Enough already. How do I do deadlifts safely?

Technique Tip: the grimace is essentialTechnique Tip: the grimace is essentialI'm going to send you away for this one. I had this article written in my head already when I walked into the gym this morning and John, our local tai chi guru, had set out a copy of an article declaring that deadlifts are the king of strength-training exercises. So my title was out the window, but the article is excellent (really) so I thought "Great, I can spare myself the trouble of writing all that and focus on the ski-specific aspects." Plus, these articles have pictures and videos. Before I send you away from Ultraskier never to come back again, though, I want to add to or highlight a few things in the articles.

  1. Keep your cards close to your chest (gratuitous poker reference that has no bearing here) and keep the bar close to your body. It should graze your shins as you lift. You don't want to get too much leverage on your back after all.
  2. Make sure to keep your gaze up somewhat (keeps you from curving your back), your back straight (roughly the position it would be in when standing, not curved as when you bend over), your core firmly tight, and your shoulders pulled back rather than rounded. This will give you more strength training benefit (hits the trapezius and rhomboids harder), but more importantly will prevent you from destroying your back. They explain this in the articles below, but it's worth repeating.
  3. Start light. Even if it feels easy, build up over a series of sessions after you see how you feel the next day. You can always add weight next time, but if you hurt yourself, there might not be a next time. Set your ego aside. Staying injury free is more important than going heavy. A good goal is to get up to twice your body weight, but honestly, I normally work with no more than 150% of my body weight and I think that's pretty heavy already.
  4. I like to stand on a step aerobics step (about 4-5 inches). When you're fairly short like me (5'7") and have 45-pound plates on the bar, it feels like you're starting so high off the ground already. If you're using ten pound weights on the bar or if you're tall, you may find this unnecessary. If you have poor flexibility, you may need to start with the barbell on a platform.
  5. Do not do core exercises first. You need all your core strength to keep from hurting yourself. This is true of any strength exercises that stress your back (military press, seated rows, etc).
  6. Finally, do not even think about this if you've had a back injury or even think you might have an unhealthy back.

I suppose that's far too much ado already, but without any more, here are two fantastic articles on deadlifts from Bodybuilding.com:

Sorry to send you away without really giving you an exercise, but these guys do it way better than I could. Remember, though, y'all come back now, ya hear! (gratuitous Beverly Hillbillies reference)