A few weeks ago I picked up a new personal training client – my husband. The pay is terrible, but he’s easy on the eyes, so we’ll call that a nice fringe benefit. Plus I know he won’t sue me if I say something inappropriate or slap his butt during a training session.
In any event, last week we worked out together during his session. I had him doing deadlifts, and then he about had a heart attack when his six-month pregnant wife stepped up to take her turn. Something in his eyes said, “Will our unborn child drop from your uterus if you pull that bar again?”
I get it. Deadlifts look serious. And they are! But they are also a great exercise to include in your fitness routine, pregnant or not. In fact, pregnant women may have even MORE to gain from the deadlift than the average Jane or Joe.
What’s So Great about the Deadlift?
The deadlift targets a myriad of muscles in your posterior chain – basically the entire backside of your body, including your back, glutes, and hamstrings. If you’re a desk jockey or someone else who does a lot of sitting (read: most of the American population), there’s a good chance these muscles are relatively weak. In fact, every client I’ve ever trained has exhibited weakness in or more of these muscle groups.
Pregnancy tends to exacerbate these muscular imbalances as the uterus expands and the center of gravity shifts forward, causing an unwelcome chain of reactions. The pelvis tilts anteriorly (forward), increasing the curve of the lumbar (lower) spine. The resulting lordosis, along with the increased weight in the breasts, can cause the shoulders to roll forward and the upper back to round. This can shorten and tighten some muscles, including the hip flexors (quads, for instance) and pecs/chest, while lengthening and weakening others, including the – you guessed it! – back, glutes, and hamstrings.
The deadlift is a great way to strengthen all of these weak muscles in a single exercise. Let’s learn how to do it!
Performing the Deadlift
Set your loaded bar on the floor in front of you. Step all the way up to the bar, so that it’s almost touching your ankles or shins, depending on the size of your plates. Stand with feet shoulder width apart and toes slightly turned out.
Lower yourself to the floor by first hinging at your hips, so your hips move behind you as your knees bend. Grab the bar with a pronated grip (palms facing your body), hands just outside your legs. Take the slack out of your arms by lifting your hips a little higher and taking some of the bend out of your knees. Roll your shoulders down and back and assume a neutral spinal position. Do NOT round your upper back.
With a firm grip on the bar, brace your core and push your hips forward as you come to standing on an exhale. Then reverse the movement, lowering the bar back to the floor, again allowing your hips to lead the way. Touch the bar briefly to the floor and repeat for desired number of reps.
It should look like this:
And if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video must be worth a whole lot more. Here’s a short clip of me performing the deadlift with a view from the front:
Some caveats are in order. Whether you’re pregnant or not, please work with a trainer if you are new to this exercise. Likewise, keep the intensity low as you train your body to perform the exercise properly and build your muscle memory. If you are pregnant, make sure you clear this and all exercise with your doctor before beginning.
Have fun with this one! My back side has become so much stronger since incorporating the deadlift into my regular fitness routine. Plus it just makes me feel powerful. 🙂 It’s one of my favorite exercises, and I hope it becomes one of yours too!