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The Dumbbell Dead Lift

by Michael Stefano

One move to full body fitness

This is the first article in the series. With each installment, I'll break down a timeless classic, demonstrating how to get the most out of an old favorite. Today, we'll dissect the Dumbbell Dead Lift. For more exercises, customized to your exact needs: click here. You should always check with your physician before starting any new program.

Engaging over 80 percent of your body's muscle, dead lifting is an under utilized short cut to full body fitness. Virtually no other exercise can accomplish so much. If performed correctly, it will not only build brute strength and endless endurance, but seriously change the shape of your body, and firm and tone from from head to toe.

· How to master the Dumbbell Dead Lift
· Why it's important, and how to brace your core
· How to get the most out of only a few reps


DUMBBELL DEAD LIFT Points to Remember:
1. Apply Tension to Abdominal Muscles
Don't confuse with this sucking in your gut. Quite the contrary, flexing your abs (rectus abdominus and obliques) is more like bracing for a punch. Sniff in some air, bear down and squeeze your abs, creating core stability.

2. Flex Glutes and Pelvic Floor
Before you move an inch, squeeze your butt cheeks together (as if to pinch a coin between your glutes), and create an anal lock (squeeze muscles that prevent a bowel movement). The protects you from many nasty conditions (such as hemorrhoids) that afflict many weight lifters who ignore this aspect of training.

3. Keep Head, Neck and Chin Up
Pick a point on the wall in front of you at eye level and never take your eyes off of it. This will keep you head upright, and lead to a straight spine from neck to tailbone throughout the motion.

4. Do Not Lift with Arms
The arms are ropes and hands, hooks. Keep your elbows straight or locked out. Grab bells firmly. For more exercises, customized to your exact needs: click here

5. Never Round the Back or Shoulders
When lowering towards the floor, there will be a tendency for you to round your back and shoulders. Upper back remains tight and flexed, keeping the shoulders and upper arms strong and tight, preventing any rounding. You should feel the musculature of the upper back contract as you lower. Lower back also stays straight and tight.

6. No Passive Elements
Before starting, get in touch with your hip flexor muscles (top of thighs). Stand upright, raise one foot off floor and apply resistance to the top of the knee with one hand. That action will activate your hip flexors. Use these powerful muscles to pull yourself down during the lowering phase of the dead lift.

7. Extend Butt Back, not Down
When lowering, shift most of your weight to your heels, and extend your butt BACK, behind you. The challenge is to keep the back straight and head up. Remember, NEVER let the back round. The shins should be as vertical as possible.

8. Reduce Range of Motion to Reduce Intensity
It's not necessary to lower to the floor. Reduce depth of squat motion to reduce intensity and associated strain on back and knees. Once you attain more hamstring flexibility, you can increase range of motion.

9. Diaphramatic Breathing with Proper Execution
When initially setting up for your first rep, you've already inhaled (sniff in some air) as you braced your core. Squeeze out some air (exhale partially), keeping the abdominals tight, and pull yourself down (using tops of thighs). At the bottom of the motion suck in some air and pause briefly, as you reverse direction. Again, squeeze out a partial exhalation as you raise up.

10. Finish Position
After lowering, while keeping your head and chin up, back straight, core tight and glutes tight, shins vertical, butt back, press through the heels as pushing the floor away from you and stand up to a complete lockout of the knees and hips.

11. Frequency of Training
Repeat anywhere from 2 to 5 sets at 5 to 10 reps per set. All reps are done in a slow and controlled manner, working to muscle fatigue (not failure). 2 or 3 sessions of deads each week should work nicely.

12. Proper Form and Program Progression
As a way to make this exercise more progressive, work on perfecting form before increasing weight or reps. Remember, this is a very effective exercise when done with perfect form, but if you're not willing to master it, don't bother. Please read and reread these directions many times before you start.

Eventually, attempt to either increase resistance (weight of bells) or range of motion, as a way to increase intensity from week to week. However, due to the intensity level of the Dead Lift, it's recommended that you back off on the number of reps, sets and even the weight lifted, every fourth or fifth week as a way to achieve an active rest, and overall better results.

Custom Workouts by Fitness Pro, Mike Stefano MICHAEL STEFANO is the creator and author of the Firefighter's Workout (Harper Collins 2000). Mr. Stefano is a health and fitness writer, contributor to eDiets, eFitness, and Firehouse.Com. Michael's articles have appeared on AOL, MSN, and Yahoo! His workouts have been featured in magazine and newspapers from around the country, as well as in numerous network and cable TV segments. He also offers an online version of his FitFlash custom program, via a comprehensive 22-point fitness profile form.

Mike offers online personalized workouts for firefighters, candidates, and civilians.


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