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  1. #1
    Registered User allieninja's Avatar
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    Deadlifts - can't feel it in my hamstrings, what am I doing wrong?

    Hello all!

    This is my first post to the board, but I have been lurking for awhile. A lot of what is on here has been very informative.

    I have been working out for years (I'm 29 now, and first started weight lifting in high school) but just recently learned the benefits of compound workouts. So I rehashed my entire workout, and doing mostly compound exercises now, such as deadlifts, squats, assisted chinups, etc.

    I have started out light on the deadlifts because of the horror stories I have read about them if you do them incorrectly. So I am currently doing just the olympic bar without weights or with 2.5 plates on it. Problem is, I'm not feeling anything in my hamstrings. I can feel something in my calves, sort of, and in my lower back. However I do have my back straight and not hunched like they show in all the videos online of correct form. I am doing my best to keep my weight on my heels not my toes. But I still feel nothing in my legs, yet can't do more than 5 or 6 deadlifts because my lower back gets weak and my form goes to crap. So obviously I stop at that point. But I can't help but think I could do more than that by getting this push from my hamstrings that I so desperately need and am trying to target.

    Am I doing too little weight? Perhaps I do have incorrect form, although I don't think that's the case? Any ideas? Thanks!
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  2. #2
    Plain Jane Who Lifts **** kimm4's Avatar
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    I do romanian deadlifts over straight/stiff legged deadlifts.

    The difference between the RDL and SLDL is bar position. During the RDL, the hips move backward, the bar stays closer to the body and you really push your butt out. (This hits the hams/glutes harder) During the SLDL, the butt stays somewhat put. You'll still rotate around the hips, but the bar is further away from the body, which puts more emphasis on the lower back. (hams/glutes too...but you don't feel it as much compared to an RDL)

    You can also do them with DB's standing on a 45 lb plate. I like the range of motion and it really hits the hams/glutes.

    Hope this helps, good luck!
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  3. #3
    Registered User allieninja's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by kimm4 View Post
    I do romanian deadlifts over straight/stiff legged deadlifts.

    The difference between the RDL and SLDL is bar position. During the RDL, the hips move backward, the bar stays closer to the body and you really push your butt out. (This hits the hams/glutes harder) During the SLDL, the butt stays somewhat put. You'll still rotate around the hips, but the bar is further away from the body, which puts more emphasis on the lower back. (hams/glutes too...but you don't feel it as much compared to an RDL)

    You can also do them with DB's standing on a 45 lb plate. I like the range of motion and it really hits the hams/glutes.

    Hope this helps, good luck!
    Do you have any videos of WOMEN doing these, so I can see the difference? I watched a bunch of videos of RDLs and SLDLs yesterday, but they were all of men and very jacked up so I can't really tell what they're doing differently and what it's supposed to look like when a smaller women does them. The only thing I really gathered from it is that RDLs you don't lower the bar all the way back down to the ground, and that you keep the bar really close to your legs. I did both of those things yesterday and still felt nothing.

    Also, for the one with dumbbells, do you put just your toes on the plate? And whats the ROM with the arms, in other words, where do the DBs start and end up? Any videos of that also by any chance?

    Thanks so much for your help!
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  4. #4
    Mr. Gecko Kiknskreem's Avatar
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    Good luck feeling much in your hamstrings doing regular deadlifts with just the bar.

    There is no difference between women and men doing deadlifts. Check the sticky in the exercise forum.
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  5. #5
    Registered User allieninja's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Kiknskreem View Post
    Good luck feeling much in your hamstrings doing regular deadlifts with just the bar.

