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Deadlifts for Runners: Why deadlifts can make you a better runner

deadlifts for runners


Deadlifts for runners: Why all runners should deadlift

Benefits of deadlifts for runners

The deadlift is considered the “King” of compound lifts because the deadlift works most the major muscles of the body. The deadlift helps with hip extension while building leg and back strength. The deadlift also improves core abdominal strength.

Muscles used in the deadlift

 Deadlifts work most the major muscle groups of the body:

  • Legs – Glutes, hamstrings, adductors, quadriceps, calf muscles
  • Back – Erector spinae, latissimus dorsi. trapezius, rhomboids
  • Abs – Rectus abdominis and obliques

Learning proper deadlift form for runners

This video will show you the basic deadlifting form

Biggest deadlifting mistakes

Turning the deadlift into a squat

The main different between a deadlift and a squat is that the deadlift focuses primarily on hip extension while the squat focuses more on knee flexion and extension. The deadlifts keeps the hips and buttocks higher while a proper squat should have the buttocks dropping low so that the thighs are parallel to the ground.

Static stretching before deadlifting

Just like warming up for a run, static or isometric stretching should be avoided before deadlifting (or any compound lift) since static stretching has been shown to decrease muscle contraction. Warm up using either dynamic stretches or with doing a few deadlifts with either the unweighted bar or with a kettlebell.

Bad foot placement and/or wrong shoes

Knowing where to set your feet for deadlifts is important to executing a proper deadlift. Keep your feet about shoulder-width apart with the toes pointed forward. When you are looking down at the bar, the bar should sit over the mid-portion of your feet.

We see too many runners and other endurance athletes try to do deadlifts and squats while wearing running shoes!

The problem with running shoes for weight lifting is that running shoes elevate the heel and have very little side-to-side or lateral support. So try your deadlifts either with a minimalist shoe or in your socks to have better foot support.

Forgetting to hinge at the hip!

The deadlift is primarily a hip extension or hinge motion of the hip. To deadlift properly, its critical to understand that your focus should be on how to hinge and extend at the hip as you lift the weight off the ground. The deadlift is not a quad-dominant exercise where the legs push the body into extension. The deadlift is also not an arm or shoulder exercise, where the upper body jerks or lifts the weight off the ground.

Rounded back

A lot of runners have this problem, where they round their back to try to get into the starting position for the deadlift. If you have problems keeping your back straight at the start of the deadlift, try the rack-pull or box deadlift modification below to begin. Once you learn how to keep the back straight and not round the back, you can progress to the regular deadlift.

How often should runners deadlift?

Since the deadlift is consider a full-body exercise, we usually recommend only doing deadlifts once or twice a week depending on your run training schedule. We usually have runners take a rest or recovery day following a strength training workout including deadlifts.

You want to avoid deadlifts the day before a hard tempo or track workout.

Deadlift variations for beginning runners

Proper technique is crucial for performing a deadlift properly. Since a lot of runners are new to adding a weight lifting program to their training, we have some deadlift variations you can do until you get more comfortable with good deadlifting form.

Rack pulls or Block Deadlifts

Rack pull deadlifts or block deadlifts are simply deadlifts that are done with the bar off the ground. The bar can either be put on a weightlifting rack (rack deadlift) or set up on a small riser or weights on the ground (box deadlift). The higher position of the bar will help you learn the second part of the deadlift pull.

Kettlebell Deadlifts

Kettlebell deadlifts allow for lifting a lighter weight and can also help teach proper hip hinging. The kettlebell deadlift is performed with the feet slightly wider than shoulder and the kettlebell is set directly between the legs.

The key movement, like any deadlift, is focusing on hinging and extending at the hips. As you extend at the hips, you should feel the kettlebell being pulled directly straight up.

Trap Bar Deadlifts

The Trap Bar allows for a more neutral grip on the bar and also brings the arms along side the body. The trap bar deadlift can be a good deadlift alternative if you are having problems pulling the bar straight up along the shins and directly over the thighs with the traditional deadlift.

Romanian Deadlifts

Romanian deadlifts are another great deadlift alternative. While the Romanian deadlift doesn’t work the body to the extent that a traditional deadlift does, the Romanian deadlift is another way to learn how to correctly hinge at the hip.

romanian deadlift

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