6 Reasons Your Athletes Shouldn’t Deadlift – Phil Hueston

Deadlifts are the worst. Let’s face it, everyone hates them. They’re not fun. They’re not cool. They’re hard. Doing them is just a grind.

I think your athletes should skip the deadlifts. Find something better, easier and cooler to do in their place like some fancy, new piece of equipment or the sexy new exercise variation you just saw on Instagram.

Just don’t include the deadlift in your athlete’s training plans. Here’s the reasons why your athletes shouldn’t deadlift.

1. Everyone loves an anterior pelvic tilt – The glute and hamstring activation stimulated by the deadlift helps correct anterior pelvic tilt. But why would we want that? The resulting lumbar lordosis from an anterior pelvic tilt places your athlete at greater risk of low back strain or injury. Of course, anterior pelvic tilt also results in tight hip flexors and dominant quads. Those will help prevent the glutes from doing their job and allow your athlete to enjoy some knee pain and maybe even a serious knee injury.

2. Why prevent injuries? – While we’re on the subject of injuries, I think we can all agree that athletes love to spend time on the trainer’s table or the sidelines. And what athlete doesn’t love doctor visits, MRI’s, surgery and long stints in rehab?

Deadlifts strengthen the core. We know that. But they also assist in strengthening anti-rotation by activating the obligues, deep abdominal stabilizers and quadratus lumborum. Add to that the improved strength of the spinal erectors and multifidi that comes from the increased requirement for spinal stacking support and the deadlift has real potential to prevent back injuries.

Deadlifts improve glute strength, leading directly to improved knee stability and fewer injuries in that joint. But they also reduce the likelihood of injuries in the shoulder girdle as a result of the high degree of shoulder traction needed to manage the weight. The increased grip strength and activation of the thoracic spine also aids in the improvement of shoulder health and injury prevention. Why would we want any of this?

3. Who needs a foundation for other lifts and movements? – Skip the deadlift and move directly to snatches and power cleans. No hinge improvement necessary. The athlete will figure it out on their own eventually.

Conversely, if you teach proper hinge technique and improve pull strength from the floor, when your athlete does move to Olympic lifts, he or she will make everyone else feel bad about their anemic training weights and spastic looking lift technique. And we don’t want to make anyone feel bad, now do we? Trigger alert!

4. We don’t need a true measure of total body strength – We can just guesstimate how strong your athletes are overall. After all, nothing shows off total body strength like a single leg dumbbell curl, right?

5. We don’t want athletic skills to improve too rapidly – After all, rapid gains in vertical leap, broad jumps, acceleration or deceleration/direction change just make it look like your athlete is either showing off or cheating.

While we’re on the subject, I think your athletes can live without large-scale improvements in sports skills like throwing, shooting, tackling and checking, too.

6. We don’t need any one exercise to own the title “best and most versatile exercise” – I mean seriously, do your athletes really need one exercise that trains just about every joint and every major muscle group?

Deadlifts are highly effective at improving posterior chain strength and activation. Not only would this level up your athlete’s deceleration and acceleration skills, it would help them rehab and correct a whole collection of imbalances, kinetic chain dysfunctions and deficiencies.

Since they have lower compressive stress on the knees than squats and no negative impact on other joints when done correctly, you’d be much better off choosing the cooler looking exercises instead. After all, your athletes need to post all their training on “the ‘gram,” don’t they?

Your athletes certainly don’t need an exercise that can be adapted to virtually any body type and adjusted in intensity and volume to meet a variety of training goals.

So it should be clear by now that your athletes really don’t need to deadlift. Besides, we’ve all heard that deadlifts are dangerous, yada, yada.

You may also have noticed that I’ve been arguing that your athletes don’t need to and shouldn’t deadlift. Because despite my arguments about your athletes and deadlifts, my athletes will continue to do them. They’ll also continue to outperform athletes who don’t, as well as stay healthier than those who don’t.

If you heed my really terrible advice in this piece, my athletes will have less to worry about if they ever meet your athletes in competition. Let’s hope, for the sake of your athletes, that you ignore my advice and let your athletes deadlift. Frequently.

Keep the faith and keep after it!

Bio: Coach Phil Hueston is not just another pretty trainer. With over 18 years of in-the-trenches experience with athletes ages 6 to 60, he brings a unique skill-set to the improvement of his athletes. The author of the Amazon best-seller “Alchemy; Where the Art and Science Collide in Youth Fitness,” his client list includes professional athletes, collegiate athletes as well as thousands of youth athletes. Phil has been the co-owner of All-Star Sports Academy in Toms River, NJ, one of the largest and most successful youth and family fitness centers in New Jersey since 2008. He was named “Coach of the Year” by the IYCA for 2012-2013.  A contributor to IYCA.org and coach to other coaches, Phil provides unique insights and ideas that can help other coaches accelerate their clients’ progress and performance. Phil is married to the woman responsible for his entry into the fitness profession, MaryJo. Between them they have 2 grown children, Nate and Andrew, and 99 problems.  Phil’s personal website is coachphilhueston.com, and he can be contacted at phil.hueston@hotmail.com


The IYCA High School Strength & Conditioning Specialist is the only certification created specifically for coaches training high school athletes.  The course includes several hours of video instruction and two textbooks with contributions from some of the top strength and conditioning coaches in America.  Click on the image below to learn more about how to become a certified high school strength & conditioning coach.

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