The deadlift exercise is probably seen as a grunting, strongman contest type exercise, but it should be a part of your training program. It has many benefits which include:
1) It works many large muscle groups including the latissimus dorsi, trapezius, erector spinae, gluteals, hamstrings, quadriceps and hip flexors. Your forearms and trunk stabilizers are also recruited to a lesser degree.
2) The deadlift is a multi-joint exercise covering three joints with extension occuring at the hip, knee and ankle joints. Multi-joint exercises will give you greater strength gains and hypertrophy (muscle growth). The deadlift is also great for working the hamstrings which helps lessen the risk of knee anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries.
3) The deadlift is a great functional exercise. It mimics every day activity such as bending over and lifting objects.
I will cover the biomechanics of the conventional style deadlift.
1) The grip of the bar (closed, alternate grip) is outside of the legs with the feet about shoulder width apart and slightly turned outward. Keep your head up and chest out.
2) The legs should be flexed (like the squat position) and the bar should be as close to the shins as possible. Your back posture should be straight. DO NOT ROUND YOUR BACK AT ANY POINT OF THE LIFT. Your feet should always be flat on the floor and pushing from the heels.
3) Pull the weight up by extending at the knees (exhale during the pulling phase). The hips and shoulders should move at the same pace. The shoulders should be above or slightly in front of the bar. At the end of the lift, thrust your hips forward and abduct your lats. The hip and knee joints should be fully extended. If your knees are moving from side to side (shaking), you are lifting too much weight.
4) To lower the weight to the floor, flex your hips and knee joints (you will end in the squat position). Inhale as you lower the weight. That is one repetition.
5) The deadlift will require more rest between sets because so many major muscles are engaged.
There are some circumstances where the deadlift may not be appropriate for you. If you have lower back problems, you would need your doctor's clearance before exercising with the deadlift. There are also many variations of the deadlift. Dumbbells and other specialized bars can be used to perform the deadlift.
In the part 5 of this series, I will detail an effective cardio workout.