The clean grip deadlift is a multi-joint, hip-dominant exercise that primarily strengthens the muscles of the posterior chain. As a true multi-joint lift for the legs, the quadriceps are also involved, though not to the extent of the erector spinae, glutes, and hamstrings. Due to the complexity of the exercise, many upper body muscles are also recruited as stabilizers and synergists. As a result, this exercise, like squatting, is a big ”bang for your buck” movement.
The standard deadlift is actually an exercise used in powerlifting competition. As such, it is technically both an event, and an exercise unto itself. In competition, full-size plates – those that we think of as weighing 45 lbs in the US – are used to begin loading of the bar so that the distance of the bar from the floor is standardized for all lifters.
Though it is not absolutely necessary to use full-sized plates in the exercise, it is best to learn this movement if possible, from the standardized distance, and then use factors of progression to train at sub- or supra-maximal ranges of motion. Several companies make full-size training plates as light as 5 lbs. Elieko, and Ivanko are two of the best plate manufacturers, but there are several less-expensive options that will do just as nicely for beginners. The company Bigger, Faster, Stronger, Inc. is one example.
Place a barbell on the floor. For purposes of learning the movement: if you have them, add Olympic training plates (full size, 5lb plates as described above) to both ends of the barbell. Stand with the barbell against the shins, feet hip-width apart, toes turned outward 1-2°.
Reach down and grasp the barbell about shoulder-width apart. Your shoulders should be directly over the bar. Your spine should be fixed in a neutral to slightly arched posture. Inhale.
Continue driving the hips back and keep the barbell close to your body as you complete the movement.
As you exhale drive the hips into extension and straighten the legs. Keep the chest up and shoulders pulled back during your pull from the floor and stand upright with the barbell. Keep the barbell close to your body throughout the range of motion.
As you inhale, return weight to the floor, essentially reversing the technique and keeping the bar close to your body.
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