How to stretch and warm up for Deadlifts and Squats

It’s CRUCIAL to warm up and stretch properly before and after heavy compound lifts like deadlifts and squats.

Deadlifting without proper warm up and stretching WILL make you more prone to injury and also reduce your dynamic flexibility. Why is flexibility improtant for lifting heavy ass weight? Because a tight muscle may lead to bad mobility, which can lead to bad form, which can lead to lifting less weight than you should and also make it easier to injure yourself.

Cardio Warmup

Before deadlifting and before any strenuous workout, you should ALWAYS do 5-15 minutes of moderate cardio to get your blood flowing, your muscles loosened up and your joints lubricated. A light jog, a brisk walk with the treadmill slightly elevated, a bit on the elliptical or even the stationary bike will do the job. No need to be out of breath at the end!

Dynamic Stretching vs Static Stretching

You always want to do DYNAMIC stretching pre-workout and STATIC stretching post-workout. So forget what you learned in gym class because studies have shown that static stretching pre-workout can actually decrease your strength, muscle stability and increase your risk of injury.

Some weight lifters prefer not to stretch at all before lifting but the general consensus is you SHOULD stretch before lifting heavy.

Dynamic Stretches (also called Mobility Drills)

Check out Joe DeFranco’s Agile 8 for a great lower body  mobility drill. It contains both static and dynamic drills to improve lower body and hamstring flexibility.
Here are the dynamic drills you should do before lifting:

Correct way to do Static Stretches

  1. Always post work out.
  2. Only when your body is warmed up
  3. Foam Roll two to three times a week prior to static stretching. (  How to Foam Roll )
  4. Gradually apply stretch, hold for 30 seconds, slowly release stretch

The  main muscles you need to stretch:

  • Hamstrings (crucial for deadlifting)
  • Quads & Hip Flexors
  • Chest
  • Calves
  • Glutes
  • Biceps and Triceps (if they feel tight)

Most people who sit often have tight hamstrings. Deadlifting can make them even tighter. How do you tell if your hamstrings are too tight? Lie flat on your back and raise one leg straight up towards the ceiling without bending your knee while keeping the other leg flat on the ground. If your leg is not at near a 90 degree angle to the floor (ie., it’s not perpendicular to the ground), your hamstrings are too tight.

Weight Pyramiding

When working with heavy weights for any lift (Squat, bench press, deadlift, etc), as a beginner you always want to slowly build up your weight while you decrease your reps. This helps prepare your nervous system and your joints for the stress of lifting heavy weights. Going for your 1 rep max right after walking into the gym is a recipe for disaster.

A basic pyramid for someone who maxes out at 225lbs:
135lbs x 5. Rest 1-3 minutes.
155lbs x 4. Rest 1-3 minutes.
175 x 3. Rest 1-3 minutes
195 x 2. Rest 1-3 minutes.
225×1.

Taylor a pyramid to your strengths and weaknesses. Obviously if your one rep max is 400 lbs you don’t need to be going up by 20 lbs each time. Also keep in mind the above is a very simple,  deadlift routine. Certain programs like Starting Strength or  Strong Lifts advocate doing only one set of deadlifts a workout because in those programs you’re also doing squats on the same day and there is a lot of overlap in the muscles used. What your pyramid is like depends on your program and goals.
Some lifters like pyramid down as well. After lifting your 1RM, do a few reps of something like 80% of your 1RM and then lots of reps of 60%, or maybe even do it till exhaustion.

Disclaimer:

What applies to the professional bodybuilders, powerlifters and strongmen may not apply to you. The pros don’t always do everything by the book because they are extremely aware of their body and their abilities. For instance some deadlifters round their thoracic spine(upper back) during Deadlifting, this helps them keep the weight closer to their body when they lift it up. Should an amateur be doing that? No. Be careful with the mindset “he’s big, so I have to do what he does.”

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