Don't Avoid This Exercise!
The deadlift is unfortunately the second most avoided exercise after the squat. Maybe this is due, in part, to its name. It was once known as the health-lift and I for one think this name is still appropriate. However, for the sake of simplicity I shall continue to refer to this exercise by its commonly known name.
For reasons that escape me, it has become the norm for ego-driven gym rats to compare maximum bench press number. This holds true even in this day and age when there is ample information that points to the fact that this is a narrow view of strength training for any endeavor other than bench only competitions. I am not saying that the bench press doe not have its place in a strength training arsenal but it should not hold the sway that it currently does. If you place strength training exercises in a pyramid with the most important and fundamental movement at the base then the deadlift would be at the base and the bench press near the top.
Definitely overemphasizing the bench press in one's strength training program will create imbalances in one's physique and the ability to express power. I've meet many men that have an impressive bench press and their max numbers definitely eclipsed mine. However, they were unable to express as much power as me on the football field, the mat, the construction site, and you get the idea. Why is this? They neglected the more fundamental, albeit pain in the ass, strength building exercises. The best analogy I can think of, when they tried to express power, is like shooting an oversize canon from a little canoe. There is no base or foundation.
Think of it this way. How would you lift an extremely heavy object that was trapping a love one? Let us put aside the fact that you are an extremely intelligent person and would probably pull off a MacGyver, constructing a crafty lever of some sort. To manually lift the object in a hurry would you first lie prone, wedge yourself under the object and attempt to bench press it? I don't think so! You would do so form of lifting motion similar to the deadlift exercise. The reason being is this is the most logical and natural way to express your body's full power lifting an object off the ground.
Take one day and observe all your activities and see if they do not fit the above mentioned paradigm. The deadlift is the most natural weight training movement you can do and the most transferable to everyday life skills. Picking up every day objects from your shoes to your groceries involve this fundamental movement.
As I have previously pointed out you can not avoid lifting movements similar to the deadlift in your everyday life. Therefore, does it make sense to avoid this exercise in the gym? This movement pattern should be perfected to prevent injury and improve the quality of one's life. This idea can be considered the foundation of my philosophy of fitness or self-defense against injury. Martial artist constantly strives for perfection by meditatively practicing the most basic technique over and over. This allow them to execute these moves naturally, safely, and effectively. Strength and movement are important skills that have direct correlation to the quality of one's life. Bearing this in mind, one should constantly perfect this skill set just as the martial artist perfect his punch, kick, throw, etc..
As with any physical activity, individual circumstance will vary and you may have to modify/scale your workouts. Remember the saying "Rome wasn't built in a day". This basic movement can be practiced with light everyday items such as soup cans and broomsticks and gradually built up from there. However, when training, your mind needs to give that object the same respect, concentration, and effort in lifting/movement you would give a barbell set weighing hundreds of pounds. This is essential to dial in the technique. Look, I am not suggesting everyone wants or needs to be a world class power lifter but this lifting movement is essential to health and quality of life. Strength IS a skill that needs perfecting.