What if I told you there was a way to deadlift more weight and do it more safely just by adding one move to your deadlift warmup routine?
You’d do it in a heartbeat, right?
Here’s a hint… you already have all the equipment you need.
Deadlift warmup. I’d say for the majority of us they consist of folding our bodies in half (or attempting to) to get our hamstrings nice and loose. Or looser. Or just not stiff as boards. Whatever.
After we stretch our hamstrings, what do we do? We grab a barbell and do a few lifts to prime for the deadlift, then maybe do some punter’s kicks to get even more heat into our hammies.
Then we add weight and more weight and more weight and deadlift to our little heart’s content.
Well, the deadlift is a total body movement, meaning that you use many groups of muscles during the lift. You use your hamstrings (duh) but also your trapezius, abdominals, erectors, forearms, glutes, hips, vocal chords (for grunting), quads, and the rest of your back muscles for good measure.
So… why do we only warm up the hamstrings?
Next time you grab that barbell, do this before you add any weight.
Grab the barbell and do a couple sets of 10 slow and controlled barbell rows. I’m talking like 2 seconds up and 2 seconds down. Like this.
Really focus on your upper back and shoulders, really squeeze them together. This is about movement control and muscle activation, not speed.
Ok. You get the idea. Now the big question.
Doing barbell rows before you deadlift helps prime the upper back to pin the shoulders back and down for optimal lifting technique.
Why do you want your shoulders back and down?
Doing so makes you stronger and safer.
Now that’s a win-win if I’ve ever heard one!
Press pause from reading this and pull your shoulders back. And… relax.
Now, pull them back and try to put them in your back pocket.
Feel that? Did your chest rise a little bit? Did you notice your spine stiffen somewhat? Can you feel the connection all throughout your back?
Yeah baby, that’s strength right there! Using your back as a complete system and engaging all the muscles will put you in a better mechanical position to deadlift.
This is the position I’m talking about. (sleeves omitted for clarity)
See how my shoulders are back and chest up? Now contrast that with when my shoulders are not engaged and just kind of slumped forward.
Different huh? You can already see me rounding more forward on that second photo, which leads to the second reason you should add rows to your deadlift warmup…
Keep your shoulders back and down and try to round your back. Um, hello, you can’t do it can you? What is cardinal sin number one with deadlifts? Don’t round your back!
Of course, when you are nearing maximum weights, it will be near impossible to keep your shoulders pinned back and down. But for those WODs when you are doing some touch and go lifting, keeping those chicken wings under control will definitely lower chances of injury.
Want some proof this works? I did a few rows for my deadlift warmup and ended up hitting a 10-lb PR. Woot!
Add the row to your deadlift warmup and I’m sure you will be lifting more weight too! (and doing it safer!) Shout to my infinitely wise coach and friend Jesse for introducing this to us CrossFit 865 members.
Your Turn -> What’s your deadlift warmup look like? On a scale of flexible to Tin Man, how are your hammies?