I am a self-taught powerlifter. I didn’t know I was teaching myself to powerlift until I was well into it, I just knew I was doing the form of exercise I enjoyed the most and that gave me the best results. One day I stumbled across a blog post about the differences between powerlifting and bodybuilding and learned that I had turned myself into a quintessential powerlifter: focused on low-rep heavy compound lifts, a cardio program centered on high-intensity, short duration intervals, and with a primary goal of increased strength and functionality rather than aesthetics. I did it all on my own, no trainer, no guru, no dogma, just a few youtube videos and common sense.
I think the great benefit of teaching myself is that I didn’t have anyone else’s philosophy cluttering up my learning process. Not that other people’s philosophies aren’t valuable! But not being exposed to someone else’s allowed me to create my own. After I’d been lifting for about a year and a half and had become competent in the Big 3, I started moving on to the Olympic lifts and adding in some kettlebell and sandbag work, and things really started to click. I started to recognize the motor pathways that are fundamental to ALL the compound exercises, and began to understand the physics of how our bodies create and harness momentum.
Our capacity to ‘do work’ is a product of our ability to move optimally, to utilize our bodies in the most efficient and effective way. Learning to move optimally begins with understanding where our power is centered: the hips. The glutes and thigh muscles are the biggest and strongest in the body, and capable of creating the most force and momentum. Once that momentum is built, we use our core to stabilize and our upper body to provide directional force, but it’s all reliant on that initial burst of power from the hips. The deadlift is the tool for training the body in the motor pathway that creates that power.
The deadlift begins by driving the hips back and loading the weight onto the muscles of the hips and thighs. The core engages to stablize, and then the work begins. The glutes and hamstrings contract to bring the hips forward and the weight begins to move upward, building power and momentum. Down the road, as you advance to more complicated full body lifts, the rest of the body can harness that momentum to move heavy loads upward, forward or backward, but the deadlift is the fundamental movement to create that momentum. That is why it’s so important. It trains the body to move optimally to create power. It translates to real-life improved functionality. You will find you can do more work with less effort when you take advantage of physics, and having a body that’s trained in the proper motor pathways will reduce the risk of injury and dysfunction as you age. Even the simple acts of standing and climbing stairs can be made more comfortable and less tiring when you learn to load your weight onto your hip and thigh muscles, as it takes a tremendous amount of strain off your lower back and the joints of the hips and knees. The deadlift makes you aware of that muscle chain, it’s proper function, and it’s profound potential. The deadlift is the fundamental movement not only for moving weight in the gym, but for moving your body through life.
Plus, it gives you a nice ass. So do it! Learn how here.