    There is no difference between women and men doing deadlifts. Check the sticky in the exercise forum.
    I actually read through every sticky on this forum before asking any questions. I'm not one of those people who started exercising 5 minutes ago and is now posting n00b questions on forums. I am just really at a loss because I read everything everyone had to say about this exercise, watched every video, tried to replicate it at the gym safely without thinking I was tough and stacking 45lb plates on the bar, and didn't feel anything. What is your suggestion, exactly? I should put more weight on the bar? I am looking to get my form correct before I go pushing a lot of weight, since I just started doing this exercise.
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  6. #6
    Mr. Gecko Kiknskreem's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by allieninja View Post
    I actually read through every sticky on this forum before asking any questions. I'm not one of those people who started exercising 5 minutes ago and is now posting n00b questions on forums. I am just really at a loss because I read everything everyone had to say about this exercise, watched every video, tried to replicate it at the gym safely without thinking I was tough and stacking 45lb plates on the bar, and didn't feel anything. What is your suggestion, exactly? I should put more weight on the bar? I am looking to get my form correct before I go pushing a lot of weight, since I just started doing this exercise.
    You do need a certain amount of weight on the bar for a dead to feel right, a super light weight won't balance the same as a heavier one. Nor will it feel right if you start from below the standard height. Try to get some bumper plates or put the bar on some aerobic steps so it at least starts from the height it would be with 45's on it.

    Here is how you deadlift.....

    Put the bar over the middle of your foot. This will put your shins about 2" from the bar.
    Bend at the WAIST ONLY to take your grip.
    Bend your knees until the shins contact the bar. Keep your hips exactly where they are. DO NOT DROP YOUR ASS.
    Arch your back.
    Squeeze chest up.
    Pull the bar up your legs.
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  7. #7
    Registered User medjen's Avatar
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    I'm new to deads too so take any advice I give with a grain of salt.

    What kind of deadlifts are you doing? Some variations hit hamstrings a little more than others.

    How is your hamstring development compared to your core/lower back strength? Could it just be as simple as your weakest point tiring first?

    As for your form, you could post a video and could get it ruled out for sure.
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  8. #8
    Registered User allieninja's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Kiknskreem View Post
    You do need a certain amount of weight on the bar for a dead to feel right, a super light weight won't balance the same as a heavier one. Nor will it feel right if you start from below the standard height. Try to get some bumper plates or put the bar on some aerobic steps so it at least starts from the height it would be with 45's on it.

    Here is how you deadlift.....

    Put the bar over the middle of your foot. This will put your shins about 2" from the bar.
    Bend at the WAIST ONLY to take your grip.
    Bend your knees until the shins contact the bar. Keep your hips exactly where they are. DO NOT DROP YOUR ASS.
    Arch your back.
    Squeeze chest up.
    Pull the bar up your legs.
    I'm starting with the bar on the bottom of the squat rack so it is already a good 6" off the ground. I think tomorrow I will try with 30 or 40 lbs on the bar and see if I can feel it in my legs then.
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  9. #9
    Registered User allieninja's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by medjen View Post
    I'm new to deads too so take any advice I give with a grain of salt.

    What kind of deadlifts are you doing? Some variations hit hamstrings a little more than others.

    How is your hamstring development compared to your core/lower back strength? Could it just be as simple as your weakest point tiring first?

    As for your form, you could post a video and could get it ruled out for sure.
    I *think* I'm doing RDLs but I'm totally new to this so I could be doing it totally incorrectly.

    I could've sworn my core was much stronger than my hams, but now I'm thinking that might not be the case. I have been doing squats/lunges longer than deads, so maybe my hamstrings are getting built up without the extra effort from me.

    I was thinking about posting up a video, but I will have to figure a way to do it...I work out by myself in my workplace's gym, and no one else I know goes there. So I have to figure out some kind of sneaky self-videoing situation.
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  10. #10
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    Originally Posted by allieninja View Post
    Hello all!

    This is my first post to the board, but I have been lurking for awhile. A lot of what is on here has been very informative.

    I have been working out for years (I'm 29 now, and first started weight lifting in high school) but just recently learned the benefits of compound workouts. So I rehashed my entire workout, and doing mostly compound exercises now, such as deadlifts, squats, assisted chinups, etc.

