Deadlifts - one of the primary compound exercises all lifters should do. It's a great exercise that targets the quads, hamstrings, gluteus muscles, lower back, traps and forearms. Combine them with squats, rows, bench, chins and you're gonna get strong. But be careful - do it incorrectly and you'll know about it.
Why do it? Of all workout exercises, the deadlift hits the largest amount of muscle groups in one go. You can do heavy low-reps, or try a 15 rep set - they are taxing. So why do them? They're great for long term strength development, muscle growth (provided you're eating) - and they'll make you look wide!!!!
There are a few variations of the deadlift - so which one is best?
With your feet approximately shoulder width apart, stand in front of a barbell with your shins almost against the bar. Bending over, grab the bar with your hands a little wider then shoulder width. Keeping your arms straight, bend your legs and flatten your back. Lift your head so you are looking forwards, and pull the barbell off the floor by straightening your legs, then your torso until your body is completely erect, ensuring that you pull your shoulders back at the top. Then lower the bar back to the floor and repeat.
The Sumo deadlift is a variation of the conventional deadlift. The only difference is that you start with your legs far apart (like you see sumo wrestlers do when they dig in). When doing this variation, rather than focus on lifting the weight when doing this exercise, focus on keeping your knees out wide and pushing your feet out to the sides and keep your hips forward.
Why do this variation? It makes the hips and legs work more, and the back work a little less. You may also find that the stance of a sumo deadlift is more comfortable that a conventional. Depending on your build the sumo deadlift may be easier to perform then the conventional deadlift.
Stiff Legged (or Romanian)
The stiff legged or romanian deadlift variation starts a little differently. Use a conventional deadlift to get the barbell up. Once you have it up, bend over at the waist, keeping your legs straight and a slight curve in your back, until you feel good stretch in the hamstrings and then straighten back up. Do not go too far, and don’t put the bar on the floor between reps.
Why the stiff legged? It places most of the emphasis on the hamstrings and lower back and is better suited than the other two for using lower weights with higher reps.
There's also a 1-legged deadlift, but we'll leave that for another time. So which is better? That's up to you to decide. Find which one works for you. If you're still not sure from the above about the technique - youtube it. And remember - with heavy lifts - it's all about the technique. Watch in a mirror, film yourself, get a mate to watch and get the technique right with lower weights. Then go nuts.
One final thing on the deadlift: Some people choose to use a mixed or alternate grip (one hand facing forwards, one facing backwards) when doing a deadlift - the idea being that as the bar is rolls out of one hand, it simultaneously rolls into the other which allows the lifter to grip heavier weights (the hands balance each other). Do it, don't do it - whichever feels right (but if you do do it, make sure you switch the front and back hands between sets to ensure your strength development is equal).