If you’re not a powerlifter, why are you still doing barbell deadlifts?
Is it heavy lifting heresy to talk smack about this classic powerlifting move, or is the conventional deadlift really not as necessary for everyone as its reputation has us to believe?
According to Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., and Men’s Health Advisory Board member David Otey, P.P.S.C., C.S.C.S., it may be one of the most overrated exercises we’ve been accustomed to incorporating into every type of workout routine.
“It’s not the king,” Samuel says of the conventional barbell deadlift. “There are a lot of reasons why there are a ton of exercises out there that you want to do or you’re told to do that really are just a little bit overhyped.”
What makes the barbell deadlift overrated, according to Samuel? Even though the exercise is beneficial as a hinge movement, from a body mechanics perspective—lifting the bar straight up in front of you—is an unnatural position which can be a recipe for injury down the road.
Although hinge movements are an essential part of our workouts, the fixed positioning of the barbell deadlift also limits hinge velocity, something Samuel stresses as an important part of training. “We’ve got to be able to hinge fast, that’s a jump, we’ve got to be able to hinge slowly and we’ve got to be able to hinge at different velocities,” Samuel says.
And because hand positioning is fixed, any shift in leverage, especially when load increases, can lead to other problems. “It doesn’t necessarily translate as well to other options, because the main thing you’re focusing on for that is just getting your hips forward. And just getting your hips forward is not the main goal for a lot of things we do outside of the gym,” Otey says.
While it may feel good to set a PR in a movement just about everyone recognises, the risk for you may outweigh any one-rep max glory. There are other suitable alternatives that work just as effectively as the traditional deadlift.
“The only practical reason to have a barbell deadlift in your routine is if you’re a powerlifter or a CrossFit athlete,” Samuel says. “If you’re none of those things, choose one of these other three options. You’ll get a lot more out of it while still building plenty of muscle.”
Three alternatives to consider:
Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift
A main benefit of these is the focus on hip extension. What you’re not doing with this exercise, Samuel says, is you’re not traveling all the way to the ground, like a traditional deadlift, which may not be the best option for many people.
Trap Bar Deadlift
Just by its handle position, the trap bar allows you to both lift heavy weight, and also be able to perform explosive movements, like deadlift jumps. “It’s just a lot more natural way to deadlift, right? It involves the hips and knees more, similar to picking something up outside of the gym, like groceries,” says Otey.
When it comes to safe and natural lifting, the closest similarity to picking up off the floor is going to be a kettlebell. “The key to a deadlift is picking something off the ground from no movement,” Otey says. “Choosing a lighter option can allow you to use your body in different ways, but doesn’t force-feed you into what a barbell does.”
Via Men’s Health.