    I have started out light on the deadlifts because of the horror stories I have read about them if you do them incorrectly. So I am currently doing just the olympic bar without weights or with 2.5 plates on it. Problem is, I'm not feeling anything in my hamstrings. I can feel something in my calves, sort of, and in my lower back. However I do have my back straight and not hunched like they show in all the videos online of correct form. I am doing my best to keep my weight on my heels not my toes. But I still feel nothing in my legs, yet can't do more than 5 or 6 deadlifts because my lower back gets weak and my form goes to crap. So obviously I stop at that point. But I can't help but think I could do more than that by getting this push from my hamstrings that I so desperately need and am trying to target.

    Am I doing too little weight? Perhaps I do have incorrect form, although I don't think that's the case? Any ideas? Thanks!
    As I sit here typing this I have to shift my weight from cheek to cheek from doing RDLs yesterday --- my glutes and hams are KILING ME...so know that they do work if done properly. I only used 100 lbs -- so not a huge amount of weight is necessary.

    I happen to find this video on another post and it shows both conventional SDL and RDL's -- and as luck would have it --- its a girl doing the demo

    Hope this helps...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_jM4_EBFfI
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  11. #11
    Mr. Gecko Kiknskreem's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by allieninja View Post
    I *think* I'm doing RDLs but I'm totally new to this so I could be doing it totally incorrectly.
    If you are starting with the bar set in a rack, you are not doing RDLs.

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  12. #12
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    Originally Posted by Kiknskreem View Post
    If you are starting with the bar set in a rack, you are not doing RDLs.
    I feel like I am doing exactly what is in the 2nd and 3rd videos, entiled RDLs and Romainian Deadlift form tutorial.
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  13. #13
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    Originally Posted by allieninja View Post
    I feel like I am doing exactly what is in the 2nd and 3rd videos, entiled RDLs and Romainian Deadlift form tutorial.
    I don't see how you can be doing the same thing as both those videos, since one starts at the top and keeps the bar against the legs, and the other starts from the floor with the bar hanging out in front until it gets to your thighs.
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    If you are starting with the bar in the rack, you are possibly doing Rack Deadlifts

    There is a major difference between regular deadlifts which are one of the KING lifts, along with bench, squat etc, and things like romanian deadlifts or SLDL. If you really want to learn the compounds right, you should be doing regular, conventional deadlifts from the ground.

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  15. #15
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    Originally Posted by Kiknskreem View Post
    I don't see how you can be doing the same thing as both those videos, since one starts at the top and keeps the bar against the legs, and the other starts from the floor with the bar hanging out in front until it gets to your thighs.
    What I did yesterday was starting from the ground, except the bar was up about 6 inches off the ground resting on the safety bars on the rack in the first hole, to simulate the height being on 45lb plates. I kept the bar close to my legs the entire time, not out in front of me. I was trying to simulate a full squat without 45 lb plates on it, I suppose. In any case, tomorrow when I do them I'm going to try with 25lbs on each side, from the ground.

    If you are starting with the bar in the rack, you are possibly doing Rack Deadlifts

    There is a major difference between regular deadlifts which are one of the KING lifts, along with bench, squat etc, and things like romanian deadlifts or SLDL. If you really want to learn the compounds right, you should be doing regular, conventional deadlifts from the ground.
    Thank you. I think since that is the case I am going to try it tomorrow with heavier weight and see what happens.
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    Originally Posted by allieninja View Post
    What I did yesterday was starting from the ground, except the bar was up about 6 inches off the ground resting on the safety bars on the rack in the first hole, to simulate the height being on 45lb plates. I kept the bar close to my legs the entire time, not out in front of me. I was trying to simulate a full squat without 45 lb plates on it, I suppose. In any case, tomorrow when I do them I'm going to try with 25lbs on each side, from the ground.
    There's your problem. Deadlifts do not use squat mechanics. Rewatch the "How to Deadlift" video in the thread I posted, and the Rippetoe video as well. Keep pulling from the rack, its a better height than 25's



