The Grateful Deadlift

I am in love with the deadlift.  There are multiple reasons for this; some reasons are practical and some go a little deeper.  The deadlift is a highly functional and fundamental movement that many have forgotten how to perform in our modern context.  We routinely abuse our backs, slouching in the sofa, rounding over a steering wheel, slumping over the computer, then we use it improperly to lift heavy crap off the floor.  Deadlifts help to correct all of this.  They help to strengthen and preserve the back from the stress of daily living.  People often tell me  things like, “I don’t deadlift; I have a bad back’ – a form of logic that doesn’t make much sense to me.  Training a weak area to be stronger and move efficiently makes much more sense to me than allowing a weak area to go untrained so it is vulnerable in real world activities.  On the other end of the spectrum, I have had several older clients, some with a history of back pain, comment on how having trained this movement pattern properly has allowed them to garden for extended periods of time without feeling it in their backs and has allowed them to move through life with less discomfort.  A deadlift done properly, with awareness and good form, is one of the most beautiful and beneficial things I know.

A deadlift is also, in my experience, a hugely empowering lift for women.  Done properly, a deadlift is one of the easiest lifts to load to a weight that seems to blow most women’s minds.  Within a relatively short amount of time, a client can safely move from never having done a deadlift to pulling more than body weight.  I remember the first time I realized I could pull more than I weighed, and I experience that same excitement each time a client reaches that point too.  For a woman to have that tangible realization that the pink 5# dumbbells are not for her is a joyous moment; realizing that she is capable of literally pulling her own weight in life is a massive confidence booster.

But for me personally my love of the deadlift goes to an even deeper level.  This is the first lift that taught me how to see myself differently.  Not just as a strong woman who could pull her own weight and then some, but it taught me the value of seeing myself from the inside out and not the reverse.  When you set up properly for a deadlift, your line of vision is on the floor approximately two feet ahead.  img_1152Even if you are lifting in a facility that has mirrors (don’t), there is no way to set up properly and see yourself through your eyes.  You have to learn to translate a visual understanding of yourself into something sensory, learn how the proper set up feels and then trust that.  Training myself to trust in my inner vision was kinda revolutionary for me.

One day at Fivex3, I overheard someone jokingly describe setting their line of sight during a lift as staring into infinity.  And that is a pretty accurate description of what happens to me when I deadlift well.  I set up my pull, see myself from the inside out, and then to focus on that vision with such intensity that the rest of everything seems to melt away.  When I deadlift well, I find what some people describe as “flow”.  That feeling where the barriers between mind and body and the barriers between internal and external seem to dissolve, that feeling of being wholly (holy?) and completely present in the moment.  Some people experience this feeling in other athletic endeavors or hobbies about which they are passionate, where mind and body become one through their activity.  Some people experience this feeling when they are falling in love, where they feel they have connected with someone across the bounds of space and time and individual personhood.  The deadlift does not have exclusive rights to this feeling, and slowly I’m learning to find that same level of intensity and focus in my other lifts.  The deadlift just has a greater claim on my psychic space, because it provided me my first glimpse of the “infinite” in the context of the weight room.  And that is a pretty amazing thing, not to be underappreciated. To my mind, the deadlift is a thing of beauty and power, and this is why, in my vocabulary, the deadlift has become the grateful deadlift.

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