Training for very practical reasons.

Most people come to the gym to train for aesthetic reasons (to look better).  But a special few train for practical reasons (to be able to perform a physical task better).  And I like coaching these people!  And I had an eye opening opportunity the other day…in a funeral home.

I was asked to do a short “lifting technique” workshop at this funeral home to help some of the new staff to lift, carry and manoeuver the caskets and stretchers that come in.  Now remember the increasing weight of the UK population, and you won’t be surprised to realise that it is not uncommon for 2 members of staff (male and/or female) to have to lift loads in excess of 20 stone (130kg)!

Deadlifts are not only done with a barbell

To be able to do this safely and in a suitably respectful manner requires good, overall body strength, especially in the back and legs.  But because the whole body is required to do the work, if there is a weak link anywhere in the chain, the whole thing can be compromised. This is one of the main reasons why I prefer large, compound, moves in full body workouts, where I treat the body as a single, coordinated unit.  I try to avoid breaking the body up into just a load of “parts” (eg “today is my biceps day!” or “I want to tone my belly, and bingo wings please!”).  Because when we break up the body into a load of parts, we invariably miss out some unsexy, boring but vital part, which will go on to let the whole side down, and usually lead to chronic injuries. In this particular funeral home situation, one of the best “functional” exercises to do is the deadlift.  This is literally where you lift a dead weight up off the floor, then put it back down again.  It is an excellent exercise for virtually the whole body, especially the back half (the back, hamstrings and bum).  As such, it needs good coordination and timing in your body and will help prevent loads of back injuries. But, because of the nature of the job, the funeral home staff don’t only have to lift and carry in “ideal” circumstances.  There will be times when:

  • They will have to lift in tight, awkward positions.
  • They will need to manoeuver around awkward objects/furniture.
  • They will have to manoeuver up/down stairs, with their centre of gravity in very awkward positions.

In order to do deal with this safely, you need:

  • Strength – to lift/carry the load and cope with stresses that could injure a weaker body.
  • Balance – to cope with a rapidly shifting centre of gravity trying to throw you off balance.
  • Coordination – when working hard, your whole body needs to work in coordination with itself.  Otherwise, you will simply be fighting, instead of helping yourself.

The deadlift was also one of the main exercises we covered in the workshop I did back in July (click here).  So I am just going to use the diagrams from the workshop handouts to show you how the deadlift should, and should not be done.

A good deadlift

A good deadlift



A bad deadlift

A bad deadlift

If you are part of a club, gym or workplace, you think you could benefit from one of my workshops, and you are in or around the Skipton area, contact me and we can work something out!

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