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Woman doing a deadlift

The deadlift is a full-body pull exercise that works the glutes, hamstrings, core, calves, lats, grip, and back. The proud chest and hip extension required to complete the move also help counteract the effects of sitting and aging.

Done incorrectly, the deadlift is notorious for stressing the lower back, causing discomfort, pain, and injury.

The key, experts say, is learning proper sequencing, allowing your hip hinge — rather than an inflated ego or ambitious weight selection — to direct the movement.

1. Step up to a loaded barbell so it is touching your lower legs at midshin. Hinge at the hips first, then allow your knees to bend as you reach down to take a shoulder-width grip on the bar.

  • Tip: Set up, and stand up, proud. Think about keeping your bottom ribs down and your lats pulled down and back.

2. Stand fully upright, with your arms straight and head in a neutral position, by pressing your feet into the floor and pushing your hips forward. At the top of the lift, squeeze your glutes to achieve a full lockout.

  • Tip: Instead of pulling the bar up with your arms, engage your lats and press the bar back toward your body as you stand up. The bar will be in contact with your legs throughout the move. (Long pants or high socks can help protect the shins.)

3. Hinge at the hips again and bend the knees to lower the bar to the floor.

  • Tip: Start with a double-overhand grip (pictured). Use a mixed grip — one hand over the top, the other wrapped underneath — as the weight becomes heavier.

Our Favorite Variation: Sumo Deadlift

  • Step up to a loaded barbell and assume a wider-than-usual starting stance with feet slightly turned out. Hinge at the hips and bend your knees until you can grasp the bar.
  • With your arms straight and head in a neutral position, stand fully upright (think about spreading the floor with your feet). Don’t let your knees collapse inward as you press your hips forward. At the top of the lift, squeeze your glutes.
  • Reverse the movement to return to start.

Bonus Deadlift Variation

Jefferson Deadlift

  • Straddle a loaded barbell, your front foot facing forward and your rear foot slightly turned out. Rotate your body forward to ensure that your shoulders are squared to the front — maintain this upper body posture throughout the movement. Imagine that your shoulders are headlights tracking on the wall in front of you
  • Keeping your shoulders squared, reach down to grasp the bar on either side of your hips, taking a mixed grip so the palm of your inside hand faces forward.
  • Stand up with the bar; it will come to a stop between your legs — it will be awkward the first time.
  • Reverse the movement to return to start.

Learn how to select the right weights for you and your goals with these expert tips.

Photography by: David Ellis Photography; Fitness Model: Lindsay Ogden

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