One of the most important exercises I really believe the majority of people should be utilising is the dead lift. This is one of the lifts competitive power lifters specialise in, but it’s also a very good functional exercise that carries over into day to day life.
If you’re around my age you should be able to remember those “think back” and “back attack” tv advertisements trying to help prevent people from injuring themselves at work through unsafe lifting techniques. In my opinion practising the deadlift as a part of your resistance exercise routine is the best way to be in the habit of using a safe and correct lifting technique in the workplace or at home. This applies to heavy lifting for example rearranging furniture, or just carrying a box of paper from the store room to the printer. I seem to use those two examples a lot! Whatever it is, if it’s on the ground and you need to lift it up, this is the way to do it without risking spinal injury.
Here’s a video I made with my phone camera at the gym, going for a new personal best dead lift. This isn’t really a huge amount of weight by body building or power lifting standards, but I was quite pleased with it. I’m only a little guy after all!
I shot this video mostly because I wanted to have a look at my form and make sure my technique was good. You can see that before I start the lift, I pull the bar back closer to my shins, roughly at around the middle of my foot. I move my backside backwards and downwards (actually I would say I should drop a further inch or so closer to the floor) and bend forward from the hips, and then stand straight up pulling the weight with me. The important part here is in bending from the hips, NOT bending the spine. The idea is to maintain the natural curvature of the spine throughout this lift.
The dead lift is usually considered a back exercise due to use of the erector spinae muscles along the lumbar spine, although the gluteal and hamstring muscles are utilised heavily. The exercise also recruits all of the core muscles and therefore is useful in promoting good posture, especially in relation to pelvic girdle and lumbar spine.
Use this exercise in your workouts, but take special care to ensure you are using good safe lifting technique. Ask someone to observe and teach you the correct form if necessary.