Stronger Athletes

June 4 "In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on.." --Robert Frost

Dumbbell Deadlifts

By Dr. Ken Leistner

One of the most difficult exercises that can be utilized to improve a lagging deadlift is the dumbbell deadlift. This is an infrequently seen movement because it is difficult to do correctly, and extremely uncomfortable due to the intensity with which it works the deadlifting muscles.

Like all variations of the deadlift, the dumbbell deadlift has to be done carefully, in good form, keeping the weight under control during the entire movement. Obviously, large, heavy bells will be used, but one should try to utilize the York globe-ended casted models, or plate loaded bells having ten pound plates as the largest denomination.

Utilizing dumbbells with twenty five or thirty five pound plates raises the resistance too high from floor level, reducing the intensity and productivity. If you are going to descend to a position that is much lower than your regular deadlift stance, a necessity when using dumbbells, attention to form is all important, and this is one of the contributing factors to the extraordinarily high level of intensity possible to attain in this exercise. Concentrate on keeping the hips, back, and shoulders in proper lifting relation to each other, although one will be a bit more rounded in the lumbar spine than usual. This will not be a problem if attention is given to starting the lift with the hips and thighs, and eliminating momentum as an assisting factor. This means that you have to set the hips and low back before ascending, on each and every repetition.

Holding 100-150 pound dumbbells in each hand feels "heavier" than deadlifting a barbell that weighs 300 pounds, and is more difficult to hold on to. Do not use straps! It is expected that your grip will improve to the point that you will be able to handle the very heavy bells without the grip being a limiting factor. The muscles that retract and stabilize the scapulae will be under tension during the entire duration of each set. The lumbar spine, too, will be under constant tension due to the necessity of maintaining correct lifting position while descending to a very, very low position.

I have intimated that this is a tough exercise and it is, especially when done properly, and for higher reps. This is one deadlifting movement that requires high reps too, as you would be hard pressed to find dumbbells large enough with which to reasonably do six or eight reps. The low back muscles will respond better if this assistance exercise is done with "moderate" weights which allow you to work at a very high level of intensity, while exposing the lumbar musculature to low levels of force and compression.

One, or at most, two sets of 20-30 reps, one time per week, will be more than enough to shock the spinal erector and trapezius muscles into a period of rapid growth. Be careful to integrate this movement into your program in a manner that will avoid overworking the erectors, and care should be taken on the final few reps of every set to assure that excessive flexion of the lumbar spine (rounding forward) is avoided, despite the discomfort and fatigue that a proper set of dumbbell deadlifts causes.

***No Liability is assumed for any information written on the website. No medical advice is given on exercise. This advice should be obtained from a licensed health-care practitioner. Before anyone begins any exercise program, always consult your doctor. The articles are written by coaches that are giving advice on a safe, productive, and efficient method of strength training.***

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