    Originally Posted by allieninja View Post
    Thank you. I think since that is the case I am going to try it tomorrow with heavier weight and see what happens.
    You're doing fine, a rack deadlift starts above the height of a normal deadlift.
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    [QUOTE=Kiknskreem;374488641]There's your problem. Deadlifts do not use squat mechanics. Rewatch the "How to Deadlift" video in the thread I posted, and the Rippetoe video as well. Keep pulling from the rack, its a better height than 25's

    Whoops, I meant to write deadlift, not squat. What I meant to say was I was trying to simulate starting at the proper height by putting the olympic bar across the safety bars about 6 inches from the ground and starting from there.

    So I should continue to put the bar in that same place, and deadlift inside the rack? If so maybe I'll put around 15lbs on each side just to see if it will engage my hamstrings with the added weight. I'm pretty positive I wouldn't be able to deadlift with 45s on, so I'm trying to stay as safe as possible. I don't want to screw myself up and not be able to work out.
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    i usually dont feel my hamstrings too much in a normal deadlift, during a SL deadlift however thats compleltly diffrent. Ofcourse i know the hamstrings come into play greatly during both, i just personally feel most the stress in my upper back and sometimes quads from off the ground.
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    THIS IS A ROMANIAN DEADLIFT
    (female doing it)
    ^
    Bar starts on a rack.
    Butt goes BACK.
    Bar AGAINST legs.
    Knees BEND.
    Bar to MID SHIN.


    SLDL starts on a rack as well -
    Bar travels a few inches AWAY from the legs.
    Hips stay UP and legs don't bend...
    Bar comes to LOW shin.


    Conventional Dead:
    Bar starts on the GROUND.
    Bar starts under SHOULDERS.
    Bar starts over the foot (cuts your foot in half).
    Lift UP (push the floor AWAY with your heels)
    Chest stays UP and leads the movement.
    Lock out at full extension.
    Then reverse movement - chest stays UP and bend at hip/ knee.
    Bar returns to floor above feet.
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    You're probably not going to feel it in the glutes and hammies until you get the weight up. But you do not increase the weight until your lower back is ready! Take your time increasing the weights. It'll come. In the meantime focus on lifting with your legs, keeping the bar close, and squeezing the glutes.
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    So I took everyone's advice into consideration when doing my deadlifts today. I did them in the rack, starting with the bar on the safety bars in the bottom hole, to simulate the height of having 45lb plates on. I did 3 sets - 10lbs on each side, then 15, then 20. I did sets of 6, because my form started to degrade around 5. However I still did not feel anything significant in my legs at all, only my lower back. I watched myself in the side mirror and I *feel* like I looked exactly like the people in the videos. But I must still be doing something wrong. Anyone have any suggestions for a next step?
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    Originally Posted by allieninja View Post
    So I took everyone's advice into consideration when doing my deadlifts today. I did them in the rack, starting with the bar on the safety bars in the bottom hole, to simulate the height of having 45lb plates on. I did 3 sets - 10lbs on each side, then 15, then 20. I did sets of 6, because my form started to degrade around 5. However I still did not feel anything significant in my legs at all, only my lower back. I watched myself in the side mirror and I *feel* like I looked exactly like the people in the videos. But I must still be doing something wrong. Anyone have any suggestions for a next step?
    You sound like you are having a hard time getting glute activation/ engagement and so you are compensating with lower back...

    Have you tried to do a little activation work before you do your deads?
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  23. #23
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    Originally Posted by Emma-Leigh View Post
    You sound like you are having a hard time getting glute activation/ engagement and so you are compensating with lower back...

    Have you tried to do a little activation work before you do your deads?
    I did 3 sets of squats before I did my deadlifts, does that count?
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    Originally Posted by allieninja View Post
    I did 3 sets of squats before I did my deadlifts, does that count?
    No. if anything that would be counter productive.
    if you want to hit your deads hard - you need to do them first.... BUT do a little glute activation work first ==>> make sure you are getting those neurons firing...

