Master the Move: Deadlift

By Micaela Young |

Don’t let the name scare you. The deadlift is a terrific exercise to strengthen your backside and help you maintain function through the years.

The ability to pick things up from the ground is easy to take for granted. That is, until lifting your grandchild for a hug or a package from your front porch does a number on your back.

Enter the deadlift, a simple but powerful move that helps you learn to lift with your legs, not your back.

“The deadlift is a great exercise to strengthen your glutes and hamstrings,” says SilverSneakers Master Trainer Andi. It also helps to stabilize your core to protect your spine and back from pain during movement.

Even better, it’s surprisingly easy to modify the deadlift to make it work for you, whether you need a seated or standing version. Follow along as Andi breaks down proper form and offers variations to try.

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How to Use the Deadlift

You’ll need a sturdy chair and open floor space to start. You can do this move without weights, but as you get stronger, you can use dumbbells. Press play on the video above and follow along, or check out the instructions below.

Andi will start with a seated hip hinge variation, and then she’ll suggest different ways to do the exercise, such as by changing your arm position or standing up. “The variations are not necessarily to make it easier or harder, but they’re great variations you can use to keep challenging your strength,” Andi says.

If you’re taking a SilverSneakers LIVE class, your instructor will guide you through the exercise, but feel free to use the variation that feels best for you. If you’re working out on your own at the gym, do up to three sets of six to 10 reps.

As always, safety is key. These exercises may be different or more advanced than those you’ll experience in a SilverSneakers class. If you have a chronic condition, an injury, or balance issues, talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely.

Variation #1: Seated Hip Hinge

Sit forward in your chair with your chest up and your shoulders back and down. Place your hands on your thighs, and make sure your ankles are below your knees. Press your feet into the floor as you hinge from your hips, lengthening your spine. Push through your heels to return to starting position.

Variation #2: Seated Hip Hinge with Arms Extended

Perform a seated hip hinge, but this time reach your arms out in front of you as hinge forward and draw them back in as you sit up tall.

Without the support of your hands on your thighs, you may feel more work in your lower body.

Variation #3: Standing Hip Hinge

Stand with your feet about hip-width apart, chest up, and shoulders back and down. Place your hands on your thighs. Press your feet into the floor as you hinge from your hips, keeping your spine long and knees slightly bent. Pull your belly button in and push through your heels to return to starting position.

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Variation #4: Standing Hip Hinge with Arms Relaxed

Perform a standing hip hinge, but this time relax your arms by your sides. As you hinge forward, let your arms reach down toward the floor. Then push through your heels as you return to starting position with your shoulders back and down.

Without the support of your hands on your thighs, you may feel more work throughout your body.

Variation #5: Add Weights

Perform the seated or standing hip hinge while holding light dumbbells in each hand. Just make sure to keep your shoulders back and down. “It’s easy for the weights to pull you forward, so engage your shoulder blades,” Andi says.

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