The deadlift, similar to the squat, has legendary status. Strength authors such as Pavel Tsatsouline, Mark Rippetoe and Marty Gallagher are known to consider it one of the three pillars of strength. However, there are a lot of misconceptions and controversy around the exercise. In this article will be busted some of the most popular deadlifting myths.
Myth 1: The Deadlift makes your waist thicker and spoils your physique;
The idea that deadlifts and squats can make your waist thicker is not a new one. Dozens of famous IFBB pro bodybuilders have been talking about this for a long time. In fact, many of them use this myth as an excuse not to do deadlifts. The reason why IFBB pro bodybuilders from today have such thick mid-sections is the abuse of GH (growth hormone) and insulin.
The deadlift will strengthen your mid-section which will also somewhat thicker, but it will never look out of proportion. Natural bodybuidlers by default cannot have huge waists unless they are simply out of shape and fat.
Truth: While the deadlift makes your mid-section stronger and thicker , it (the mid-section) will never look out of proportion if you are a natural bodybuilder.
Myth 2: You cannot build a huge back without deadlifts;
Many believe that a back workout without deadlifts is: “not doing it right”. However, nothing could be further from the truth. A strong and thick back can be developed without deadlifting. What makes a muscle bigger and stronger is resistance. It can come from different exercises. There are plenty of bodybuilders who did not use deadlifts to build their backs: Serge Nubret, Larry Scott, Sergio Oliva…etc.
Note: Olympic male gymnast have exceptional back development and most of them never do deadlifts. They train almost exclusively with bodyweight exercises.
Truth: A strong back can be build without deadlifts, if the individual puts enough effort in other effective exercises such as: pull-ups, back extensions, rows, good mornings…etc. There are many ways to get from point A to point B.
Related article: How To Build A Huge Back Without Deadlifts
Myth 3: Deadlifts make your arms bigger;
Just because something is very hard, it does not mean it’s magic. There are many strength authors who would like you to believe that deadlifts can make your arms huge. Without a doubt the arms participate in the movement, although they are supposed to act as “hooks”. The fastest way to realize that the upper arms are involved in the deadlift is to try the exercise when you are sore. Out of the two arm muscles the triceps gets more work because the long head is working hard to keep the bar close to the body.
However, while there is some sort of isometric contraction it’s not enough to cause growth and the deadlift is not at all dependent on arm strength. People miss deadlift attempts because of weak hip extensors (glutes, hamstrings), back and forearms .
Note: Flexing your arms during deadlifts is dangerous. It can cause tears of the biceps tendon. The arms are supposed to act simply as “hooks”.
Truth: The deadlift is not dependent on arm strength (not to be confused with grip strength) and big arms are not required to pull heavy weights off the floor.
Myth 4: Doing deadlifts increases your testosterone levels;
There is no evidence to support the above statement. It’s a myth spread by broscientist* who believe that just because something is hard, it’s magical too. If someone gets thicker and stronger from doing deadlifts, its because of the exercise’s direct effect on the musculature – not because of a few milligrams of testosterone which may or may not be released.
Truth: The testosterone released after a set of deadlifts is irrelevant.
Myth 5: The deadlift is the most functional exercise on earth and will make you a lifting machine in real life.
It is true that deadlifting teaches you proper mechanics to lift heavy stuff off the floor. In real life, however, we usually have to lift odd objects which are hard to grip and move around.
Imagine that you start working as a mover of furniture. You may be able to deadlift a lot of weight, but chances are the guy with more experience as a mover will be more efficient, because the body has already learned the required nerve pathways and techniques.
Truth: The deadlift is a functional exercise but “function” is a variable that changes. Sometimes being able to deadlift heavy may not equal functional strength. If you want to get good at something, focus on the specific task. Don’t hope that by doing some other activity you will get better. The piano and the violin are two different instruments.
Myth 6: Guys who don’t deadlift are “pussies”.
Just because you are able to deadlift a lot of weight, it does not mean you are not a pussy. There are many bodybuilders who lift heavy all day and never outgrow the little boy mentality. Many bodybuilders have been attracted to the sport because they needed to cover a weakness. Is there a better way to cover a weakness than hiding it behind muscle? Truth be told, most bodybuilders have bad relationship with their fathers and have suffered from the lack of strong male figure in the family. This is how strong pussies are being born.
Truth: You can be a “pussy” regardless of which exercise you perform or don’t perform.
Myth 7: Mixed grip is the best for deadlifts;
The mixed grip is NOT the best grip for deadlifts even thought it’s the most used. The best grip for heavy deadlifts is the hook grip or simply using straps. The reason for this is simple: the mixed grip is asymmetric and causes muscle imbalances and possible injuries.
Many people have tore their biceps tendons because of the mixed grip. If you perform your deadlfits with hook grip or straps, the grip is even and there are less chances to hurt your elbow or back.
The different deadlift grips can be broken as follows:
1.Overhand grip (regular grip) – the best way to develop forearm strength, but not the best way to overload your back and hips. You just can’t lift as much weight.
2.Mixed grip – strong but uneven grip that may cause bicep tears;
3.Hook grip (the fingers cover the thumb) – does not develop forearms strength as much as the other grips, but is even and allows you to lift very heavy weights without straps or the dangerous mixed grip.
Note: The hook grip places tremendous pressure on the thumb and hurts a lot.
Related article: Tips To Prevent Biceps Tears During Deadlifts
4.Straps – the best grip to overload the back and the hip extensors, but the worst one to strengthen the grip. It’s recommended that you use straps only for a few sets, not all.
Truth: the mixed grip is dangerous and may cause elbow injuries.
*broscience – Broscience is the predominant brand of reasoning in bodybuilding circles where the anecdotal reports of jacked dudes are considered more credible than scientific research.
“Bro, you gotta slam 40-60 grams of waxy maize plus 20 grams of BCAA within 7 seconds of finishing your last set of squat rack curls. Otherwise, you’ll go straight catabolic.”