Deadlift Anatomy 101
Deadlifts are an exercise that uses multiple joints and muscles working together. In fact, deadlifts are pretty much a full-body exercise. It is difficult to think of many muscles that are not involved in a deadlift! Essentially, the muscles listed below are the key players during axle and barbell deadlifts.
The hamstrings are the muscles located on the back of your thighs. They are responsible for knee flexion and hip extension. There are three hamstring muscles: the biceps femoris, semimembranosus, and semitendinosus.
The gluteus maximus, more commonly known as the glutes, is the largest muscle in the human body. It’s responsible for the extension of the hips. The glutes are basically your butt.
On the front of your thighs, there are muscles called the quadriceps. These muscles are responsible for extending your knees. There are four muscles in the quadriceps group: the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and vastus intermedius.
The erector spinae is the muscles that run along your lower back. The erector spinae muscles work to keep your lumbar spine from rounding during deadlifts.
The phrase “core muscles” refers to the muscles of your midsection. There are several key muscles in the abdomen including the rectus abdominis, obliques, transverse abdominous, pelvic floor, and diaphragm. The contraction of these muscles helps to compress the contents of the abdomen and increases intra-abdominal pressure. IAP stabilizes and supports your lumbar spine from within.
The latissimus dorsi muscles are located on the side of your upper back. The lats help stabilize the bar during deadlifts so that it does not swing out. Strong lats are critical for successful deadlifting.
The trapezius muscle is located in the upper back and is responsible for stabilizing the shoulder girdle during deadlifts. There are three sections of muscle fibers in the traps: the lower, middle, and upper sections. The muscles that are most active during deadlifts are the upper and middle trap fibers.
Deltoids – these are your shoulder muscles. The deltoids are made up of three sections: the front, middle, and back. All three deltoid heads are used during deadlifts, but the posterior delts are used the most.
Although your arms remain straight during deadlifts, your biceps are still engaged in the movement. The biceps contract to prevent your elbows from overextending. If you try to bend your arms while deadlifting, you could seriously injure your biceps.
Your forearms need to be strong if you want to do heavy deadlifts, especially if you don’t use lifting straps. Axle bars are thicker than stiff bars, and stiff bars are thicker than deadlift bars. This is because axle bars are designed to hold more weight than stiff bars, and stiff bars are designed to hold more weight than deadlift bars. The slimmer the bar, the more straightforward it is to secure. The opposite is true for thick bars–they are more difficult to grip and require more effort to keep hold of.
Axle Bar Vs. Barbell – The Differences
To the uninitiated, most barbells look pretty much identical. The type of barbell you use can affect how it feels and how it behaves. If you want to deadlift with a barbell, it helps to know a bit about axle bars and regular barbells. This way, you can choose the right type of bar for the job.
Barbells are typically made to a fairly standard design. There are some variations of barbells, such as an Olympic lifting bar, a power bar, a stiff bar, and a deadlift bar, but usually, the differences are minor.
The dimensions of a typical barbell are:
- Length– 86.5 inches
- Thickness– 29 millimeters (1.14 inches)
- Sleeve length– 16-17 inches
- Distance between sleeves– 51.5 inches
- Weight– 20.4 kg (45 lbs.)
- Tensile strength– 205,000 psi
Regular barbells have increased grip due to knurling and also have revolving sleeves to prevent twisting if the weight spins.
In contrast, axle bars do not have to match any specific dimensions. The length and thickness of the bars vary depending on the manufacturer’s design. However, axle bars are typical:
Axle bars are almost always thicker than conventional barbells, although the diameter varies from bar to bar. This makes them harder to grip. Many of them don’t have any knurling either, making them even more difficult to hold.
The purpose of this is to protect your spine and muscles from injury. The fact that barbells are made to bend slightly during use is for the purpose of protecting your spine and muscles from injury. This is a real benefit during heavy deadlifts. As you pull the bar up, the bar bends before the weights leave the floor. This allows you to generate more force for a bigger pull.
When you start each rep, you are a little higher off the ground because your legs are bent. Axle bars are not as flexible as other bars, and some cannot bend at all, even with very heavy loads.
Have no revolving sleeves
Axle bars are fixed bars without revolving sleeves. This means that if the weight begins to move, the bar will also move. This means you will need a firmer grip on the bar to keep it from turning. The bar is easy to roll out of your hands once it starts turning.
How to Do the Axle Deadlift
Below is a step-by-step guide on how to properly perform the axle deadlift. If you don’t have a deadlift bar with an axle, you can get some attachments that make a regular barbell thicker and act like an axle bar.
Step 1 — Get Set Up
Start with your feet at hip-width, and grab the axle bar with a double overhand grip, just like in a regular barbell deadlift. Be sure to keep your back flat.
To perform this exercise correctly, focus on pulling your shoulder blades down and creating tension in your lats as you load the pull.
Step 2 — Push Into the Floor
Push your legs into the floor with all your might while keeping your torso directly over the barbell. Keep your back straight and your hips and shoulders in alignment as you lift.
When squatting, keep your hips down, and chest up, and focus on driving through the legs. This will help ensure that you are using the proper form and engaging the correct muscles.
Step 3 — Lock and Hold
To complete the movement, deadlift the weight as you would normally. When you are using a barbell, it is important to hold it at the top with a tight grip. Your glutes should be contracted and your shoulders depressed.
The longer you hold the barbell at the top, the more grip strength you can develop.
