Why Women Should Deadlift

Female powerlifter Nia Shanks explains the importance of the deadlift for women, and provides some deadlifting tips.

Nia ShanksDeadlifts. They are by far one of the best exercises for producing overall strength. But even more than that, they can even help you improve your physical appearance too. So, before we get into the meat of this article, I want to explain why women in particular should do deadlifts on a regular, consistent basis.

There are several reasons why women should incorporate deadlifts into their programs. One of the most important reasons I think deadlifting is important for women is that it allows them to realize their true strength potential. It never fails; anytime I train women and get them to pull a heavy triple on the deadlift (after building up to that level, of course), they absolutely love it. Something just seems to click in their minds when they rip a heavy weight off the floor.

Unfortunately women are still taught to believe that they can’t get strong, and that they should only lift tiny dumbbells coated in pretty pink or other pastel colors. They are taught to believe that if they lift anything heavier than 10 pounds that they will become muscle-bound beasty freaks. Those are blatant misconceptions, and women need to know the truth.

Once women can get past that false mentality of lifting heavy weights and actually push themselves, the results are amazing. I have seen this time and time again with myself and my other female clients, and those who follow Fat Loss Detour. Most recently my Mom started to train for push/pull meets (the total of the bench press and deadlift). After only a couple months of training, she pulled 235 pounds!

Well, after that first meet she got the powerlifting bug and wanted to do more. In her quest to get better and pull more weight, she also decided that she wanted to lose some fat and get into a lower weight class. At her first meet she was in the 148 pound weight class, and she wanted to get into the 132 pound weight class.

Her powerlifting and weight loss journey included a heavy dose of deadlifting, which not only helped her increase her strength, but it allowed her to lose body fat as well. Deadlifting is a great exercise to use even if your only goal is to lose weight and look better. The reason is because it stimulates a lot of muscle which helps to jack up your fat burning metabolism and build muscle. Leg extensions, leg curls, and the inner and outer thigh machines could never compare to a heavy set of deadlifts.

Deadlifts will allow you to build muscle in your upper and lower back, glutes, and hamstrings. Why waste your time with useless exercises when you can get such amazing results with a single one?

Long story short: if you want to transform your body and/or get stronger, then you should be deadlifting. Period.

Okay, now that you know why you should be deadlifting, let’s get into how to deadlift properly.

Something I have noticed the past couple of years when it comes to teaching women to deadlift is that the learning curve is usually smaller if they start with sumo deadlifts. Now, this doesn’t always apply to everyone. Some people just have the biomechanics that make traditional deadlifts easier/more comfortable. Some people learn quicker when using a trap bar. Ultimately you need to do what works best for you and your body type, but quite often sumo is the way to go if you have never deadlifted before.

Watch this quick video to get the main training cues for the sumo deadlift.

The main points from the video are:

  • Have your feet wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Set up very close to the bar; I prefer to have my shins touching the bar.
  • Point your feet out at about 45 degree angles.
  • Force your chest out to maintain the arch in your lower back.
  • Do not try to “squat” the weight up. Your hips are higher on the sumo deadlift than a squat.
  • Keep the bar close to your body the entire time – it should run up your shins and then up your thighs.
  • Near the top of the movement, push your hips forward to lock it out.

Now that you know how to deadlift, you should also know that I don’t recommend that you perform more than five reps in a set if you are a beginner. Since the deadlift recruits a lot of muscles, your smaller and weaker muscles tend to give out before your larger, stronger muscles. If your weaker muscles are giving out and you keep pulling for more reps, you could be setting yourself up for injury.

How can you start to include deadlifts in your current program? Simple – just start to include them one to two times a week. If you are a beginner, then deadlifting twice a week could be the way to go, that way your body can start to adapt to the movement pattern, and your strength levels will increase at a fast rate.

Once again, if you are a beginner then I would recommend that you perform three to four sets of five repetitions with the sumo deadlifts. Just remember – make sure every repetition is perfect; sloppy reps won’t benefit you at all.

So start deadlifting and watch your strength levels soar, and your body transform.