1) If you are a Personal Trainer or Group Fitness Instructor then I ask you to consider carefully whether or not a deadlift is a suitable exercise for each and every person that you prescribe this exercise for and is it ok for your client/s to perform them on their own away from you, under your watchful eye in a one-on-one situation , in a group fitness setting or in some form of AMRAP style circuit where they may be governed by time (AMRAP = as many reps as possible).
2) If you are a person out there paying good money to be trained by a Personal Trainer or a participant in a group fitness class (boot camp, crossfit, gym circuit, F45, etc), then I want you to strongly consider whether a) you really need to be doing a deadlift or b) if you do think that it is beneficial, is your trainer qualified and experienced enough to be teaching you how to do the movement and is he or she really being attentive of each and every repetition that you are performing?
The deadlift in my opinion is one of the most commonly over-prescribed exercises out there along with very regularly incorrectly performed planks, lunges, push-ups and sit-ups/crunches. Why do I say over-prescribed? Because in my honest opinion, it is not a necessary exercise for your everyday person that merely wants to keep in shape, healthy, active and most-importantly injury-free. Sure it is a great exercise and I am going to put in here the line I hear all the time when anyone refutes that the deadlift is a dangerous exercise – “it is a very safe exercise when performed correctly”. Please note the major word in there that makes all of the difference – WHEN.
Put another way, we know that gravity will result in a brick when dropped, always falling to the ground. That is right, 100% of the time. Unfortunately that same degree of certainty is not the case when performing a deadlift. Select a weight of say 50kgs and whilst I may execute a deadlift perfectly for the first 1 or 2 repetitions, the more repetitions that I perform and as I fatigue, technique will then be sacrificed and my chances of injury are increased the longer I continue. And when I say injury, I don’t necessarily mean instant injury but longer-term. Our spine is a very precious structure as the picture below displays.
Whilst pain or injury may not happen today, tomorrow, next week or even next year, but over time we are placing increased loads on our spine and many structures within our bodies and again I will say that whilst the deadlift is a great exercise, it is not a necessary exercise for many of the population. Many readers will now think this is just some jaded 40 year-old Personal Trainer has-been having his 2 cents worth and being controversial. But I will have you ponder this:
I recently have acquired a new client. She is a 60+ lady that has had a vaginal prolapse requiring surgery. How did this happen and why did she come to me? She was a regular attendee at a boot camp and normally lifted 65kgs for her deadlift. Then one day, the trainer instructed her to try 75kgs… reluctantly she did and the result? A vaginal prolapse then and there. Not exactly what a paying client wants to encounter in a structured exercise class! So after having a few weeks off and feeling sorry for herself, she did a bit of research and elected to look for a qualified and experienced Personal Trainer and in that search came across me after seeing that we are the only Personal Training business in Melbourne that strictly only employs 100% University degree qualified trainers. We have since started a “prehab” program working on many other areas that we could including teaching scapula depression, scapula retraction and pelvic tilts amongst other things to ensure she would come out of this with a deeper understanding on how to move better and go into surgery prepared and ready to bounce back 6 weeks post-op – but I digress.
This is just one horrible story that I share with you now and have many more over the years and sadly more and more often in the last 2 years. Why is that? In my opinion there has been a revolving door on the provision of Certificate 3 and 4 courses that has seen more and more Personal Trainers “certified”… I say this in difference to “qualified”. The standard of Personal Training in my opinion is disgusting. It has gotten worse in many ways rather than getting better. I say this because it is all good and well to cover more topics and even help graduates of these courses set up a business plan, design a logo and set up a Facebook business page but the actual focus on exercise selection, suitability and understanding people and longevity is shallow at best. The reality is that there is so much “monkey-see-monkey-do” in the industry that it is disgusts me. There is a massive emphasis on trainers maximising their own financial situation rather than actual genuine care for people and their actual health and well-being. Boot camps and small group exercise sessions are all the rage- why? Because you get more people in at once and make more money! Sell people supplements that they don’t need so that you can make a residual income (Isagenix, Herbalife, Nutriway, etc). As for exercises modalities, in came boot camps and Crossfit and then more recently F45. All designed to maximise $$$ for trainers and owners-alike but not really focussing on the individual needs of the client (in saying that, F45 is a much better version and more structured than its counterpart -Crossfit).
Please note that I am a Personal Trainer and deliver workplace health programs – yes we are more expensive than many of our competitors but we take a holistic approach and tailor everything 100% to each and every client and we don’t offer boot camps as I just see a massive performance drop off in the delivering of our service. The beauty of it though is that we get to thoroughly work to get the very best out of each and every individual that we see and it is fair to say that in nearly 20 years I am yet to have a single client perform a deadlift under my tutelage. The term “personal” in Personal Trainer has been watered down over the years and is getting less and less “personal”.
One thing to note is that Personal Trainers and Group Fitness Instructors need to get one thing straight. The majority of you have grown up being physically active, involved in individual or group sport, have more than likely been a regular exerciser and go through your Certificate 3/4 or University degree courses with very similar-experienced and like-minded people. You are not in the majority figure of over 80% of the population that are largely inactive and exercise is not regular or part of a routine. As such you need to select exercises (amongst many other ways of approaching clients on a personal level) that are suitable, relevant and safe for each and every client. There is no one-exercise fits all and you need to ensure first and foremost that you are very unlikely to cause injury now or in the future. Your clients or participants are paying for a service from a qualified fitness professional. Do the job properly or get out.
If nothing else, I sincerely hope that this article has helped both trainers and clients-alike re-think their approach to training and if nothing else, I have helped some people avoid injury as I sit here with a likely case of a Bakers cyst behind my knee. Injury is not fun and if it can be avoided at all costs, then it should.
I am very passionate about the Personal Training industry and at the same time despise much of what it has become. I will continue to strive to improve the standards of Personal Training in Australia and for those interested here is a link to my article on the topic posted previously.