Welcome to a new series that I’m calling 3WH, or the WHAT WHEN WHY HOW series for exercises.

The Deadlift is hands-down one of my favorite exercises of all time I make it a point to work it at least once a week. Because of how effective the deadlift is with stripping body fat and building strength, I coach all of my in-person clients in some form of the deadlift, and my online coaching clients work through variations of the deadlift every week as well. Let’s check it out:

What: The Deadlift

When: at the beginning of your workout so you can maximally and effectively recruit all the muscles of your forearms, shoulders, core, upper and lower back, glutes, and quads/hamstrings (basically, everything in your body)

Why: the deadlift, in my book, is the king of all exercises because it recruits almost every single muscle in your body. When loaded appropriately, it can build more strength and more mass than many other exercises in the gym. Effectively, being able to hip-hinge, or deadlift, under load, with great technique, makes you stronger, leaner, and way more badass than you already are.

How: The Conventional Deadlift will be our main focus for today

  1. Set your feet hip-width apart, toes pointed forward, with your shins about 1-inch from the bar
  2. Push your hips straight back, while bending your knees slightly. If you’ve ever played baseball or softball before, it’s just like putting your hands on your knees in the “ready” position
  3. Keep hinging back until your hands reach the bar
  4. Take the “slack” out of the bar
  5. Squeeze your lats: imagine you’ve got oranges under your armpits and you’re trying to squeeze the OJ out (thanks, Tony Gentilcore). Or, imagine you’re trying to wrap the bar around your body. This engages your lats and will help you stabilize the bar while protecting your spine
  6. Drive heels into the ground, squeezing your glutes and forcefully shooting your hips forward. The bar should travel straight up.
  7. Lock out forcefully by squeezing your butt really hard. Pause. Then lower the bar: start by breaking your hips back towards the wall behind you, once the bar passes the knees, break the knees and lower the bar to the floor

Check it out:

Other variations of interest:

Sumo Deadlift

The difference here is the foot and hip position: feet set outside shoulder-width, with toes pointed out (like a sumo wrestler). The movement pattern is the exact same otherwise

If you’re a beginner, and if you have a Trap Bar available in your gym, you can try the Trap Bar Deadlift, which is a great way to “pick up” the deadlift (pun intended)

Or, if you’re not ready to pull the bar from the floor, try the Romanian Deadlift (RDL), which is still a great hip hinge exercise that will build great total-body strength, with a bit more hamstring recruitment.



I would always put this exercise at the front end of your workout, when you’re the freshest. Not only will this allow you to maximally load the exercise (when appropriate) but it will keep you safe.

For Strength: 3-5 sets of 5 or fewer reps; rest 3-5 minutes between sets

*strength is a learned skill: your body has to learn how to maximally and efficiently recruit muscles in order to leverage your body against a “heady” load; this is an amazing adaptation for our bodies, but we have to force it to learn; that being said, use weight that you can’t do for more than 6 or so reps, and add weight accordingly as you get stronger

For Hypertrophy: 3 sets of 8-10 reps; rest 60-120 seconds between sets; always make sure you have 1-2 reps in the tank leftover. Remember: today’s workout isn’t about today, check yo’self before you wreck yo’self


With this tutorial, you should be a deadlifting fiend!

Key things to keep in mind:

  1. Start slow! Check your ego at the door
  2. Be safe at all times: own the technique and you’ll do fine
  3. Don’t rush this exercise: remember how I said it recruits almost every muscle in your body? Yeah, well, that means you need to REST! Take your rest breaks seriously to stay safe and effective
  4. If you’re still feeling iffy about the exercise, seek out the help of a professional to show you how to do it

Got questions? Contact me and I’d be happy to set up a skype call and talk it over with you.

Want to get Stronger, Leaner, and do it faster than ever before? Check out my eCourse, The Strong Body Solution, which cuts through the B.S. and shows you exactly how

Andy Van Grinsven

About Andy Van Grinsven

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