Deadlift, n. Archaic. An exercise that fell out of favor in the latter portion of the 20th century because of its propensity to make the lifter perspire. It was replaced by triceps kickbacks.Deadlifts are an exercise that I rarely see people doing at the gym. In fact, I've seen numerous routines which include squats and lunges, with no hamstring exercise at all! Take a look at the hamstring muscles:
Yep, pretty much the whole posterior side of your thigh! Seems like a pretty big muscle group to neglect, eh? But don't think that hamstrings are the only muscle worked by deadlifts. To quote Eric Cressey: "You'd be hard-pressed to find a single weight-training movement that's more "complete" than the deadlift. It's not just an upper or lower back exercise, or a grip exercise, or a posterior chain exercise, or a core exercise; it's an everything exercise". Furthermore, it is quite possibly the ultimate booty buster. The reasoning is similar to that of squats: so many muscles are recruited that you're able to bear more weight, and more load translates to greater hypertrophy. So let's talk about getting the most out of your deadlift.
In part I, I went over the benefits of dynamic warm-ups and post-workout static stretching. Since we already introduced hip, glute, and quad movements, let's add in a warm-up and stretch apiece for the hamstrings. I like to throw some lying body weight leg curls in with the pre-workout mobility drills, and seated stretches with our post-workout routine.
Before we begin, lets touch on the issue of gloves. Some people eschew these, since in real life, you won't have weight lifting gloves on when you go to pick something up. However, if you are concerned about forming callouses, I think that a pair of gloves are fine. I've found that men's gloves tend to have a greater area of padding than those made for women, so I buy those.
What follows are three variations from which you can choose your favorite flavor of deadlift:
First, you'll need a dead Romanian. I kid, I kid.
Keep your feet hip width and slightly turned out. Grasp the bar just outside of your hips -- an extremely wide grip (snatch grip) will emphasize your back, and we want to work the glutes. You can use a mixed grip (one palm overhand, one palm underhand) to decrease torque, just alternate which hand is over and which is under. Also, make sure that your knees are soft with a slight bend; lock them out and you target the hamstrings moreso than your butt. I had trouble keeping good form on these until I got the following bit of "eureka!" advice: focus on pushing your hips back. In doing this, you will naturally lower the barbell. Keep your back straight and DO NOT transfer the weight to your lower back. The drive should come from your hips. Push your hips back until you feel a stretch in the back of your legs; the bar should be between mid-calf and ankle. Maintaining your straight back, contract your glutes and bring your hips forward. Do not use your upper body to pull up the bar, we want to activate the glutes as much as possible and use that force to drive the hips forward. For a more in-depth article on execution, check out Mike Robertson's Perfecting the Romanian Deadlift.
This is a good choice if you have a power cage and are not yet ready for a full deadlift. I prefer these over Romanian deadlifts because they're closer to the real deal. First, set the safeties on the rack to the appropriate height. Remember the picture of the cage I posted in part I? well, these are the safeties:
The lower you set them, the more you'll get out of your lift. I set them at or just below knee height. Set the barbell so that it's resting on the safeties. As in the Romanian deadlift, you want the force to come from contracting your glutes and driving your hips forward with a flat back. Grip, stance, etc are as in the Romanian deadlift description. Here's a good video demonstration of a rack pull.
If you're ready for the real deal, check out this page on Stumptuous. I highly recommend doing these in flat-soled shoes (i.e. Vibrams, wrestling boots, or Chuck Taylors).
Regardless of what deadlift variation you choose, take care not to overdo the amount of weight you stack on the bar. Even with correct form, this exercise will tap into your lower back muscles. Start with a relatively light weight and gradually increase it so that you know how much you can comfortably lift without straining your back.
Putting it all together
If you do a full body workout such as my beginner routine, you have a couple options. You can do both squats and deadlifts at each workout, or you can do alternate workouts where one includes heavy squats/light deadlifts and the other has heavy deadlifts/light squats. It depends largely on how much weight you're pushing. If you're using a very heavy load it will be difficult to do them both at your maximum potential on the same day, but if you're still at the 25lb barbell stage, you can probably go ahead and do both. Alternately, on your light squat day you can do a unilateral squatting motion, such as lunges or Bulgarian squats, as these help train balance and work your stabilizing muscles a bit more. We don't choose them for the heavy day because you can't bear as much load. Likewise, you can substitute good mornings for deadlifts on your light day since, while primarily a hamstring exercise, these are great for working on lower back endurance.
If you're a bit more advanced, you can do a two-day split where you have a push day and a pull day. I prefer this to an upper/lower split as you would do squats and deadlifts on different days and thus can get the most out of these lifts. Do your squats or deadlifts first when you're fresh.
Here are two sample routines that you could do:
-Squats (heavy; 3 sets of 8 or 5 sets of 5)
-Light deadlifts or good mornings (2 sets of 12)
-Push ups or bench press
-Deadlifts (3x8 or 5x5)
-Light squats or lunges (2x12)
-Push ups or bench press
-Cable pull downs or pull ups (or bent rows again if you're not in a gym)
TWO-DAY PUSH-PULL SPLIT
Workout A (Push):
-Bench press (horizontal push)
-Shoulder press (overhead push)
-Dips (regular, bench, or assisted) (vertical push)
Workout B (Pull):
-Bent rows (horizontal pull)
-Cable pull downs or pull ups (overhead pull)
-Dumbbell raise (vertical pull)
-Modified planks or ab exercise of choice
A word on diet
So say you've been faithfully doing this routine but you still don't have the junk in the trunk which you're seeking. There is one other potential culprit: diet. Heavy squats and deadlifts will give you lift and firmness no matter what. But if you're actually looking to construct a big round booty, you might just need to eat more. Muscle does not appear out of thin air, and excess calories, particularly protein, provide the building blocks for new tissue. For example, when training for Million Dollar Baby, Hillary Swank ate 4000 calories per DAY, and had to set alarms so that she could wake up in the middle of the night and drink more protein shakes! That's a particularly extreme example, but if you're actually looking to pack on pounds of muscle in your backside, you may need to beef up your diet for a little while. The good news is, you can always diet later on to shed the extra fat.