One of the best mass-building exercises is the deadlift. The act of hoisting a weight off the floor and standing up with it recruits the muscles in your legs and back, which include the most powerful groups in your body. Just like with the squat, tremendous resistance can be utilized. That’s why these exercises are included as two of the three lifts in powerlifting competition.

Any movement that recruits several muscle groups at once requires great care to be taken, and the deadlift is no exception. Because your lower back with be focal point of the exercise, there’s a risk of muscle strain or even injury if you don’t maintain proper form.

To begin the deadlift, position your feet shoulder width apart and bend the knees with your back straight. Grab the bar with your hands positioned just outside of your stance. You can use an overhand grip with both hands or grab the bar with one hand over and the other under to better secure the bar.

Keep your head up at the start of the exercise because it’ll help you maintain a straight back throughout the movement. Your feet should be under the bar with your hips dropped low, shoulders up and back straight. Try to visualize an imaginary line running from your shoulders through the bar and on down to your feet.

Begin the exercise by driving your legs up to pull the barbell off the floor. The back remains tight and straight with the shoulders pulled back and your hips kept low. You do not want your hips to round forward as this will relax the lower back muscles and leave you vulnerable to injury.

As you pull the bar up off the floor with straight arms, focus on keeping both shoulders back and your back straight. Pull all the way to the top until you’re standing upright. From this finished position, slowly lower the barbell back to the floor while keeping the shoulders pulled back. Your back remains straight and tight. Don’t relax your muscles on the eccentric portion of the exercise because your lower back muscles are still working very hard throughout the movement. Let the bar touch lightly to the ground before pulling back up for another repetition.

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