Benefits of the Axle Deadlift
The axle deadlift is a great exercise for both your back and your grip. The slightly larger size of the axle allows you to really challenge your grip strength, making it a great exercise for those looking to improve their grip.
Perfect Your Start
The axle barbell is a good way to fix a problem with slack in your deadlift setup. If you start carelessly with a smaller weight, you might be able to get away with it. But if you try to lift a larger weight, you’ll have to be precise and have good technique from the start. Your grip on the bar must be firm, or else it will slip out of your hands as soon as it leaves the ground.
Better Grip Strength
Since your forearms and hands have to adjust to a bigger bar, you might have to use less weight early on. As you advance, you will probably observe that you have more grounded and increasingly forceful withdrawals in your lower arms and improved neural drive by and large, which improves extensive pulling potential.
Improve Deadlift Technique
There is no secret that improving your technique when you pull can increase your overall performance and help avoid injuries. If you have a larger bar diameter, it will be harder to train with heavy loads at first. Working with lower weights is a great way to improve your form and make sure the tension is in your back, where it is supposed to be.
Refine Bar Path During the Pull
If you make a mistake while lifting a barbell, you may be able to fix it and finish successfully. It is completely imperative that the axle bar stays trapped against the body.
If you don’t keep your bar path airtight while using the axle bar, you will likely fail the rep. This can help you improve your technique by making sure you don’t move horizontally while you’re pulling.
Axle Deadlift Sets and Reps
If you want to use the axle deadlift to improve your back, grip, and deadlift strength, you can follow the recommendations below to add it to your program. When you are doing a deadlift, the weight you are lifting may be less than what you would lift during a regular deadlift, because it is harder to hold onto the weight.
To Improve Strength and Muscle
The main benefit of the axle pull is that it allows you to increase muscle growth and overall strength. In addition, you can use it as a main movement or an accessory.
To focus on strength, do 3-4 sets of 3-5 repetitions, resting 2-3 minutes between sets. To focus on more hypertrophy work, do slightly higher reps, 8-12.
To Build Grip Strength
It is likely that you are using an axle bar to improve your grip strength. If you have the right tool, all you have to do is program it correctly. When it comes to developing grip strength, the amount of time the muscles are under tension is the most important factor.
Do 2-4 sets of 3-5 repetitions of the axle deadlift, holding each one at the top for a time. Pause at the top for up to 10 seconds.
To Increase Muscle Endurance
If you want to improve your muscular endurance, you’ll need to do more repetitions of each exercise for a longer period of time. If you need to improve your endurance for sports, you should think about reducing the amount of time you spend resting.
You should do 2-3 sets of 10 or more repetitions or sets lasting 60 seconds.
Axle Deadlift Variations
The axle deadlift is an excellent way to improve deadlift performance, grip strength, and back tension simultaneously. There are two ways to enhance the benefits even further.
Banded Axle Deadlift
The banded axle deadlift is similar to the standard axle deadlift, but with the added resistance of bands or chains. Adding bands or chains to your workout routine can help increase the amount of weight you can lift and the power you can develop.
If you’re having trouble with lockout strength and grip strength during the back half of the deadlift, this can help.
Paused Axle Deadlift
If you find that your form is breaking down during the deadlift, the paused axle deadlift is a great way to target that area of weakness. A pause deadlift with an axle bar forces you to stay in control of your body’s positioning while you hold onto a thick bar for a longer period of time. This means that you should try to increase the amount of tension and grip demand during each repetition in order to get more benefit from the exercise.
Axle Deadlift Alternatives
The axle deadlift is a great way to increase your overall strength, build a bigger back, and increase the strength of your forearms. An axle bar may not be available to you at your average gym or home facility. You can develop a great grip in other ways.
The farmer’s carry is a great alternative to the axle deadlift as it allows you to carry heavy loads without being limited by your grip strength. This dynamic movement is perfect for people who want to build their upper back without doing heavy pulls from the floor.
Axle Rack Pull
A rack pull is a weightlifting exercise in which the barbell is lifted from a racks’ bottom pins, using an overhand grip. Because you have a limited range of motion, you can work the muscles in your forearms, traps, and upper back without tiring out your legs and glutes.
Rack pulls are a great way to improve your grip strength.
Axle Bar Vs. Barbell Deadlift – Which One Should You Do?
Any kind of deadlift will do you good, but should you use an axle bar or a regular bar? If you’re trying to increase your deadlift, then you should use an axle bar. To make it easier to choose, let’s judge these two bars by a few different criteria:
Powerlifters train with regular barbells to ensure they are best prepared for competitions. If you want to compete successfully, you should train hard. If you train with an axle bar and then switch to a regular barbell for competition, your performance could suffer.
Deadlifts can be helpful if you want to increase the size of your back, glutes, and hamstrings. As long as you are only focused on the size of your muscles and not your strength, you can use either type of bar for your deadlift workouts.
You can use both bars to enjoy different benefits.
Some strongman competitions involve deadlifting with a standard barbell while others use axle bars. You might find yourself lifting a car using a grip that is parallel to your body.
In order to be prepared for any circumstance, strongman competitors should do deadlifts with a range of equipment. This will ensure that you are prepared for any type of deadlift challenge.
The deadlift is a challenging exercise to master. Most beginners should learn to deadlift using a regular barbell, as this is the most forgiving equipment. The barbell deadlift is the foundation for any good lifting routine, so once you have mastered that, you can try incorporating the axle deadlift if it will help you achieve your goals.