I get a lot of questions from women about deadlifting:
Most importantly, I want you to know that this lift is for you. It's not just for muscley dudes or perky 20- something Insta models. You, a middle-aged bad mama jama are gonna own this lift. Let's gooo!
This is solidly middle-aged me at 48 deadlifting 270lbs at a bodyweight of 127lbs. That's well over 2x my bodyweight.
What body parts does a deadlift work anyway?
Allll the parts:)
Deadlifts train your grip, your arms, your upper, mid and lower back, your glutes, your core, and your legs.
If you're thinking purely in terms of aesthetic benefits, deadlifts are fantastic at lifting your booty, toning your thighs and chiseling your back. Of course they're useful in everyday life- moving furniture, boxes, bags, kids. You'll be stronger and safer pretty much any time you're lifting heavy stuff up off the ground as you train your deadlift.
How To Deadlift Step 1: The Hip Hinge
First things first. Before you even pick up a weight let's get you grooving the right movement here. It's important to note that the deadlift is not a squat. It is a hip hinge. I remember being supremely confused about the difference between these two movements when I first started lifting. Here's a breakdown:
When hip hingeing your butt goes back, not down. Imagine that someone wrapped a rope around your waist, stood behind you and pulled. Which direction would your hips move? Would they go down towards the floor? Of course not. They'd go back, in the direction of the pull. That's the motion of a hip hinge.
Notice that in a squat you bend both your knees and your hips maximally, whereas in a hinge you bend your hips maximally while bending your knees minimally. Also take a look at my shins in this graphic; they're almost vertical in the hinge and angled forward in the squat.
Watch the video below to learn 3 drills you can do to learn to hip hinge:
1. The dowel drill
2. The wall tap drill
3. The door shutting drill
Video yourself performing these 3 drills and compare them to my video.
Does your form look the same?
No? Keep practicing. You'll get it!
Yes? Great! Well done. Moving on...
Cable or Band Pull Through
A great exercise to practice the hip hinge movement is the cable or band pull through. I'm gonna bet you think it's a little awkward One of my clients calls it "flossing her vagina."
I promise it's worth the weird:)
Here: watch how to do it with a cable and rope attachment. You can also do it at home with a resistance band.
How To Cable Pull Through:
How to Deadlift Step 2: Kettlebell Deadlift
Once you feel confident with your hip hinge you're ready to give the first deadlift variation a try.
Let's see it!
What if I can't get into position to deadlift the KB with that form?
Try this: elevate the KB up to a height that you can lift it with proper form. You can elevate it on plates or a box.
Here's a video so you can see all the parts of a kettlebell deadlift in action:
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How To Deadlift Step 3: Deadlifting With A Bar
If you have a trap bar available, give that a go next. If not, skip ahead to the section on sumo deadlifts (but watch the videos on breathing & bracing and how to take the slack out of the bar as those will apply to sumo and conventional as well as trap bar deadlifting.)
You'll stand inside of the bar so the weight will be closer to your center of gravity as opposed to either a sumo or conventional barbell deadlift where the the weight is out in front of you. The trap bar enables you to pull with a more upright position, which is just an easier position for many people to take. It is also less stressful on the hips, which makes it a great option for those with crankier hips.
Then you're going to take all the tension out of the bar. You'll hear people call it "taking the slack out of the bar." One way to think of it is like you're trying to bend the bar. I think this video will help you understand (it shows a barbell, but it's the same idea):
Ok, I don't want to alarm you, but things are about to get exceptionally exciting. Hold onto your hats ladies I'm about to share with you the ins and outs of my personal favorite lift, the Queen of the Deadlifts in my opinion. Her Royal Highness the Sumo Deadlift. Let's gooo...
In all seriousness, I like it so much because I'm stongest at it. You might find the same to be true for you, or maybe not. But in any case you should give both Sumo and Conventional pulling a go to see which you like best. And honestly there's room in your training for both.
A lot of what we've already discussed so far will apply to Sumo as well:
Seriously, you now know more about deadlifting than most people ever will.
Watch this sumo tutorial and then we'll chat about a couple things that are different with this lift:
Sumo Set Up:
We've arrived at our final deadlift variation, the conventional deadlift. Everything you've learned up till now is going to help you master this lift. The main difference between sumo and conventional is the position of your feet and hands. Instead of having your feet wider than shoulder width with your hands gripping the bar inside of your legs, you'll stand with your feet about shoulder width apart and your hands gripping the bar just outside of your legs. This change makes some of what we've discussed different. Here's a list of what will stay the same:
How To Deadlift: My Best Advice Yet!
Film yourself deadlifting. From the side and from the front. It's super easy to do. Just prop your phone up against a dumbbell a water bottle, or whatever's handy. Look for these common mistakes:
How To Deadlift: The Most Common Deadlifting Mistakes
I'm a NASM certified personal trainer who is passionate about helping women transform their bodies through strength training and sustainable nutritional habit changes.