More than any other exercise, deadlifts will make you strong and build overall mass. A competitive lift for powerlifters, deadlifts are also practically required for champion bodybuilders. In fact, almost every Mr. Olympia has been known for his deadlift strength.

Utilize moderate reps for deadlifts; six to 10 are best. Concentrate on proper form and working your muscles, not lifting maximum weight. Primarily a lower-back exercise, deadlifts are often recommended after lat movements, toward the end of a back workout. That way, you maintain maximum spinal erector strength for rows while pre-exhausting the upper back before the deadlifts.

Although the deadlift is a simple movement, it is important to use proper form to prevent injury or lumbar strain. Here are some technique tips to keep in mind as you deadlift:

•If your gym has a powerlifting platform or rubber-padded floors, use that area.

•Distance between your feet should be approximately 10 inches.

•FLEX recommends using an alternating grip (with one hand over the bar and the other underneath) with your hands slightly wider than your legs. Some people prefer a grip with both hands over the bar.

•If necessary, use wrist straps to secure your grip.

•Bend your knees, lower your glutes and keep your back flat and straight.

•Maintain your head position by visually focusing on something above and in front of you.

•As you pull the weight off the floor, your lower body will supply the power.

•The bar should lightly graze your thighs on the way up.

•As you stand, continue pulling up the bar and keep your head up.

•Your back and legs should contract simultaneously. Don’t lock out your legs early. They should not be straight until your torso is perpendicular to the floor.

•At the top of the lift, allow your shoulders to roll back to their natural position. Don’t lean back or pull your shoulders back.

•Lower the bar in a controlled fashion, but don’t strain to slow its descent.

•Again, form is crucial. Always use perfect form, even during warm-ups.

Like many exercises, there can be variations on the standard deadlift. Stiff-leg deadlifts emphasize stretching and tension in the hamstrings and glutes. This straight-leg variant is are best done before or after leg curls when working hamstrings. Partial deadlifts focus more on the traps and upper back than the lower back and lower body. Place a bar on power-rack supports slightly above knee level. Follow the same technique as you would while locking out a full deadlift, straightening your knees and back simultaneously. Sometimes called top deadlifts, you can use more weight than when doing full deadlifts and they also should boost your strength for the full movement.FLEX