Dropping the Dead Lift – Why Do It?

Dropping the Dead Lift – Why Do It?

imagesIf you have come to Flow during our peak hours (usually 4:30-7:30pm), you have probably seen some pretty impressive Deadlifts lifts of 300, 400, and even 500 plus pounds in our free-weight area. If you haven’t had the fortune of seeing it, I am pretty sure you have heard, or felt the impact of the weights hitting the ground after each successful repetition. Though these feats of strength and power are pretty amazing to witness, they don’t come without question and concern.

The number one question I receive regarding our heavy dead lifters is: “Why do they have to drop their weights? Isn’t that dangerous? ” Believe it or not, a lot of the answer has to do with safety when performing this exercise.

However, before we get in to the “why”, I want to be clear that when I say drop the weight, I don’t mean literally letting go of the bar and letting the weights slam to the ground and roll all over the place (though some coaches do have their clients perform the lift this way). Instead, dropping refers to a quick and controlled lowering of the bar with very little resistance from the lifter. In this scenario the lifter basically keeps two hands in contact with the bar (while maintaining a neutral spine and proper posture) and follows the bar to the ground allowing gravity to do a majority of the work. Please do not get this method confused with the rapid fire “touch and go” deadlift that has been made popular by CrossFit over the past decade, as it can lead to a whole host of  injuries over time. When dealing with heavy weight on your deadlifts, it is important to reset your posture, grip, positioning, and breathe after each rep.  Now that I have addressed “how” to drop the deadlift, lets answer “why” you should.

The deadlift is a multi-joint movement that allows you (with proper technique, programming and nutrition) to lift a significant amount of weight equaling one and a half to four times a person’s body weight. While this is impressive in and of itself, it is also a lift that could lead to injuries, and the reality is that most of these injuries occur during the lowering (or eccentric) phase. During this phase the lifter puts in a lot of extra work to slow the bar down as it makes contact with the floor.  This extra work places a high demand on your muscles and nervous system (especially when you are lifting super human poundage) which inevitably leads to increased muscle soreness (known as DOMS) and fatigue that may take several days from which to recover.

A two-three day recovery process  is bad news  for a person that needs to hit the gym several times per week to improve their performance.  Further, when completing multiple repetitions, the demands of lowering the bar can lead to form breakdown on your successive pulls leading to injury and/or poor performance. Finally, (and slightly ridiculous) for people who would rather not add slabs of meat to their glutes and hamstrings, eliminating the lowering phase can decrease the hypertrophy benefits of a nice smooth eccentric movement. Most athletes who want the muscle building effects of the deadlifts without the risk of injuries or early fatigue will add “lighter” deadlift sets to their program to allow for an eccentric load worthy of Spartan-Like muscles.

In closing, though the loud “booms” from the gym floor can be a bit unsettling at times, please understand that experienced lifters are doing it for their health, well-being, and safety. They are not being reckless or haphazard, nor are they meatheads trying to get the attention of gym goers. At Flow, we pride ourselves in understanding our members and accommodating them with an atmosphere that allows people of all abilities to achieve each and every goal they have set for themselves. However, if you are that guy or girl who is dropping 25lb dumbbells while doing arm curls in front of the mirror, or dropping a 65lbs barbell from overhead, you need to stop because it is just not that COOL!

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