Some Dead Lifting “Don'ts”

It's that most basic of weight training: See a big heavy weight and lift it. Known as dead lifting, it's perhaps the most iconic of all gym exercises, made even more so as it's the way we select the World's Strongest Man.

Reach down and lift a barbell. It's so simple.

It's so easy to screw up.

But before we explain the most common errors dead lifters make, let's answer the question, “Now, why would I want to lift something so heavy?” After all, you likely have no interest in being known as the strongest man in the world (somebody's always picking a bar fight with you...), and the risk of straining something has got to be greater than the muscle-building pay-off, right?

Not really. Nothing builds the glutes, lower back and hamstrings like dead lifting. And these muscles – your “posterior chain” – are your go-to machines in just about any sport. If there are no sports at which you want to improve, dead lifting can still help you prevent injury. Possessing a strong posterior chain will help keep you out of the emergency room and off the pain killers during snow shoveling season, and even prevent overuse injuries such as patello-femoral pain, patellar tendinosis, as well as traumatic injuries like ACL tears.

Now, here's what not to do:

  • Don't perform the dead lift with a rounded spine. This puts the strain on your spinal structure and ligaments, and not on the back, hips and leg muscles where it needs to be.
  • Don't lead with your hips. Instead, keep your lower back flat and the chest up throughout. 
  • Don't aim your neck at the ceiling. This will cause you to lose glute and hamstring strength off the floor, and you will also be unable to use your glutes and hips to finish the weight at the top of the lift.
  • Don't just simply squat down. You should instead push your hips back, which will help you load your glutes and hamstrings.
  • Don't lift if it causes you pain. It doesn't matter if you are being supervised and think you have every position and nuance down, if you feel pain stop immediately. As terrific as dead lifts are, the weights are just too heavy, and the risk to your lower back is just too great, to take any chances.