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In the second part of this three-part series, we're looking at another exercise that can boost your body's overall appearance while also increasing your ability to run faster, jump higher and lift more while decreasing your risk for injury.

Taylor Simon, MSc, BA, CSCS, co-director of Taylored Fitness in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, laid out the virtues of the split squat in our first installment. While that exercise is probably more on the exotic side for more traditional lifters, the next one should come as no great surprise. The deadlift, which is widely considered the king of all exercises, has tremendous applications for everyone from the casual gym rat looking to build muscle to the weekend warrior looking to outpace the competition.


"The deadlift is my No. 1 go-to for athletes, weekend warriors, and stay-at-home moms," Simon says. "It requires glute strength, flexibility, mobility, and coordination. It is just awesome."
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Execution. Start with a loaded barbell on the floor in front of you at your shins. With your heels spaced 6-12 inches apart, squat down and grasp the barbell with an overhand or mixed grip. "One key point is to keep a 'jerk' out of the initial pull of the exercise," he says. "Many people have a tendency to jerk the weight up off the floor. Before you lift, make sure that there is tension on the bar by starting slowly. It should feel like you are lifting the bar but no movement should be taking place. Every muscle should be tensed especially the core muscles and upper back." From there, you press through your heels, dragging the barbell up the front of your thighs until you come to a fully erect position. Squeeze hard through the glutes, hips and core before slowly lowering the bar back down your thighs to the floor. Allow the bar to come to a dead stop on the floor before beginning the next rep -- no "bouncing" out of the bottom spot. Hence the name "deadlift."

Tips. "Don't make a habit of using straps," says Simon. "But when we want to maximize the power and strength you can output, which is what will translate to sport performance, then the last few sets might need a little grip assistance. Your forearms will most likely give out before your glutes and back. So strap up for the last couple sets and keep the weight up high.

Prescription. "You should utilize the deadlift for both strength and power," he says. "To focus on strength, keep the reps in the 6-8 range and make sure you are working to failure at that range. Do 4-8 sets of this staple exercise, 2-3 times per week. When we switch to power options, the reps are going to go down to 2-4 per set (not to failure) and you should be doing eight total sets. The speed of the rep becomes very important. You need to lift it fast and this is where tension on the bar becomes vital to keep you safe. The goal is explosive up and controlled down."

Bonus. Since the deadlift engages so much of your body's musculature, strength gains and changes to body composition are often drastic and rapid. Because of that, you should feel comfortable adding weight to the bar for your heaviest sets from workout to workout.

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