Although I’m a running coach, the personal trainer in me likes to prescribe deadlifts to all my athletes. Simply put, deadlifts are the undisputed heavy-weight champion of compound movements. As such, every runner – including you – should be doing them. First, deadlifts help to make you faster by increasing your strength and force production. Next, they restore muscle imbalances that result in many of the overuse injuries I see. Finally, they help you to finish stronger by strengthening the muscle groups of your posterior chain.
What are the benefits of deadlifts?
Because runners have notoriously weak hips, glutes, and hamstrings, they experience muscle imbalances. Many of these lead to the overuse injuries I see as a coach. Trauma to the tissue that results in runners’ knee, ITBS, and medial shin splints can all be addressed by adding deadlifts to your workout routine.
Furthermore, if you want to finish strong, you’ll want to develop the muscles that hold you upright as you fatigue. Sloppy finishes are the result of weak muscles in the posterior chain. Strengthening the groups that make up the posterior core and trunk with one sweeping compound movement, will translate into stronger finishes.
But the most important reason for doing deadlifts is to build force production. Because, if you want to get faster as a runner, you’ll have to apply more force to the ground. To do that, you’ll need to build more strength. And one of the best ways to build strength that produces force is by doing deadlifts. With an increase in force production, you’ll increase your run power, and ultimately your speed.
What types are best?
The type of deadlifts you do will be determined in part by your strength and ability level. Since form is everything with deadlifts, you’ll want to be mindful of how you execute the movement. Because it’s not how much you lift, but how well you lift it, that determines your success.
With the help of a performance running coach or personal trainer, you can shorten the learning curve. Additionally, you can find scores of videos on Youtube that demonstrate how to do any of the exercises discussed below. As such, I’ve included a link to one of my favorites for runners: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJXZQBXSUXw&t=219s
The king of all compound movements is the conventional deadlift. It strengthens more muscle groups that contribute to improved performance than any other exercise. By simply mastering this movement, you’ll subject the muscles of your posterior chain to a range of strength building motion. With practice, this will improve your ability to apply more force to the ground with each stride.
Kettle Ball Deadlifts
If you have little or no experience with weightlifting, but you’re ready to learn, the kettle ball deadlift is the perfect place to start. Most will find holding a kettle ball, and this movement quite easy. Additionally, most gyms now have kettle balls in a variety of weights. So you will be able to find a weight that is appropriate for your ability level.
If conventional deadlifts are the king, then tap-bars are the next best thing. The tap-bar itself makes for an easy transition to the conventional barbell movement. Furthermore, if you have weak posterior muscles, or are unsure of your skills, then this is a good way to practice the movement while building the strength to move on. It’s also perfect for those who are predisposed to rounding their back, or not bending enough at the knee due to tight hamstrings. The tap-bar ultimately aids in learning proper movement.
The single-leg deadlift is highly specific to running and a must-do if you wish to avoid injury. Runners are notorious for muscle imbalances that lead to injury. And these imbalances produce compensating movements that you’re completely unaware of. The single-leg deadlift can help restore balance and stability by loading one leg at a time. Unilaterally loading each leg, fires the muscle groups independently, producing strength in the hips that is critical for good running form and injury prevention.
The reasons are simple
Ultimately, deadlifts will produce immediate benefits for you as a runner. First, they’ll help to develop the strength and force production you’ll need to run faster. Next, they’ll help you to finish stronger by strengthening nearly every muscle group in your posterior chain. Finally, deadlifts restore muscle imbalances that result in many overuse injuries runners experience.