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I did my first "real" deadlift today, and, it's a very different feeling. Unlike a squat or a bench, where I clearly feel myself pushing against something, when I deadlifted (135 lbs, about what I'm squatting), I just kind of stood up. When I was done, I was sweating and exhausted, but I didn't feel the push-higher-higher I do when doing other lifts.

Am I doing it right? What is a deadlift supposed to feel like?

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4 Answers 4

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The short answer is that you aren't deadlifting enough to really feel anything. You can pull more weight on a deadlift than just about any other compound exercise. The big thing to concentrate on is:

Keep your back straight.

Concentrate on keeping a rigid back as you lift the bar up. Pull all the slack out of your body before initiating the pull. And add more weight.

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You didn't feel like you were pushing anything because you weren't. You're holding on to something and standing up. Most of the time a heavy deadlift feels to me like squeezing everything tight, locking it in place, and standing up.

Once you get real heavy--one and a half times bodyweight, probably, but your mileage may vary--you'll feel a "higher-higher-higher-come-on-stand-up" feeling. Right now you're not close enough to your maximum to get that.

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I don't know if it's "supposed" to feel like anything in particular, but it may take some time to develop the mind/muscle connection if you're unused to specifically activating the deadlift muscles.

It also matters which style of deadlift you're doing, for example, there are differences between stiff-legged deadlifts (erectors, hips, butt, some thighs) and "traditional" deadlifts (same plus a bunch more, great overall exercise).

You'll also want to make sure your form is pretty dead-(lift)on, you're "blocking" appropriately, and so on. Having someone to work with when doing an exercise like the deadlift is pretty important since the risk of a back injury is greater than with a lot of other exercises--slipping a disk is unpleasant, I'm told.

That you're ending up feeling pretty worked leads me to believe you're doing "traditional" deadlifts. Since it's an-almost-entire-body exercise, you won't necessarily feel the "I'm working this specific muscle" feeling you get from more-targeted movements like the bench or squat.

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On the deadlift I feel like I'm pushing against the floor more than I am pulling up on the bar. I also really feel it in my forearms, holding onto the bar is a bit of a struggle.

There's a good deadlift guide on Stronglifts: http://stronglifts.com/how-to-deadlift-with-proper-technique/

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