Thursday, October 24, 2013

Deadly Deadlifts and going Green!

I think its time to show you another one of my favourite exercises: Deadlifts. This is, like Squats and Bench Press, a compound movement - and a form of Olympic Lifting. Deadlifts work similar muscles as a Squat, but focus more on your hamstrings, glutes and lower back. At the same time you are also working out your core, lower back and various additional leg muscles. So its a great move to get in shape and get strong.

Overall, I am a great fan of deadlifts, however, a warning is necessary. Deadlifts, if performed poorly, live up to their name: they are deadly. What do I mean by that? The likeliness that you will injure yourself doing Deadlifts is incredibly high. I experienced it myself. My boyfriend was the first one to introduce me to this compound movement, and he showed me numerous times how to perform it properly. However, I had difficulties getting my form right, and it took me days of practicing until I finally found out what I was doing wrong. A week later, he was wondering off, doing his own workout, and I proceeded to do Deadlifts by myself. I don't know what I did - but after I finished all my sets I felt a piercing pain in my lower back, which then traveled along to my legs, and persisted at the joints where my legs are connected to my torso. I could not walk properly! The pain was almost unbearable, and in my panic I actually thought I injured my spine and won't be able to walk ever again - total freak out! Obviously I exaggerated and it wasn't that bad, however, it took a couple of days until the pain went away and I was reaching my full potential again. This experience was really scary, and since then I am incredibly careful when doing Deadlifts.

So basically, I don't want you to do Deadlifts if there is noone around who can show you exactly how to do them. If you MUST try them by yourself, please please please start with very low weight, until you got your form right, and then slowly move up. You don't want to cripple yourself. Furthermore, I will show you an alternative exercise which has almost the same effects, and is a lot safer (and also good fun).

Performing a Proper Deadlift

1. Stand behind the bar. Legs a little more than shoulder-width apart. Squat down. Your legs should form a 90° angle (or less). Transfer your weight onto your heels. Your knees should be alingned with your toes. Grab the bar with both hands. Push your shoulders back and squeeze your shoulder blades together. ALWAYS keep your back straight. You can chose the grip you like the most. Many people say that a mixed grip (one hand forward, the other one backward) provides you with the maximum strength in your hands and forearms, but to me it feels kinda weird. I just have to practice it a bit more.


2. Slowly push your heels into the ground, squeeze your glutes together, and push through your legs. Lift the weight off the ground. This exercise is mainly targeting the legs, so you should work your arms and back as little as possible. You want to lift the weight by straightening your legs. Move the bar along the outline of your body. ALWAYS keep your back straight. Otherwise, I promise you, you will hurt yourself!

Now, the first picture is the way I DO NOT want you to perform a Deadlift. It is a recipe for disaster and injury, so please DO NOT do this. Even though the Deadlift is somewhat of a two part movement (straightening your legs, straightening your hips), you want to perform those movements almost at the same time, it should be a flowing movement. This is what I had trouble with when I started doing Deadlifts. I would first straighten up my legs, and then lift the weight with my upper body. That puts enormous pressure on your lower back, and sets you up for injury. So if you look like me in the picture below, you are doing it WRONG!

If you would start lifting up the weight now, you will not use your legs. Instead, keep your bottom below your shoulders, and lift the weight through pressing your legs into the ground and straightening up WHILST keeping your back and torso the way it originally was.

Whilst pushing through your legs, squeeze your glutes and move the bar closely along your body. 

3. The final stage involves a push through your hips. Straighten up your body by pushing your hips forward and drive them through the bar. You have successfully completed a Deadlift!

In this position, your body should be straight, your hips pushed slightly forward, and your shoulders pushed back by squeezing your shoulder blades together. You can now return to the starting position and perform more reps. Depending on the weight, I usually do 3 sets, 8-12 reps. 

As I mentioned before, poorly performed Deadlifts can be DANGEROUS. If you just started to train with weights and are not 100% comfortable with Olympic lifting, and if you have no experienced gym buddy who can help you with your form, you might want to stay away from Deadlifts. Instead, you could perform Kettle Bell Swings. This exercise works the same muscles, but puts less pressure on your spine and lower back. 

Performing Kettle Bell Swings

I have seen many people doing Kettle Bell Swings. And Oh Dear Lord, most of them have no idea what they are doing. This exercise, like Deadlifts, is targeted at your legs and glutes, not your arms or back muscles. The starting position is similar to a deadlift. Squat down, form a 90° angle, keep your back straight and push your shoulders back. Shift your weight onto your heels.

Driving through your hips, straighten your legs and in a swinging motion, lift up the Kettle Bell. Again, the driving force are your legs and glutes (squeeze that butt of yours), and not your arms! Remember to keep your back straight (by now you must be so annoyed by me saying this over and over again, but at least you won't forget it).

You can now choose between two variations. Either you bring your Kettle Bell up in front our your body (90° angle) or your push it further until it reaches the point just before it is straight above your head. Either way, you want to end up with a straight body, and really drive your hips forward, squeezing your glutes together in the end.

(Yes, the light coming through the window is sunshine. Sunshine in Edinburgh! What a rare occurrence.)

Finally, you let the Kettle Bell drop in a controlled motion, and it will swing back between your knees. And here is where most people get it wrong. Do not lean forward and let your chest drop to the same level as your knees. Remember, you want to sit upright, with your back straight, and your shoulders pushed back. This is what you should look like in the final (and first) stage of your Kettle Bell Swing:

Right, you now have some material to perform a proper Deadlift, even though I would not recommend to do it as a beginner and without professional help. Instead, have fun with those Kettle Bell Swings.

There is another story I wanted to share.  It is not THAT exciting, so I don't think it deserves its own post, but I thought it might be somewhat helpful. I spend a lot of time on Pinterest the last couple of days, because it entertains me to look at food and fit people (I get a weird kick out of it). I found some good looking green smoothies on there, and thought I should try it out. So I went to the Health Food store this morning and got all the missing ingredients. I mixed two recipes, and here is what I ended up with: 

Suspicious Green Smoothie:

- 1 cup Spinach
- 1 cup Kale
- 1/2 cup Cucumber
- 1 Tbsp Chia Seeds
- 1/2 Tbsp Raw Cocoa Powder
- 1 tsp Stevia
- 1 cup Coconut water

I blended it all together, and lets say - the result was interesting. This is what it looked like:

You could say it looks somewhat delicious. It definitely looks healthy. And that is what it tastes and feels like, too. The first half was pretty good - the cucumber makes the smoothie nice and fresh, and the chia seeds give it some texture. However, half way through I just started feeling like cow must feel like day in and day out. It was like chewing on a mouthful of grass, and I did not find it overly enjoyable. It gave me a weird feeling of satisfaction though. Obviously I finished my drink, its the best way to get all your greens, but I think some experimentation is needed. Tomorrow I will try out different ingredients and combinations, until I end up with a green smoothie that actually doesn't make you feel like you face-planted in the meadows. If you have any recipes that work, please save me from my misery and comment below - I would really appreciate it.

If you are looking for more advice on getting git, customized exercise plans (that are also safe and not even slightly deadly) and personalized nutrition plans (with yummy smoothies), visit us at and Register for free at 

That's it from me. Advice of the day:  Stay green, don't die. 

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