A post shared by Casey Johnston (@swolewoman)
In my previous post, “‘Lift with your legs, not your back’—respectfully: huh???,” I got into all the reasons that deadlifts are good. But if that doesn’t convince you:
The evidence is clear: The greatest artists of our time are deadlifting.
For this reason, I’m releasing for the first time ever three whole instructional videos from my LIFTOFF program that will help you learn how to deadlift.
What is crucial to know here is that this program first walks you through learning to “hip hinge,” or bear weight suspended from your upper body with your hips (as opposed to almost exclusively your lower back, or knees, or the tiny muscles around your neck and shoulders). I know it sounds crazy, but it is possible. This is a key part of the deadlift movement that many people struggle with, so we break it out first.
Then you learn to hip-hinge holding weights.
This ladders up into the full-range-of-motion “barbell deadlift,” where you learn to pick a barbell up from the floor using your whole legs as well as your hips, while keeping your back flat and stable.
If the deadlift process sounds or looks complicated, I fully admit that it is. If QWOP taught us anything, it was that human bodies are possessed of an incredible number of joints and levers and trying to move them all together deliberately, even to a small degree, is an overwhelming task.
But as I’ve previously noted, “bending down and picking things up and carrying them and moving them around” is a type of chore we do over and over again, multiple times a day, every day, for the rest of our life. There are few more noble pursuits than learning to do it in a way that doesn’t yield you a back spasm and days of lying immobile and in pain on the couch. Deadlifts can help prevent this scenario.1 Imagine picking up a heavy suitcase and not feeling scared, but powerful, a serene smile on your face. Deadlifts can give you that.
I’m going to say it in loud text in hopes that it does not go in one ear and out the other:
I don’t really recommend that you ONLY learn to deadlift.
While I would say deadlifts are the ne plus ultra of heavy lifting, they don’t really belong in a vacuum, for a few reasons:
- Deadlifts are mainly a “pulling” exercise; that is to say, they help your body practice using your muscles to “pull” things toward you. The complement to pulling is “pushing” exercises, like benching and squatting. You might not know it to look at strength training programs, but they work pretty hard to balance these movements in order to keep body mechanics balanced. There are many lengthy works about why, but imbalances can lead to injury and keep you from actually getting strong in any movement/direction, because you are putting all your eggs in one basket.
- Deadlifts are complex because you have your upper body trying to hold still and firm, and all the joints in your lower body trying to move in concert. Practicing other lifts gives you more opportunity to practice moving somewhat smaller regions of your body together.
- Getting stronger requires “linear progression,” or as we call it in LIFTOFF, “weights go up”: you add a little weight to the amount you’re lifting every new session (10 pounds today, 15 or 20 pounds next time, and so on). Without building full-body strength, you likely won’t be able to build strength in just one lift/dimension (if nothing else, eventually you’ll hit a limit of “not being able to physically maneuver the plates/barbell into position that you’d otherwise be able to deadlift”). Without adding weight, it’s extremely difficult to build strength and get good at any of the lifts, including deadlifting.
All that said! Will a little practicing and experimenting with deadlift motions in the comfort of your own home hurt you or anyone else? Heck no!
If you want to understand what lifting is about and begin to learn what it feels like, deadlifts and hip hinges are as good a place to start as any. You should also understand that you’re doing this for only 5-8 reps at a time; it’s supposed to be hard! If you can’t go the full range of motion because your hips or hamstrings are tight, building that flexibility is worthy work too.
Know a girlie who might want to learn to deadlift? Don’t keep the secret of our living legends to yourself.
What paid subscribers got last week: A reader was thrilled with finally discovering that lifting feels like punching God, but mourned the loss of time that she spent avoiding the gym and “all of her good training years” (paraphrasing, [skeptical]). So let’s talk about how life may be less navigating its branching paths and more escaping the various “gravity wells” that hold us down. She didn’t suddenly, finally decide to go to the gym; she escaped the gravity well of not going to the gym. And there is a big difference.
