I’ve noticed that there have been several articles floating around the interwebz lately about the deadlift. Whenever I come across a deadlift-related article, there’s absolutely no question that I’m going to read it.
Hopefully this doesn’t surprise you, but I LOVE deadlifting. It’s probably my favorite thing to do in the gym, and to me, there is nothing like chalking up and lifting heavy shit off the floor while listening to esophagus-crushing music (preferably Rage Against the Machine).
I feel that the deadlift is one of the best measures of raw strength. Either you pick the bar up and lock it out, or you don’t. Period.
I also believe that the deadlift should be a part of everyone’s training program, whether your goal is to lose fat or gain muscle. If you’re looking to lose fat, the deadlift is a wonderful total-body movement that, when done with appreciable weight, is going to prompt the release of fat-burning hormones and cause you to burn a shit-ton of calories. If you want to add slabs of muscle to your frame, heavy deadlifts work just about every muscle in your body, and will literally put muscle in places you didn’t even know existed. Heavy deadlifts have also been known to cause any nearby women to spontaneously conceive a child…and that’s a fact.
Tim Henriques made a great point in a recent article about the deadlift. He basically said that just because a muscle isn’t concentrically contracting doesn’t mean that it isn’t being stimulated or not doing any work. Take, for example, ab wheel rollouts. During a rollout, there isn’t a significant concentric contraction of the rectus abdominis. Rather, they are contracting isometrically. You wouldn’t say that ab wheel rollouts are an ineffective exercise for your core because there’s no concentric contraction, would you?
Likewise, just because certain muscles aren’t concentrically contracting during the deadlift doesn’t mean they aren’t being worked. This is why I get so frustrated when I see trainees walk into the gym and start doing set after set of shrugs or biceps curl variations until the cows come home. Your traps and biceps are just two of the muscles that are supporting and helping to lift a great deal of weight during a deadlift. You want big traps? Throw some weight on a barbell and lift it off the floor. You want big arms? Take that same barbell and lift it off the floor again. Admittedly, shrugs and biceps curls used to be a mainstay in my bodypart-split routine, so yeah, I was sort of an asshat back in the day, too.
Seriously though, let’s break this last one down. What do you think is going to be more effective for biceps growth…isolating one of the smaller muscles in your body and doing curls for 3 sets of 10 with a pair of dumbbells or having that same muscle group help to rip a heavy barbell off the ground for 5 sets of 5, while stimulating a bunch of other muscles, and causing your body to release a Niagara Falls-like waterfall of muscle-building hormones?
This isn’t to say that shrugs and curls are bad and that you shouldn’t do them. These exercises may in fact have a place in someone’s program, depending on their goals and their level of training. However, for the average trainee trying to add muscle or lose fat, they’d be much better served loading up a trap bar or a barbell and getting their deadlift on.