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Breathe Life Into Your Deadlifts

Breathe Life into Your Deadlift

by Rod DeLeon

Every day at the Y, we see more people doing “deadlifts.” Why? Many reasons! This powerlifting move can strengthen your core, improve your other lifts, and make you stronger overall. Deadlifts can be a great exercise. But to get the most out of them, you have to do them correctly and safely. Here are three things to keep in mind.

Mix it up.

First, know that there are many ways to do a deadlift. The basic, traditional deadlift involves standing with your feet hip-width apart, squatting, and then bending over to lift the bar to an almost-standing position. You keep your back straight and your shoulders back.

This is a good stance if you’re just starting out or if you need to build a strong back. But if you need more stability in your hips or if you want more of a workout for your quadriceps, you may want to try a “squat stance” deadlift. This is done much like the traditional deadlift except you keep your knees further apart and you start from a lower squat position.

The “Sumo” stance is another variation. This one is different from the traditional stance in that you splay your feet far outward and point your toes out. You also grip the bar between -- rather than outside -- the legs. Many people like the “Sumo” deadlift because it puts less stress on the back. It may also be easier for some people based on the structure and position of their hips.

As you work out, experiment with these different stances. Try each for a few weeks and keep track of your progress and results. You can also lift other types of things like a dumbbell, kettle bell, slam ball, or sand bag. Each one will strengthen your core and grip in different ways.

Take it slow.

Another thing to keep in mind: Slow down! We often see people “ripping” the weight off the floor, aggressively pulling it up to the semi-standing position. This makes the lift less effective, and it puts more pressure on the hips and arms. It can also increase your risk of injury.

Instead, slowly build the slack out of the bar as you begin the lift. When your arms are fully extended and the weight “settles,” then gradually bring the weight up. Concentrate on a smooth lift and not being jerky.

Just ask us.

Finally, perhaps the best way to maximize your deadlifts is to ask a professional. We can give you advice on repetitions and routines. We can also observe your form and make sure you’re lifting properly. We can also analyze your hip structure and position and help you determine which stance to do and how often.


For greater overall strength and a solid core, deadlifts can be effective and empowering and even healing. We often hear people say they can’t do deadlifts because of back problems. But then, once they start to do them regularly, their back pain actually goes away. The trick is to do the right lifts for you and to do them correctly.

To learn more about deadlifts, or any fitness and strength-building exercise, ask us!

We’re here to help! Schedule an appointment with a YMCA personal trainer at your local branch.


About Rod DeLeon

YMCA personal trainer and group exercise instructor Rob DeLeon specializes in helping people achieve their goals for overall health and fitness, sports conditioning, rehabilitation, and bodybuilding. Winner of the 50-and-over-Masters Class at the Rocky Mountain Bodybuilding Championships, Rod has over a decade of personal training experience. He believes exercise is the true “Fountain of Youth,” and loves the Y for its culture of respect, kindness, and encouragement. Rod is a staff member at the Susan M. Duncan YMCA in Arvada. He can be reached at 303 422 4977.