Deadlifts are the ultimate body exercise, ” says Brianna Bernard, CPT, isopure athlete and certified personal trainer. When performed with proper form, deadlifts work your lower back, lats, core, glutes, quads, thighs, and even help improve your posture and gripping power. In addition, if you do higher repetitions of the exercise, you can turn this power movement into a cardiovascular workout by increasing your heart rate.

That being said, with so many variations of movement—from one leg to Romanian deadlifts-as well as hints of shape to follow, it can be difficult to know where to start. Scroll down to learn everything you need to know about how to do a deadlift the right way, according to a personal trainer for high-level. And a word for the wise: if you are just starting out, do not feel intimidated by being a beginner in a gym full of professional lifters. Fine-tuning your deadlift shape is one of the best things you can do to get stronger (and we promise no one is watching).

How to do a deadlift correctly and safely, according to a certified personal trainer

1. Beginning Light

With regard to the common mistakes that Bernard notes, when people first learn to do a deadlift, many difficulties can be solved with a quick change: take a lighter bar. “Start with a light bar and a couple of ten-pound bumper plates and focus on your shape first. Once you have worked and practiced on the shape, you can slowly increase the weight while maintaining the correct alignment to take advantage of all the benefits of the movement, ” says Bernard. Starter light is the key to efficiency and safety in weightlifting.

2. Put on a sling

Bernard also suggests wearing a sling to support the lower back. “The tightness of the belt will be a good reminder to keep your back straight and your core tight.”

3. Check your alignment before lifting

When preparing for lifting, it is very important to make sure that you are in the right position. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, align your shins to the bar, bend your knees so that your thighs are parallel to the floor, and grab on the bar just outside your legs. You can use either a double lapel handle or a crochet handle-with your dominant hand in the lapel and your non-dominant hand underneath-depending on what makes your body more stable, stronger and comfortable. In general, the double overhand works best for beginners; the hook-style grip is for more advanced deadlifts, as it allows you to lift a heavier weight. If you decide to use the hook, you should regularly change hands to avoid muscle imbalance.

4. Look straight ahead to keep your spine and neck neutral

“Many people look up when they get up,” says Bernard. Although it seems reasonable to look in the mirror, it encourages you to arch your spine and neck, which exposes you to a risk of injury. To be your strongest, it is important to keep a neutral spine and a flat back, which means looking straight ahead or even looking down occasionally. Make sure you avoid putting your chin down.

5. Pull your shoulders back, too

If the temptation to lower your shoulders and arch your back is overwhelming, it could mean that your weight is too heavy and can lead to many lower back injuries. It is important to keep your shoulders pulled back, chest up and lats engaged to prevent them from being rounded forward. Keep the barbell as close to your body as possible, holding it in the middle of your feet. If the rod is not close to your body, it will feel heavier and you have a higher risk of injury, explains Bernard.

6. Lock your elbows while lifting

Make sure that there is no sagging or bending in your elbows. When your elbows are locked, you can “simultaneously pull the bar to your shins and push the floor back with your feet,” Bernard says. Press the bar as tightly as possible before it leaves the floor. “Continue to pull until you stand with your knees, and then slowly articulate on the hips, lowering the bar to the floor as close as possible to your body, bending your knees as soon as the bar is safe under them and you return to the starting position.”

7. Breathe and engage your heart

This sounds obvious, but do not forget to breathe. “Take a deep breath and hold it before removing the bar from the floor. On your way, exhale, and before you go down the bar to the floor, you still need to take a deep breath and hold it, while returning to the starting position. This basic commitment will help protect your lower back from injury, ” says Bernard.

8. Do ” Elevators Accessories”

According to Bernard, adding dumbbell back squats, high dumbbells, dumbbell hip thrusts, dumbbells bent in rows, and hyperextensions of the back to your lifting routine will help balance your muscles and prevent overuse, fatigue, or tiredness.

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