by: Emma Bolton
Over the last year or so, most people have either maintained or increased their time spent behind a computer screen. While some of us may enjoy the fact that the screen is within the walls of our own homes, this doesn’t necessarily help to spark our motivation to get up and move throughout the day. With increased periods of sitting or just overall stagnation our bodies become used to these recurring patterns of movement, or lack thereof; que tight hip flexors, lower back pain, or even sore middle back, upper back, and shoulders.
That being said, there are some simple exercises you can add to your routine in order to get you out of your current positioning and hopefully allow you to feel less stiffness or tightness throughout your body. One key exercise that has a variety of benefits is the deadlift.
Nailing down the correct postural components of the deadlift will be applicable to a wide variety of common movements. Therefore, by understanding the proper components of this exercise, you will start to see how you can apply it to your day to day life. So, let’s break it down…
For the sake of this discussion, I will be using the dumbbell (DB) Romanian deadlift, although it could be similarly replicated with a barbell, trap bar, resistance band, etc.
We will start at the foundation of the movement–the ground. Ideally, you should have feet about shoulder width apart and a relatively neutral foot position (not sitting back in your heels but also not leaning too much into your front foot).
From there we will move upwards to the knees. Here, we’re looking for a slight bend, not so much so that we enter a squat position but enough to start to engage your glute muscles. Taking it up to hips, here is where a lot of our focus should be. Unlike a squat, the hinge movement that we see in a deadlift requires the hips to sit back in space rather than drop towards the floor. This will require work from primarily the hamstrings & glute muscles (hip stabilizers), with the help of surrounding core muscles.
Lastly, in regards to the upper body the biggest thing we’re looking for here is neutrality. What do I mean by this? To put it simply, you should be able to draw a straight line from your pelvis up to the back of your head, being sure not to tuck your chin too much, or overly extend at the neck either.
Now that we have touched on the various focal points of the movement, let’s put it all together. You’re going to start with the DB’s facing laterally at about hip height. With arms locked out and your lat’s engaged, you’re going to start that hinge movement by gliding those hips backwards, keeping in mind those glutes & hamstrings. When you’ve reached the bottom of the movement (feeling a decent stretch in those hamstrings), you will then bring those hips forward using primarily your glutes & hamstrings. Upon reaching that top position, you should be focusing on your breath– timing your exhale as you hit that top point (standing straight up, DB’s at your hips).
Finally, there are a few points to be aware of. One, there is a tendency to try and engage lower back muscles here. If that’s the case, I would recommend performing these with just body weight to start, that way you can be sure to recruit the proper muscles and not worry about overloading any improper recruitment of muscles. Second, although there is a fair amount of upper body usage throughout this exercise, it is a primarily lower extremity movement. When you start to get comfortable with this movement and begin to add weight, it’s important to note that you are not “pulling up” the weight with your upper body, but rather using the floor and your legs to leverage the weight up.