gyms I have been to since COVID began.

    McLean Richard Avatar McLean Richard

    I started training at LIFT over a year ago in prep for my wedding. I have never looked or felt better! I have worked with almost every coach, and they’re... read more

    Cara j Avatar Cara j

    Looking for a great workout with Chicago’s best trainers, in an immaculate space in Lincoln Park or River North? Then do not delay and book an appointment at LIFT today!... read more

    Kristin Arnold Avatar Kristin Arnold
  • Positive: Communication ,  Professionalism ,  Quality I’ve had such a great experience here, especially training with Coach Abby! The trainers here are very attentive and helpful, which... read more

    Linda Quizhpi Avatar Linda Quizhpi

    These deserve more stars. Ive been rocking with these guys for years. Always fun and professional. They have help me achieve my body goals by coming 3 days a... read more

    Domique Bland Avatar Domique Bland

    I’ve been training at Lift since it opened, and with Pete prior to. Everyone here is always extremely professional and so very nice. They may not know it, but they... read more

    Jenny Gariepy Avatar Jenny Gariepy
  • Just had my first session with John and it was great. Very attentive and friendly. Paid attention to my goals and paced me throughout while directing my form ( chief... read more

    Alexis Youn Avatar Alexis Youn

    Lift is an amazing place! The trainers are knowledgeable and the workouts are tough. Being a runner, I was constantly getting injured. Lift has strengthened me overall and worked on... read more

    Anne Scranton Avatar Anne Scranton

    Sarah H with WMNxLIFT is the best!!! I’ve been active my whole life and she is by far the best coach I’ve ever had. She’s attentive, extremely knowledgeable, and has... read more

    Karen Liu Avatar Karen Liu
  • After working out at LIFT for a year now, I can't say enough good things about this place. My trainer, Isaac, is kind, knowledgeable, experienced, and careful, making sure... read more

    Paula Hoste Avatar Paula Hoste

    Positive: Professionalism ,  Quality I started attending the women’s lifting class and absolutely love it! It’s exciting, fun and welcoming for all different ability levels!

    Lainie Augensen Avatar Lainie Augensen

    Great variety of classes, the instructors are awesome! All very helpful and help you with any questions you may have.

    Allen Hernandez Avatar Allen Hernandez
  • I have trained with the guys at Lift for a long time and consider my sessions to be some of my best long-term investments. My workouts there are sustainable, enjoyable... read more

    Brigid Sweeney Avatar Brigid Sweeney

    Very attentive personal trainers. Very helpful in health and diet guidance.

    Phillip Hernandez Avatar Phillip Hernandez

    Started working out here a couple years ago. Love the instructors and the variety of classes offered.

    Anthony Samson Avatar Anthony Samson
  • It has been challenging for me to find the motivation to workout since the beginning of the pandemic. Lift has helped me to get back into a routine in a... read more

    Stephanie Garcia Avatar Stephanie Garcia

    I’ve been training at LIFT for 1.5 years. Each and every one of the trainers are knowledgeable, friendly, professional, and extremely efficient. It’s surprising how great of a workout you... read more

    Kendra Chavin Avatar Kendra Chavin

    Amazing, diverse gym. Place to get strong and lean.

    Malika Whitmore Avatar Malika Whitmore