How to Do a Proper Deadlift: The Ultimate Guide for Dancers

Learning how to do a proper deadlift is not as intimidating as it may seem. Unfortunately, most of the videos you’ll find in a google search feature powerlifters and other gym rat types which can make you wonder, should dancers really learn how to do a proper deadlift? None of these athletes look like us.”  


The answer is, YES! 



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Dancers should absolutely learn how to do a proper deadlift. 

Deadlifts have been scientifically proven to build power (Hello, grande allegro)! Deadlifts also strengthen the posterior chain which greatly contributes to core strength, injury prevention, and facilitates coordination of your limbs! Sound like anything a dancer might need? We thought so too.


So, what makes learning how to do a proper deadlift so challenging?


One of the early challenges when learning how to do a proper deadlift is understanding how a deadlift differs from a squat. At first glance these two exercises look similarly. But on further inspection you’ll learn that a squat (like a plié) moves on the vertical (up and down) plane while a deadlift works in the horizontal plane


A deadlift, is what fitness professionals call a “hinge” movement. A hinge movement is a functional movement meaning, it helps us perform daily tasks like picking up a heavy box from the floor. A hinge movement happens by hinging your hips backwards until your torso reaches a tabletop position. In contract, a Squat movement happens by bending your knees and moving your hips straight down while maintaining an upright spine. 


If you’re having trouble getting the hang of this hinge movement, try setting your deadlift form up in front of a wall. Take two steps from the wall. Then, keeping your shins perpendicular to the floor, hinge your hips backward until they gently touch the wall.  Want more information about how not to “squat your deadlifts?” Check out this form video



One of the most common challenges for dancers as they learn how to do a proper deadlift is the temptation to do a flat back


Yes, you are flexible enough. 


Yes, you might be able to do it with a lighter weight. 


But is it a deadlift? No. 


Is it dangerous for your back and hamstrings? Yes. 


So how do you do a proper deadlift?  Let’s break it down.


Start by setting up your weight. 


If this is your first time deadlifting, I recommend starting with a lighter weight until you get the form locked in. Once you’ve chosen your weight, set your weight up so that the bar is about two inches in front of your shins. 


Next, set up your stance.

Your feet should be about hip width apart, toes in a neutral position. 



Next, you’re going to hinge your hips backwards until your torso hits a tabletop position. From here, gently bend your knees until they kiss the weight.



Grab the bar just outside of your legs, and lift your focus straight ahead, elongating your chest forward. Do not arch your spine. Instead, Brace your spine as if you are doing a hollow hold. Remember when your dance teacher used to say “show off that diamond necklace” when she needed you to open your chest? This is a similar feeling. 



Inhale, and on the exhale, press into your feet as you push your hips back to neutral. Try your best not to hyper extend in your hips at the end. We don’t need any extra tucks or pushes at the top of your lift!


Lower to Reset.

Slowly lower the weight by hinging the hips backward, keeping the shins parallel to the floor. Remember, your shins should be kissing the weight on it’s way down, just as it did on the way up! Let the weight touch the floor and release the spine. Lastly, re-brace the spine, for the next rep and repeat.


And there you have it! You now know how to do a proper deadlift!


The best thing about deadlifts? Besides the many physical benefits of deadlifts, there are TONS of variations for deadlifts. And don’t worry, we have all the deets on common mistakes, form videos, and tips for each of these variations. Such as:


Common RDL mistakes to Avoid


How-to B-stance Deadlift


Tips for Kettlebell Deadlifts

So no matter where your deadlifting journey takes you, Dancers Who Lift has you covered. Want a little more guidance? Check out our 1:1 training program and get all the guidance you need

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