Deadlifting: The King of Exercises

 Today, I went deadlifting. “Deadlifting?” you ask, confused and scared. Yes, deadlifting – the KING of exercises for many, many reasons.

Allow me to explain just a few of those reasons.

What the Hell is a Deadlift?

Deadlifting involves lifting a loaded barbell off the ground from a stable, bent-over stabilised bent-over position. It is one of the few exercises that involves lifting a weight that is lying ‘dead’ on the ground – hence the name. To properly explain the correct technique and form would take forever, so here is a brief overview:


Setting Up
Place feet shoulder width apart.
Grip bar slightly wider than shoulder width.
Bring the bar close to your shins.
Ensure shins are perpendicular to the ground.
Bring hips down whilst fully extending arms.
Keep lower back straight/arched: DO NOT ROUND YOUR LOWER BACK! This will ruin your day and your back…possibly for life.

Weight on heels, arms straight, shins straight, abs tight, chest full, shoulders pushed back.
Pull on the bar just a little bit.
Push upwards through heels – lifting the bar up in a straight line.
Once bar comes over knees, bringing the hips toward the bar and extend to lockout.

Why is the Deadlift the King of Exercises?

A person’s ability to generate force essentially depends on the amount of electrical activation sent to their muscles from their central nervous system (CNS), which directly affects the number of motor units recruited within the muscles. The more motor units recruited at once, the greater the force generated. (This is the foundation of my claim that coordination is paramount to strength).

A deadlift – as the exercise that triggers more of the CNS than any other exercise – is therefore the closest thing you can find to a test of brute strength.  It is pretty much a test of the biggest possible force your body can generate in one go.  Allow me to restate that: a test of the the biggest possible force you can generate.  This alone is proof that you should never leave a deadlift at home with your wife or kids. It will have sex with one and destroy the other…

It doesn’t end there thought.  As if testing your maximum force wasn’t enough to make the deadlift Lord of Exercises, it also involves lifting a ‘dead weight’ off the ground.  In other words, it involves absolutely no momentum or stored energy whatsoever, unlike most other, wimpier lifts.

You see, most exercises involve lowering the weight before lifting it, which stores energy in the stretched muscles and makes the lift a little easier. The deadlift, by wonderful contrast, begins at the hardest possible point – making it the mother badass of all lifts and exercises. Seriously, Sly Stallone hides under his bed on deadlifting day.

UWAGA: although deadlifts aren’t necessarily more dangerous than any other big exercise, the temptation to overload the bar and go ALL KINDZA CRAZY!!! is huge.  The risk of totally over-doing it and buggering all kinds of muscles is, therefore, much higher for the deadlift than any other exercise.

Mental Strength

The deadlift develops a crazy amount of physical strength, but it doesn’t end there. In terms of concentration and mental strength, you struggle to beat the deadlift. If you aren’t focused and well rested, you simply will not deadlift as well as you can. Unlike some other exercises, which you can just muscle your way through, a perfect deadlift requires an enormous amount of concentration – primarily because of the massive variety of muscles involved. If just one of those muscles isn’t recruited properly, you won’t even shift it.

Muscles Used

Although it involves a huge number of supporting muscles and so on, the main muscle groups recruited by a deadlift are as follows:

  • Erector spinae (lower back)
  • Gluteus maximus (arse)
  • Adductor magnus (inner thigh)
  • Hamstrings (back of legs)
  • Quadriceps (front of legs)

World Records

Being the most insane of all exercises, the world records for deadlifting are simply scary:

  • Raw deadlift (without the aid of a deadlift suit, but with a belt) is 461.3 kg (1,017 lb) by Benedikt Magnússon: check it out
  • Equipped deadlift (using a deadlift suit, but without straps) is 457.5 kg (1,009 lb) by Andy Bolton: check it out
  • HummerDeadlift (where plates are replaced with Hummer tyres) is 499kg (1,100 lb) by Benedikt Magnússon: check it out
  • One-handed deadlift is 330kg or 727.5lbs by Hermann Görner.
My personal best deadlift is 190kg, which I achieved today.  Pitiful really, isn’t it?  I’m quite ashamed of it really, which is why I intend to increase it to 200kg by Christmas and then hopefully to 225kg in the next year or so.  If I can achieve this, I’ll be able to deadlift three times my own body weight, which has to be at least a little bit respectable…right?
About the Author
Ed Gamester is a silly man who lives in the United Kingdom. He is the harbinger of Ghost Squad, singer of Gay Bum and author of A Rum Run Awry. He fights, kills and dies for TV and films, and gallivants around the place wrestling, drinking and lifting things for glory and profit. Where Ed treads, there stamp the boots of the Guild. Ed does not wear glasses, but feels this photograph makes him look more intelligent and artistically talented than he is. Feel free to contact him: he is disappointingly affable.

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