A few months ago I moved into a (rented) house in a small village, in a desperate attempt to get away from all that vibrant diversity big Western cities are awash with. For the most part, this has worked out well. One of my favorite aspects of this house, which is pretty basic overall, is that it has a proper basement that is big enough for a home gym. I got some equipment already but I am still missing a half cage, an olympic longbar and bumper plates. The latter are, in my opinion, a must for deadlifting, which brings me to the topic of this article.
The deadlift is, by far, my favorite exercise. My workout plan is quite simple, focusing on the standard compound lifts, i.e. bench press, squat, deadlift, overhead press, and row. In my view, the deadlift reigns supreme, though. Any other lift you can kind of half-ass and make it through with improper form, and with the risk of injury, of course. The starting position of the four other lifts mentioned above entails that the bar is elevated, which gives you more room to work with. Not so with the deadlift. The bar just sits there on the floor if you are not strong enough yet. You will not get it off the ground if you are almost there. In a way, the bar taunts you. In contrast, with the bench press or the squat, the weight of the loaded bar works in your favor in the first part of the exercise.
There is also an enormous payoff. The first time I managed to deadlift 120 kg, with a body weight of about 80 kg, i.e. 1.5x my body weight, I was ecstatic. You wrestle with the bar, at first possibly not even believing that you can do it, but then you really get it off the ground, first just by a few millimeters, but then you raise the bar, slowly but surely, and you feel as if you are growing larger and stronger as you do it. This is probably the closest you can get to a Super Saiyan transformation in real life — and you will wear the callouses on your hands with pride!
One repetition of a deadlift that is at our just below the edge of your ability makes you feel as if you have overcome a serious challenge, and this is because you have. The deadlift also takes a lot out of you, which is why you normally do 5 x 1, with breaks in between. In contrast a set of five repetitions of a bench press or a squat feels almost pedestrian. Sure, you may get to your limit in the later repetitions, but because success is defined as completing a set of 5 it feels a lot less significant than getting the loaded longbar off the ground in a deadlift.
According to gym bro science, the squat increases your testosterone level. I am not sure this is true, but based on my experience, a good deadlift makes me feels as if my dick just got one inch thicker. Squats are not bad either, but if I had to pick only one lift, it would be the deadlift. If you want to feel like a man, go load that olympic longbar and try getting it off the ground!
6 thoughts on “The Deadlift is the Most Honest Exerise”
“My workout plan is quite simple, focusing on the standard compound lifts, i.e. bench press, squat, deadlift, overhead press, and row.”
Once I started a similar regimen to this lifting weights became much less of a chore. You can just focus on two main days per week doing squat, bench and OH press one day, then deadlift, chin ups (or lat pulldowns) and rows the second day. That’s pretty much 12 sets per week minimum, and you get the most bang for your buck.
The only things I do different now is with squats and deadlifts. I just do Bulgarian split squats and my nervous system thanks me for it. For deadlifts, I avoid lifting from the floor and lift the bar from the half rack position and go into Romanians instead. Ever since I replaced those two exercises I sleep much better the next couple nights because my nervous system doesn’t take such a hit.
At some point I’ll add in some more accessory lifts. My forearms, for example, have always been pretty thin, and when wearing a t shirt it really shows. I probably won’t even bother with abdominals.
I had to look up the Romanian deadlift. This one was very popular at the last gym I went to. All the thots did it, with an unloaded bar, and smack in the center of the gym area, in order to maximize visibility, and often followed by this ridiculous exercise where they lie on their back, angle their legs, and push the bar up with their hips. I don’t think I ever tried the Romanian deadlift myself, but I’ll have a go at it. The Bulgarian split squats seem like a good alternative to the standard back squat. One issue I am not sure about is getting a half cage as it simply takes up too much space. I have been considering front squats, but doing Bulgarian split squats with dumbbells in my hands could also be quite effective.
Yes, the great thing about Bulgarians is you can get a pretty effective burn with much lower weight since you’re focusing on one leg at a time, so dumbbells work nicely. I also did goblet squats with a single dumbbell (loaded really heavy), but it eventually became too dangerous to load up any heavier as the weight was too daunting to get into position.
Romanians are coincidentally an essential thot lift as they hit your glutes and hams pretty effectively, as well as the entire posterior chain similar to the deadlift. If I had to add one more exercise to the list it would be farmer carries. I’ll load up a couple of dumbbells and walk around with them at the end of the pull workout. They’re really nice for you posterior chain as well, and have been great for my posture. Overall, I just like to keep lifting simple because I’m not overly enthusiastic about it.
What is your recommendation for guys with propensity to umbilical (and other) hernias to deadlift properly and safely? Other than the belt of course. I got my hernia corrected at 7 yo and was told to be especially careful with lifting dead weights.
In this case, you are probably better off consulting a specialist doctor. In general, though, belts are probably a bit overrated. When I was deadlifting above 1.5x my body weight I did not need one, yet I have seen people well below my level strut around with a belt on. I knew one guy who was able to deadlift more than 250 kg, and with a belt on. In his case, I have little doubt that it helped him, but for the majority of hobbyist lifters it is probably not necessary.
Also, with my limited medical understanding, I am not sure there is a strong connection between deadlifts with proper form and hernias as you mainly work with the muscles in your legs. This is probably not how an untrained person picks up an object from the ground, though.
Yep, you nailed it. The untrained usually put (probably at least half, if not nearly all of) the strain on the abdominal muscles. My first choice when carrying some load is to lay it over my shoulders and it’s easier to educate yourself to make the legs bear most of the load that way. If I want to do deadlift exercises again, that has to be the first objective.