As a runner, if you are serious about gaining speed and heading off injury, then you should strength train.
A regular weight lifting routine will not only help boost speed and endurance, but it will also protect you against common injury and help you get into the best shape of your life.
Truth be told, I believe that the deadlift is one of the greatest strength moves of all-time and ideal for runners (something I have already mentioned in some of my previous posts) looking to increase overall body strength and endurance.
This exercise is a compound movement that targets all of the major muscles in your body, with the most emphasis on the back extensors, the glutes, and the hamstrings—key running muscles and the source of power of many an athletic activity, leading to body realignment and creating more stability in your entire body.
These posterior chain muscles help propel us forward, and they are vital for reaching top speed and keeping stability while running.
Image Credit – Eric Langly via Flickr
As a result, the deadlift might be one of the best exercises for runners, and if you don’t deadlift, then you should. Nonetheless, you shouldn’t hurt yourself either. That’s why I’m sharing with you some of the best proper training form and practices on how to perform the deadlift without hurting yourself.
I’m sharing with you a bunch of deadlift variations to choose from. So pick the one (or ones) that works better for you, based on your training goals, injury history, and personal preferences.
I’m also sharing with you some video tutorials showing how to do the perfect deadlift. Feel free to watch and rewatch them again and again, until the ins and outs of proper form become second nature for you.
Beginners Start Slooooow
So if you are a beginner, start with relatively light weight (a 40-pound loaded bar for instance) and focus on your technique. Once you master proper form, then and only then, focus on increasing your workload and intensity.
Just don’t try to outperform and compete with advanced fitness nuts lifting 300 pounds weight or more. Keep the focus on yourself and you will be avoiding a world of hurts.
6 Must-Try Deadlift Variations
So whether you are looking to improve your strength, speed, power or endurance, here are six deadlift variations to try.
1. Conventional Deadlift
This is the classic form of a deadlift and, please make sure to nail it right before you move onto the more advanced and challenging variations.
There is a lot to cover here so please hang with me here and be patient. Get this right and the other variations will come in handy for sure.
Begin by standing feet a bit wider than shoulder-width apart, with the toes pointing straight ahead or slightly outward (but no wider than 11’clock). Make sure the ball of your feet are lined up under the bar. Then, hinge forward from the hips, bend your knees and grasp the barbell with shoulder width or slightly wider with an overhand grip. This is the starting position.
Next, lift the weight up by extending your hips and knees to full extension. Make sure contract your calves, quads, hamstrings, glutes, and trunk.
Lift the bar up and keep it close to your body the entire time. Pause for a moment, then slowly return the weight to the starting position by bending your hips and knees to bend forward.
Make sure to keep the bar close to your body, head up, chests out, back flat, and knees pointed in the same direction throughout the exercise.
2. Sumo Deadlift
This is the wider stance version of a deadlift and it targets mainly the quads, the inside of the thighs and glutes, which is what will help you to increase the range of motion needed to lift heavier loads without injury.
If you have flexibility and mobility issues, especially in the glutes and hamstrings—problems areas for runners—then this variation is really helpful.
Begin by standing with your feet twice shoulder-width apart, toes pointing out at an angle, core engaged and chest up.
Next, and without rounding your lower back, bend your knees, grasp the bar and lift the weight up by pressing through your heels and thrusting your hips forward.
Stand all the way up, hold for a moment, then slowly lower the weight down and repeat.
3. Romanian Deadlift
This is a great variation if you are looking to put the emphasis on your hamstrings, building strength and mobility in these important running muscles. Keep in mind that you can do this exercise by either using a loaded barbell or with dumbbells. It’s your choice.
Begin by standing with shoulder width or a narrower stance—depending on your own personal preference.
Grab the bar from the floor with shoulder width to wide overhead grip and keep looking straight ahead as you lift the weight up.
Next, while keeping your arms straight and knees slightly bent, slowly bend at your hip joint and lower the loaded barbell as far as you can without rounding your back.
Make sure to extend your hips forward until you starting feeling a good stretch in the back of your thighs. Bend down as far as your flexibility allows, but don’t force it; otherwise expect trouble.
Once you reach the bottom portion, pause, then pull the weight back up to starting position and repeat. Make sure to squeeze your hamstrings and core muscles at the top of the motion.
4. Trap Bar Deadlift
You will need a specialized bar for this one. See the video tutorial I provided below.
If you have a history of back injury and want to stay safe, then you might consider the trap bar deadlift. With this variation, you will be able to reduce the potential for injury while at the same time increasing your ability to lift heavier loads.
Begin by standing in the center of the trap bar, then bend your hips and knees, lower down until your thighs are parallel to the ground, then grab hold of the bar’s handles using a neutral grip. This is your starting position.
Next, while keeping your back straight and core engaged, lift up the bar to standing by thrusting your hips forward, hold for a moment, then slowly reverse the movement and return to the starting position.
5. Kettlebell Sumo Deadlift
This variation puts a lot of emphasis one the inner thighs and lower back muscles.
Plus, the Kettlebell Sumo Deadlift can also help you build balance, strength, mobility and coordination in the lower body.
Assume a wider stance, with your toes pointing outwards, then bend at the hips and grab hold of a kettlebell of challenging weight with both hands.
Lift the kettlebell off the floor by extending your hips and knees. Make sure to stand tall, with chest out, core engaged and back straight.
Hold for a moment, then return to the starting position.
6. Single Leg Deadlift
This is one of the most specific and best glutes exercises that there is. This variation puts a lot of emphasis on the glutes—the central power of the running stride, and key for stabilization while running.
I prefer doing this exercise with a kettlebell because it’s more convenient, but feel free to use other weights if you feel like doing it.
Master the bodyweight version of the exercise first, then and only then you can hold weight or heavy medicine ball for added resistance.
Begin by holding a 15 to 20-pound kettlebell in your left hand, and lift your right foot slightly off the floor.
Next while engaging the core and keeping the back flat, lean your entire torso forward and lower the weight toward the ground by bending at the hip and extending the right leg behind you for balance.
Pause for a moment, then return to starting position to complete one rep.
Make sure to keep your back flat and knees of the supporting leg slightly bend for balance and support.
Image Credit Ben Shepherd via Flickr
Featured Image Credit – Marco Ganzmann via Flickr