    A few things to read/ watch:
    http://stronglifts.com/how-to-optimi...te-activation/
    http://laurensfitness.com/2008/04/22...ctivation-101/
    http://www.performbetter.com/catalog...luteactivation
    http://www.tmuscle.com/free_online_a...F0F30BEB.hydra
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  25. #25
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    Originally Posted by Emma-Leigh View Post
    No. if anything that would be counter productive.
    if you want to hit your deads hard - you need to do them first.... BUT do a little glute activation work first ==>> make sure you are getting those neurons firing...

    A few things to read/ watch:
    Wow, these look like they will be very helpful. My next leg day is Tuesday so I'll make sure to watch all of these before then, and do some of them followed immediately by deadlifts as my first weightlifting move. Hopefully this will improve things. Thanks!
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    Originally Posted by allieninja View Post
    So I took everyone's advice into consideration when doing my deadlifts today. I did them in the rack, starting with the bar on the safety bars in the bottom hole, to simulate the height of having 45lb plates on. I did 3 sets - 10lbs on each side, then 15, then 20. I did sets of 6, because my form started to degrade around 5. However I still did not feel anything significant in my legs at all, only my lower back. I watched myself in the side mirror and I *feel* like I looked exactly like the people in the videos. But I must still be doing something wrong. Anyone have any suggestions for a next step?
    Honestly, I went through this too and did not feel it in my hams and glutes until the weight increased. My lower back was the limiting factor in the beginning as my glutes and hams were so much stronger. It wasn't until I got above 100# that I started to feel it in the hams and glutes. Once you start to feel it there it's so much easier to focus on those muscles during the lift. Just be patient. Not feeling it in the hams and glutes at those weights does not mean anything is wrong.
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    Originally Posted by freebirdmac View Post
    Honestly, I went through this too and did not feel it in my hams and glutes until the weight increased. My lower back was the limiting factor in the beginning as my glutes and hams were so much stronger. It wasn't until I got above 100# that I started to feel it in the hams and glutes. Once you start to feel it there it's so much easier to focus on those muscles during the lift. Just be patient. Not feeling it in the hams and glutes at those weights does not mean anything is wrong.
    Good to know. I'm just concerned because I decided to do deadlifts mainly because a) they seem to be one of the "holy grails" of lifts, and b) I read about how it's bad if you build up your quads faster than your hams, which makes sense. I don't want to screw myself up doing all these quad building moves and not have anything to build my hams. So when I started doing them, I didn't feel anything in my hams and was concerned that the move wasn't hitting them, negating most of the reason I was doing it to begin with.

    With all that being said, I did them yesterday with 40lbs on, and I have a slight bit of DOMS in my hams today! Hooray! Success! So while I didn't really feel it while lifting, I suppose it was hitting them.

    I am going to try next week with higher weights. It seems that whether I had 20 lbs on or 40, I was still able to lift it easily and my lower back did not start to fatigue until around the 5th rep in either case. So I guess I'm going to experiment and see how much weight I can get on the thing and still lift it, hehe.
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    Are you also doing ham curls and/or hypers? Deads alone aren't enough for the hammies.
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    Originally Posted by freebirdmac View Post
    Are you also doing ham curls and/or hypers? Deads alone aren't enough for the hammies.
    No, I'm not familiar with either of these exercises. Any good videos/tips?
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    Smile Motivation

    I have been wanting to add deads to my workout, and I feel you. I have watched a million youtube vidoes, discussed it with the one person I trust, and yet when I get down to the gym - I am not comfortable doing them. It is just uncomfortable checking myself out in the mirror because I feel like I messing up my form/concentration to check myself out. But after reading how hard you have been attempting to get these down, I feel pretty ashamed of myself. I am not going to lift weight heavy enough to do any major damage and I just need to get to it. Thanks to all who have been involved in this post!!!
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