how to deadlift when you are scared of the bar

When it comes to training clients I pretty much want to help teach your mom how to deadlift.

While I know there are plenty of go getters out there who walk right up to the bar, throw on some weight and get after it, I know there are plenty who will never set foot in the weight room, let alone walk up to that big scary platform and load up the bar. Nor does anyone have to do that to get some type of results from weight training.

While I am guilty of posting my deadlift max’s on Instagram and Facebook I still try to convey to others that you don’t have to train for maximal strength to get results.  You can find results, accomplishment, functionality, body change, and improved health in basic exercises.

Maybe you are reading todays post and feel intimated or overwhelmed walking into the weight room or maybe you know someone who feels this way and this article can help. I am going to teach you a basic deadlift variation you can use with a dumbbell as you build up enough confidence to make it to the bar. Because you will.

For weight room newbies: After reading this article, at your next workout, walk straight to the dumbbell rack pick up a heavier than normal dumbbell and find a open space in the weight room to get your awesomeness on.

If you are performing it close to the dumbbell rack be sure you have adequate space around you and that you are far enough away from the rack so you don’t get in the way of other gym goers (little weight room etiquette for ya).

What it is: 

A deadlift is an exercise that builds strength in the lower body and back and mimics picking something up off of the floor most often used with a barbell. You can also use a kettle bell or dumbbell to focus on form, get comfortable with the movement or to add in to a routine when you want to do higher repetitions. 

Why should I even deadlift:  

Because you want to be strong at life. Think picking up boxes, children, groceries and heavy rocks. It works the glutes, core and backside of the body and is uber functional. Plus you feel like a badass and everyone needs a little bit of that in their life.

Using a dumbbell mimics a traditional deadlift without feeling so scary and intimidating with the platform, the bar, and those big weights.

Everyone starts somewhere with exercises and everyone needs to take a step back from time to time to work on form.

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Pull your shoulders down, hips back, and keep the chest lifted.

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Tighten everything in the body and lift the chest and butt at the same time by pushing the hips forward.

How-to get it right:

This exercise has tons of variations to choose from.  You can use this version with dumbbells or kettle bells and work your way to the bar when you feel comfortable.

  •  Choose a heavy dumbbell. If you are scared to ever grab the 30, 40, or 50 lb dumbbell, this is the exercise for it. Focus on form and don’t rush the movement.
  • Place the dumbbell vertical on the floor and stand over it, the DB slightly in front of you, with you feet approximately should distance apart.
  • Bend over with a slight bend in the knees, back flat, gripping the top part of the dumbbell like shown in the picture.
  • Pull your shoulders down, hips back and lift the chest so you can look at an imaginary superman logo on your chest at all times without straining the neck back.
  • Tighten everything in the body and lift the chest and butt at the same time by pushing the hips forward.
  • Control the movement back down and and repeat.

All this is fancy, detailed talk for pick up the dumbbell from the floor with good posture, keep the midsection tight.


Common Mistakes to look out for:

  • Squatting the DB. The torso is not as upright as a squat.
  • Butt lifting before the chest. Butt and chest lift at the same time
  • Not using your butt. Squeeze your butt at the top of the movement.
  • Rounding the back. Try to keep the back flat with a neutral spine (the natural curve of the low back).

Please share this article to timid gym goers everywhere to more help build more confident and skilled people in the weight room!

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