Higher motor neurons activate as finger flexors grip the bar … lower back muscles instinctually tense. Intention directs ground force through Kidney 1, as body and gravity bend to your will.


The deadlift is a simple resistance exercise requiring the coordinated effort of complex muscle groups. Present core training fitness trends largely overlook this king of lifts in favor of pilates and balance balls. Okay … I’m old school, but I challenge anyone to correctly execute 4-5 sets of intense kettlebell or barbell deadlifts, and see if your core isn’t talking to you in the AM!

As we age, the shoulders stoop, and the head pitches forward. Disuse atrophy of the rear extensors allows front-body flexors to contract unopposed. A vicious neurological loop is initiated, and simple acts become tenuous … you feel like you’re walking on marbles, and you look as old as you feel.

There are deeper forces at work here. In the neuro-muscular re-education process known as Somatics, we call this the red light reflex … it’s all about fear. Anxiety, and prolonged stress activate neurological processes that contract flexors as a protective response. Neurons have no choice, but to mimic this demeanor … we become the embodiment of fear. The deadlift is the perfect anecdote.

The deadlift is the simple act of bringing a weight from floor to waist level. Step 1 requires technique; bend legs, grip weight, activate extensor muscles and thrust upward with the gluteals. Those adept in directing internal energy can recruit breath and ground force to accomplish much of the work. Step 2 … lose your apprehension to engage back muscles with great intensity. Performed intelligently over time, balance is restored, and spirit is buoyed.

Mindful isolation of intrinsic muscles is key, but large external groups cannot be neglected. Core isolation combined with full body intensity is the answer; the deadlift can accomplish both. Exercise is so much more than muscle fiber stimulation, and fitness. The human form is a moment-by-moment snapshot of one’s beliefs, and purposeful movement can best draw that conscious link.

The greatest impediment to conscious living is the externalization of cause. All in Life is an inside job, including exercise. Exercise does not create fitness, your intention does. Fears represent energy-stagnation, and the deadlift will get things moving. Reinvigorated back muscles restore dignity to movement, and counter instinctual protective posturing resulting from our current culture of fear.

In future posts we’ll elaborate on intelligent exercise technique facilitated through Functional Movement Screening, and the truth about cardiovascular fitness. Here’s a teaser … the heart is not a pump! In the meantime, be well and keep moving.

Dr. Barre

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