The dead lift is one of the most difficult exercises you can do. It can also be the easiest, if you’re using too little weight. Picking a heavy loaded barbell off the floor is one of the most basic tests of strength there is. It involves the largest and strongest muscle groups, and activates all the other smaller groups to produce the necessary force to lift hundreds of pounds off the floor.
With so many large muscle groups involved, there are many possible weak links that could be limiting the weight you are using. You could have a problem with technique, or you could have a problem with weak muscles. When you’re failing at a weight equal to or less than your bodyweight, it’s more likely a problem with weak muscles than technique. When you start lifting more than bodyweight, you would have gotten technique down properly, so the only thing left is to improve your weak links.
The muscles most involved during the dead lift are the lower back muscles, glutes, hamstrings, and Quadriceps muscles. They are the same muscle groups involved during squats, though different muscles are worked more then others based of where the load is and your body position. Doing assistance work for these muscle groups will do a lot to improve your deadlift. You can train using very heavy weights for the main movement, and then use lighter weights to get in more volume.
Doing squats regularly actually helps improve your deadlifts. It is also a heavy movement that trains you to use your entire kenetic chain. The most common mechanic error in the dead lift ist to use to much of the lower back and hamstrings. This puts them at a higher risk for injury as well as created bad mechanics and drastically puts less recruitment in the glutes which should be one of the primary movers in the deadlift.
Romanian dead lifts/Stiff Led Deadlifts (RDLs) are different from the conventional dead lift since it focuses more on the hamstrings as the main mover. You should use a lot less weight for this exercise than you do on the regular dead lift since the leg muscles are as involved in the movement. Be careful this movement is an exercise that is typically taught wrong and done wrong which makes it a big risk for injury. YOu must always have a nice curve good posture in your lower back. You should always keep your knee’s bent slightly and push your hips and legs back so you feel a big pull/stretch in your hamstrings. You only should go down as low as your flexibility can handle. So if you start to go to low and your back rounds you should not go that low until you improve your flexibility/mobility.
Improve your Grip Strength
Rack pulls are also useful for building up your grip strength, since that is a big limiting factor for dead lift poundages.
Farmer Walks are another great grip strength builder.
Doing anything with Fat Gripz will aslo drastically improve your grip strength.
Too many people are afraid of doing dead lifts for fear of injury. They do not understand that the process involves building up until you can lift your body weight, and eventually double that over the course of months or even years. The key is to stay focused and focus on proper body mechanics.
Here is another blog post detailing why you should do dead lifts.
Photo credit: David Castillo Dominici, freedigitalphotos.net