In this series, we’ll be addressing some key movements that not only serve a purpose for athletic performance, but also serve a purpose for basic human function. These movements act as functional cornerstones and provide us with the capacity to move efficiently, buffer ware and tear and drastically increase strength. Whether you’re a professional athlete or a weekend warrior, this series will shed some light on these movements and the many benefits of performing them on a regular basis.
In my professional opinion, the deadlift serves as one of the best standalone exercises for hip and low back health. If done correctly, this movement has the ability to save you from an array of hip and low back issues all while improving your strength and athleticism. Here’s why we love the deadlift so much.
It teaches us to how to hinge from our hip joint, and not from various vertebral segments.
It teaches us how to move more efficiently, bending forward from our hip joint only, and not from flexing (rounding) our lumbar spine (low back). This is important for many reasons. One being, our hips are designed to handle extreme amounts of load in this fashion, whereas our lumbar spine is not. Our lumbar spine is designed to handle isometric loading only, which means it must remain in a braced neutral position at all times (like a titanium rod), especially while under load.
It allows us to train full hip extension under load.
Many feats of athleticism require explosive hip extension. Consider a mixed martial arts athlete bridging their hips up while on their back to flip their opponent over. Or the vertical jump of a volleyball player. All of these movements require the athlete to fully extend at the hip using both strength and speed, which equals power. Deadlifting is a sure fire way to get you there.
It teaches us how to control and brace our entire spine though movement.
In order to maximize performance and prevent injury, the spine must always be in a neutral, braced position. This means that from the moment you grab the bar, to the moment you set the bar back down, there should be no deviation in your spinal mechanics. Remember the titanium rod example used for the lumbar spine? That should also transpire to the thoracic (mid back) and cervical (neck) spine. Proper deadlifting teaches us how to fill the diaphragm with air, brace the abdomen, retract the shoulder blades and tuck the chin. This is the most mechanically stable position for the spine while under load.
It teaches us how to create torque from our hips.
When we’re pulling from the floor, we need a method to maintain stability within the hips. This is why we create torque from the hips while we pull. This is that knee out position that we favor, all while screwing our feet outward into the ground. This creates stability within the hip capsule, which also leads to stability within the lumbar spine. It also winds up our ACL into a stable position and opens up our foot and ankle into a stable position. This is important because this torsion can also be applied to our squatting, pressing or any movement that requires maximal stability within the hip and it’s extremities.
These are some of the many benefits of practicing proper deadlifting technique. Stay tuned for part two of the Integral Movement Series.