Adapting traditional exercise for function

Adapting traditional exercise for function

Lifting for a reason

I first began resistance training to make myself a better athlete with some pretty unrefined goals in mind — throw further, kick harder, and jump higher — and I continued with resistance training and weight lifting after finishing my athletic career. However, as I furthered my studies in physiotherapy, I began to realize that the traditional exercises I became accustomed to would not necessarily help my clients achieve their personal goals for functional movements like sitting to standing, lifting up a box, or better posture. At this point, what some of my lifting exercises lacked were reason and direction. What I needed was an exercise I could modify for my clients that would address the appropriate muscle groups in an all-encompassing manner; in other words adapting traditional exercise for function.

Enter the Conventional Deadlift.

When performed appropriately, the conventional deadlift is a resistance exercise that engages and strengthens a person’s hamstrings, quadriceps, gluteal complex, erector spinae, upper extremity functional grip, shoulder posture, and balance.

Sure, that all sounds great, but what does it really mean? It means the deadlift is an exercise that gets your lower body, core, and upper body working all in one graceful movement. The deadlift is a functional exercise that can help improve overall hip and lower back strength and mimics the most basic, and functional human movements like sitting to standing, and squatting. I can adapt this traditional exercise for function via the weight, sets, reps, and depth of movement to suit my client’s specific goals.

Exercise for Function

Below are the basic steps to completing a traditional deadlift.

  1. Ensure you are wearing appropriate attire- comfortable clothing, athletic wear
  2. Have a barbell or free weights ready. If you are not too sure how much you should be lifting, you can start with holding no weight first and simply go through the movements. If you find that difficult, begin with no weights and focus on your form.
  3. Get very close to the barbell with your shins almost touching.
  4. Ensure your feet are slightly wider than hip width apart, feet facing forward.
  5. While still standing, engage the low back and hinge forward at the hips. Don’t let your low back curve; keep it flat/ neutral. Bend your knees so you can reach the bar.
  6. Hold onto the barbell with a double over grip (palms facing down), ensure your grip is secure. Elbows are straightened and are very close to your knees.
  7. Without lifting the bar, generate tension throughout your body by pointing your chest forward. You are now ready to lift.
  8. Keeping your back flat/neutral, shift your weight onto your heels slightly and push the ground away from you. This will help to straighten your knee and hip. The bar should remain very close to your body, as if you are dragging it up your legs. The bar should be at hip level now.
  9. At the top of the lift squeeze your buttock and shoulder blades together.
  10. With a neutral/ flat back, return the barbell to the ground by hinging forward at the hips, and bending the knees.

See photos below for a breakdown of the movement.

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Tips: I would recommend trying this exercise with proper form first, with little or no weight. If the depth of the movement is too difficult, I recommend moving your hips, knees, and back through half the motion- you can rest the weight on a secure bench approximately two feet off the floor (chair height) and lift from there.

Always seek professional advice from your registered physiotherapist if you are unsure about this exercise and if it is right for you. We can help you adapt the exercise for function to ensure you are lifting for a reason!

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