Tuesday, October 29, 2019

To Dead or Not To Dead - By Burt Gam

Lately I have been coming across some interesting stuff on the deadlift out there. It seems there are some folk out there who seem to believe that Deadlifting is not such an effective tool for increasing muscle mass or hypertrophy.I even read a statement from a leading and well known certifying fitness organization that deadlifts alone are great for increasing strength but not so much for hypertrophy. Really? But just to be fair, I will say that the majority of what I have read up to this point contradicts this notion and supports the theory that deadlifts DO increase muscle mass effectively, particularly in the posterior chain.Now I want to say straight out from the start I am and always have been a HUGE fan of the deadlift. I was raised on milk, cookies, all kinds of good food, and DEADLIFTS. The deadlift was among the first resistance exercises I was taught at a young age. It required nothing more than a barbell, and perhaps some padding to protect the floor. I was taught proper form, the muscles which were activated, and the physical and mental benefits derived from it. And I knew and felt with every rep I did that I was doing something really useful for myself. To this day, if I had to pick just one exercise to the exclusion of all others it would be my choice. So yes I am very biased when it comes to this topic and I acknowledge this.

The purpose of this article is very simple. I realize that a lot of you out there reading and contributing to Natural Strength are pretty smart with lots of real life experience with weight training and was hoping to generate some opinions on this topic. And personally, I consider myself a lifelong student of the weights and really would like to hear from the Natural Strength community on this topic. So what I would like to do to get this going is simple; (1) Give a quick summary of what my reading and experience has taught me on this topic which positively supports my theory that deadlifts build strength and mass like no other(2) Summarize the thinking that seems to prevail to the contrary, that deadlifts while useful for developing strength, are not so effective for gaining mass.(3) My rebuttal. Whew ok, lets try to do this so here goes!

Arguments For Hypertrophy

1. Well the first and most obvious problem I see is the obvious connection between strength and hypertrophy. It is a fact that a larger muscle, all other factors being equal is a stronger muscle, and vice versa. And guess what? The deadlift is without equal for promoting strength gains. It excels here, mainly because it incorporates more muscle groups and muscle mass than just about any other exercise. From head to toe the body must work as a unit so the carryover to athletics is obvious. More weight(ideally) can be utilized as a result. It is the best test of overall muscular strength in existence. It has earned its place rightfully so as the "King of Exercises". If strength and size are even remotely related it would make sense for all lifters from bodybuilders to powerlifters and strongman and cross fitters and even fitness enthusiasts.

2. The deadlift in a related sort of way joins the upper and lower body as a unit and forces them to work together. It has been shown that increasing deadlift or squat poundage have a positive effect on each other.

3. The posterior chain is worked hard and heavy. From the quads, hams, to the glutes,lower back lats and traps. Even the arms and calves.Even the grip.

4. Along with this a number of stabilizer muscles are activated, particularly the core. I am not just talking abs here, but also the deeper tissues, like the obliques and transverse abdominis which also improve posture and promote trunk stability.

5. Greater hormonal response such as testosterone, growth hormone and insulin growth factors are released due to the amount of musculature used as well as the higher intensities from the heavy loading.Increased hormonal release contributes to hypertrophy and strength.

6. Increasing strength is foundational to increased power production. The deadlift movement in fact imitates the first movements of the Olympic lifts. But that is a topic for another article.

7. I will conclude here for the sake of brevity by saying that some of the more "enlightened" bodybuilders throughout history(which was nearly all of them back in the day) have utilized heavy deadlifts into their bodybuilding programs. And from looking at those that did, they clearly benefited from this heavy work by being rewarded with some thick and dense muscle, particularly in the posterior.

Argument Against Hypertrophy

1. Deadlifts are not essential for hypertrophy. There are compound and isolation movements which are effective for increasing mass in all of the muscle groups. Sure, while this may certainly be true, it would also make good sense for a natural drug free lifter to be very selective in exercise choice, that is to select exercises which give the most "bang for the buck". And since deadlifts are extremely taxing it would make sense to perform this movement first on a training day.i think the aversion some bodybuilders have to doing deadlifts is that they cannot nearly fit it into a typical split program, as they do lend themselves better to total body workouts which seem to have fallen out of favor these days and sadly so. Where do you put them, on leg or back day? Plus I think they are avoided because they are so damn hard!

2. There is little or no eccentric work when performing deadlifts. This one is a bit tricky, but it basically has to do with proper form and injury prevention. Sure most if not anyone would ever take a long eccentric lowering the weight to the floor, it is just as certain that improper protocol for lowering is to drop the weight which would be not good for the equipment or gym members having to hear that. It is usually done in a controlled manner when the weight is lowered. And while it may be true that eccentric loading is important for mass as well as strength it is not the only factor involved either. Sometimes where an exercise may fall short it can make up in other ways. This is true of the deadlift in the amount of muscle used as well as the super high intensity that is necessary to perform this exercise. There are no perfect exercises. But deadlifts are a damn good one.

3. Deadlifts are usually performed in the low to moderate rep strength gaining protocols. Yes, I have not met too many people who want to attempt suicide by deadlifts by performing high repetition sets.The argument against this has some validity, since performing high strength and power exercises with high reps while great for conditioning and to increase hypertrophy, can result in a breakdown in form and possibly increase the risk of injury.But if proper form is used it could be possible. But as stated earlier while there are optimal repetition ranges for developing strength, power and hypertrophy, there is definitely overlap. They cannot be totally separated. If the program is balanced by providing assistance exercises, compound and otherwise, performing deadlifts makes great sense as a cornerstone to any worthwhile weight program.

4. Deadlifts are dangerous. Yes I admit I screwed my back up once or twice doing deadlifts. But I have also hurt myself doing squats, presses, even curls! It all boils down to using good form and proper warmup. This is always important. Any physical activity can hurt you, football, baseball, even golf or just bending over.Risk is inherent in any physical movement, but performing deadlifts with proper form can go a long way toward injury prevention in the lower back, and could even minimize back pain.Risk versus rewards.

So there you have it. The condensed version of Deadlifting pros and cons. I love and am an advocate of deadlifting and always have been. I know that most of you out there probably feel the same or you would be somewhere else. I am very interested in hearing any thoughts on the topic of deadlifts and their effects on hypertrophy using typical training protocols, how to best incorporate them into a full body or split program, and any other related thoughts.

And guess what? Deadlifts are first up tomorrow. Cant wait!
Does modern bodybuilding make you sick? You should write for Natural Strength! I always need good articles about drug-free weight training. It only has to be at least a page and nothing fancy. Just write it strong and truthful with passion! Send your articles directly to me: bobwhelan@naturalstrength.com

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