Deadlift Exercise Substitution For You

Friday August 9 2019
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The deadlift is a fantastic exercise! When performed correctly, the deadlift effectively trains just about every single muscle in your body, with an emphasis on your posterior chain (everything on the back side of your body). The deadlift can help improve your posture, stability, strength, and ability to function well in everyday life.

However, the deadlift can be a really challenging exercise. When performed incorrectly, or with a lack of attention to detail, it can quickly result in injury. In order to deadlift well, you need a strong foundation. This means great core connection, active glutes, decent mobility, and a strong amount of body awareness. You also need to understand how to hinge correctly, after all the deadlift is a “hinge” pattern of movement.

A skilled coach can help you learn how to hinge correctly. Often times people mistake their squat for a hinge, or attempt hinging by simply bending from the spine. Bending or rounding from your spine during a deadlift is the last thing we want to do – we want to use the deadlift to avoid movement in the spine and train stability in a neutral position. Rounding the spine during your deadlift can easily result in injury.

So, if you haven’t laid out a solid foundation of core stability, body awareness, prerequisite mobility, and you’re not rock solid on how to hinge –  the deadlift may not be fore you … yet.

But what if you do have a solid hinge pattern? What if you do have the prerequisite mobility, core stability, and you do have great body awareness? What if you were already deadlifting well … but now your injured? What if you’re experiencing some difficulty with deadlifts right now? Is there anything you can do?

Yes. Fear not – for both the experienced trainee who’s injured, and for the inexperience trainee who’s learning more about their body and developing a foundation, there are ways to train your hinge pattern. For both of these cases, you might want to consider …


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The 45 Degree Back Extension

For the trainee who’s still learning more about their body and creating a solid foundation, the 45 degree back extension can help them learn how to hinge from their hips. The placement of the pad on their thighs will force them to fold from the hips. As long as they keep their spine long, and straight, the only way to lower is to fold from the hips. The exercise will also help introduce them to the sensation of using their glutes and hamstrings to create force, bringing them back up to the starting position. This will help train them out of using their back to lift, and begin to learn how to lift with their hips and glutes – something NEEDED for the deadlift. They can also learn how to maintain core stability throughout the movement, which will eventually carry over into all other exercises they perform – like the deadlift.

For the trainee who’s experienced but injured, the 45 degree back extension will be a great way to train the hinge position, without loading the spine. It will keep them moving, reenforcing the hinge pattern, putting an emphasis on their hamstrings and glutes, while sparing the spine the compressive load of deadlifting. Further more, they can perform this exercise for higher repetitions training the endurance of the muscles used, something needed to help prevent or rehabilitate spine injuries.

How to perform the exercise …

  • Set the bench up so that when you get set up, the pad rests on the top of your thighs. The two bones on the front of your pelvis should not be resting on the pad. This will prevent flexion in the spine as you lower down, forcing the movement to come from the hips.
  • Begin a the top with a long straight spine, core engaged, arms either crossed on your chest, or pulled back as if you were doing a row.
  • Letting your heels drive into the pad, begin to lower yourself down by folding at the hips, keep the spine long and core engaged as you lower, don’t crane the neck up – keep it long and tall
  • The hamstrings and glutes should control the lowering phase, lower just far enough to feel a gentle stretch
  • Once you feel the gentle stretch, dig your heels into the pad, squeeze your glutes and hamstrings and raise yourself up using your legs. DO NOT create movement through your spine, keep your core tight and spine long. The whole movement comes from the legs.
  • Pause at the top, repeat another rep

This whole movement is a lower body exercise, the muscles of the back and core are used to keep the spine long and straight – do not lift using your back. Raise yourself only high enough to make the torso neutral (not arched).

Go slow, and take your time learning this exercise – as with any exercise it may or may not work well for you. Again, we’re looking at exercise substitutions for movement patterns. This series is to open your eyes to all the different ways you can train a movement pattern. If you need help and don’t know where to start, get some help. Set up a training session with one of our GREAT Wynn Fitness Trainers and they’ll get your started on a plan to become the best version of yourself.


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