~Discord Pick of the Week: Two in-depth videos on the “that girl” “omg I eat sooo much” groundwork laid by Lorelai and Rory Gilmore of The Gilmore Girls. Part of me feels like the show felt like it was doing a good thing and not creating a double standard, but they can’t have it both ways!~
A nice meaty Texas Monthly feature about Alphaland, known to you and me as “Christian Guzman’s gym.” The writer seems skeptical that people will go to a destination gym just to see and be seen and film their workouts, but Guzman is almost surely basing this on the way fitness influencers used to make a point of trekking deep into Venice Beach to do a workout at “The Mecca,” the first Gold’s Gym. It got to the point that this Gold’s was charging an exorbitant $40 for a day pass ($5-10 is more typical, and even $25 should widen the eyes). It is a good Gold’s, for sure, but going there tipped into being mainly a clout-chasing exercise around 2017.
Would I go to Houston just to work out at potentially the most comprehensive gym ever?… I wouldn’t go JUST for that. But would I check it out if I were visiting Houston? Probably!
I also can’t let this go: The writer defines “shredding” in the article as “ a bodybuilding term for losing weight and building muscle, fast.” Price is Right “losing” horn: Shredding is a colloquial term for losing body fat while preserving as much muscle as possible, or slightly more clinically: cutting.
What is “cutting”? What is its counterpart, “bulking”? I’m glad you asked, here is a whole article about it>>>>
A lovely podcast with author Mallory O’Meara on how she loves powerlifting. (Another artist girlie deadlifting!! We are legion.)
The truth, and strategy, of food expiration dates. It is crucial to know that they are more like guidelines than rules, especially sell-by dates, especially eggs.
There is, in fact, “try.” A great piece from Claire Zulkey that is ostensibly about being a mom but, to me, is also about life.
I’d never heard of blender muffins before, but now I might have to try them with a little protein powder.
RIP the Choco Taco :( The execution was never good, but that didn’t matter.
Before we freak out that “too much protein makes pee a problem pollutant in the U.S.” (say that five times fast) and that our gains are bad for the environment: the study specifically cites “excess” protein, or protein consumption that “outpaces physiologic protein demands.” The study doesn’t specifically address this, but people who lift weights and are eating high protein are building muscle, so their protein intake doesn’t outpace their protein demands; for most people, frankly, their protein intake barely meets the demands of building muscle. I love and care about the environment as much as anyone, but I think about one billion problems can go first before I have to give up my muscles. No; this does not mean Scientific American wants everyone to starve.
I happened on this article about how to do a “Romanian deadlift to row” (i.e. a Romanian deadlift, followed immediately by a row, with the same weight). Unless you are really hurting to mix up your cardio, here’s why you would not do that: you can definitely RDL more than you can row, so that RDL is kind of a waste. The more you know.
Every day I’m working on putting a finger on why I can’t stand TikTok, and the fakeness is part but not all of it; the “suburban sensationalism” is part of it too. It was novel for a minute to do like a Spike Jonze video about mixing seven different creamers in your iced coffee, but now it’s just exhausting.
Petty Peloton corner: SoulCycle is offering free classes to people who trade in their Peloton bikes. It’s petty! Ten out of ten petty-coats!2
I never liked Go Ask Alice but couldn’t articulate why as a young teen; turns out it’s fucking fake!
Keke Palmer is a legend and the highlight of Nope.
“I stopped reading the news.” I too have… kind of stopped reading the news, shameful though it feels to admit. Pursuant to the suburban sensationalism link above, everything is so loud and yelling so much now that it feels like if there’s something that I really need to know about, I will be forced to hear about it? It also feels like too much of a struggle to find information that I want, in normal amounts. Everything is algorithms that are grabbing me and shaking me by the shoulders about why my hair should be on fire YESTERDAY about the latest disaster, but my scalp has been nothing but third-degree burns for years now, honey. Much of the news has lost all sense of scope.
That’s all for this week! I love you for reading, thank you, let’s go—
Or, being perfectly honest, they can cause it, as can any indiscreet attempt to pick up a too-heav-for-your-current-abilities thing; this is why learning good form and how to progress and build strength slowly and steadily, as within the context of a good beginner program, matters!
A previous version of this piece stated that Peloton was accepting the bikes in exchange for free Peloton classes; it is SoulCycle that is offering free classes in exchange for Peloton owners’ bikes, not Peloton itself. We at She’s A Beast regret the error! ↩