When people hear the name “deadlift”, they have one of two reactions: you either get excited like me, or you are intimidated because you think it means that you are going to do this:
Eddie Hall is a beast, Eddie also has trouble putting on his own shoes. I watched a documentary on him. His wife seemed to be a good sport about helping him with it.
Now if you have the second reaction (intimidated), don’t be. You don’t have to do them for a world record. Deadlifts are great for everyone. I often find that people with a bad knee that can’t squat without pain, can deadlift. When taught how to get into proper position, breathe correctly, and engage your core, I’ve had success with getting people with low back pain to deadlift (assuming they don’t have something serious going on). They can be done with Kettlebells, Barbells, and Trap Bars; there is a way that everyone can do them.
The deadlift is categorized as a hip hinge movement. It places the load on your hamstrings and glutes. There isn’t much change in the angle of your knee compared to a squat. After learning correct deadlift form and doing it for weeks, I’ve even seen women in their 60s with bad knees transition into squats, and then split squats. Strong hips help your knees from caving inward, providing better alignment of your knee with your foot when you squat or lunge. Working the hamstrings gives better balance of your muscles around your knee, making it more stable, and those cranky knees might just feel better (assuming no major underlying orthopedic condition like a shredded up meniscus).
How do you start? The kettlebell deadlift. It places the load directly under your center of gravity (good for those with low back pain), they don’t have to be very heavy (although there are very large Kettlebells), and they are the same height off the ground as a barbell. You can do the “normal version” where you bend your knees some, or the Romanian Deadlift (RDL) aka Stiff-Legged Deadlift with this.
With a barbell, you can also do the traditional deadlift.
But not everyone will have the same hip mobility to do so. If you cannot achieve a neutral spine at the bottom position, you may be better suited for one of these alternatives.
Semi-Sumo Deadlift. Placing your feet out wider, just a foot width each way might just be the trick (you have to move your grip to inside your stance). Some people can achieve more hip flexion out a little wider due to the orientation of their hip socket on their pelvis.
If you still have a hard time, I have had success with taller individuals using the trap bar, if you flip the bar so the grips are high, you can get more leverage because you don’t have to bend down as low. I’ve also had success with this for those with back pain for the leverage reason and because they can get the load through their center of gravity because they step inside the bar.
Did I mention that deadlifts can make you really strong???