Training for life: using the deadlift for fat loss

Ok, I'm totally guilty of using this title for click bait, but if you clicked on it then, ohla! It worked. :)

Seriously though, whether your goal is performance based or fat loss motivated, the deadlift is one of the best all around compound movements you can add in to your training. 

If you've read my about me page or seen any of my social media posts, you'll know that I'm a hyoouuuuuuge fan of the deadlift. And I'll be totally honest, I love it because it came naturally to me. Which is why I openly boycott the bench press in my training, where I have yet to hit triple digits. 

This lift itself can feel very intimidating, especially when you see someone like this guy lifting 500 plus pounds. If you're not a bald-headed muscular dude, it can be hard to see yourself doing the same kind of lift.


So where do you start?

Well, first thing's first, shave your head. 

Kidding. I mean unless you want to. Then that's cool.

Second of all, start with a PVC pipe or broom handle of some sort. And then do this:


What are we doing here besides finding an additional use for a broom handle and/or light saber? We're introducing the hip hinge pattern, which basically means sitting back with minimal bending of the knee and then snapping forward, which is engaging the entire posterior chain. (Posterior chain is a fancy term for using all of the big muscles groups on the back of the body; hamstrings, glutes and lower back). 

The key to the deadlift is maintaining a neutral spine throughout the movement, but you have to have a context of what that looks like. I'll have a client do the above exercise for five or six reps before moving on to the actual deadlift itself. The key coaching cue for the exercise above is to maintain contact with the stick at the butt, upper back, and head. Initiate the movement by sitting back with your butt. Imagine someone has a rope tied to your waist and is pulling back. 

But what if I have back pain?

Chances are you have back pain because your glutes are weak and your hamstrings are tight. As Dean Somerset says "deadlifts train the spine to remain stable while exposed to stupidly high shear forces, thus making you Superman." I'd say Captain America, but tomato tomato.

As a side note, I'm always a little mystified when people say they don't want to deadlift or squat because they are afraid of injury, or their knees hurt or whatever. Every time you bend down to pick up a child, or air conditioner or bag of groceries, you are, in fact, dead lifting weight off of the ground. And every time you sit down on a chair, your bed, the toilet or your niece's "Frozen" big wheel cycle, you're squatting. Both the deadlift and the squat are patterns from your activities of daily living. Anywho, mini-rant over. 

Kettle bell deadlift

Almost everyone begins with the kettle bell deadlift, and I like this variation for a couple of reasons.

First of all, the kettle bells are more available than a trap bar. Second of all, the weight selection starts fairly light. This is a movement you don't want to load up until you have the technique down. Third of all, most gyms have a selection of kettle bells.

Key coaching cues:

1. Elevate the surface where you rest the kettle bell. In the video below I'm using a couple of plates. Use a step or whatever flat surface you have available to raise the surface a few inches, otherwise you'll find yourself squatting the movement, which is what we DON'T want.

2. Think of closing a door behind you with your butt - I heard this on a podcast somewhere and it works. Instead of just bending down to pick up the kettle bell, slide your butt back to close that door and grab the kettle bell.

3. Try to bend the handle of the kettle bell - Pretend your Superman and you're trying to actually bend the handle of kettle bell. Think of splitting a piece of wood in half with your bare hands. This engages the lats (that area under your arm pits and back).

4. Push your feet into the floor - Do it!

5. Squeeze your glutes at the top. Like trying to crack a walnut. You're welcome for that image. :-)


I haven't spent a ton of time encouraging comments below, but if you have any questions about exercises like these, or general nutrition questions, please post them below. 

Give this deadlift variation a try and let me know what you think.