Here we go again! Deadlifts. The name comes from the fact that each and every rep should start at a complete dead stop, unlike the squat or the bench press where the stretch reflex is involved in the rep.
Deadlift — Setup
1. Bar over midfoot
- When you approach the bar on the ground, step your feet under the bar, about hip distance apart. Stand close enough to the bar that it comes over your midfoot. This is about 1 inch away from the shins.
- This is your balance point. Pulling vertically from this point will keep a straight bar path and make the lift as efficient as possible.
- Stay locked in this position. All other steps should not move the barbell and mess up this step.
2. Take grip
- Bend at your hips with soft knees and take your grip just outside of the legs.
- The straighter your arms, the shorter distance you have to move the bar. This is the most efficient position.
3. Bring shins to bar
- WITHOUT MOVING THE BARBELL, bend at your knees and bring your shins to the bar.
- Your hips should not move: they are already in the most advantageous position for you to exhibit the most strength.
4. Press your chest up and lock your back into place
- Try to “bring your belly to your ass.”
- This will achieve both a locked and neutral spine and a presented chest.
- The shoulders will be slightly in front of the barbell at this point.
Deadlift — Execution
1. Brace the core
- Inhale and take the slack out of the bar by completely bracing the core muscles as you take a full breath in. Your arms should be straight, and you should hear the bar “click” as it touches the upper part of the weight’s sleeve.
2. Pull the bar up along the legs
With a flat back and straight, long arms, drag the barbell up your legs. The balance point (the point directly over midfoot) is directly along your legs for the entire movement.
- Tight lats will keep the bar against your legs and prevent it from swinging forward and out of balance.
Squeeze your glutes at the top.
- Finish with hip extension, NOT back extension.
Allow the bar to follow the exact same path back down to the starting position.
- Don’t exhale at the top. Take a full breath when you have the bar back on the ground.
Deadlift — Coaching Cues
- Eyes look at the ground 5-10 feet in front of you
- Tight lats
- Press the feet through the floor
- Push knees into the elbows at the start position and keep them there
- Tight is right. Comfort does not ensure proper form
- Lifting is not comfortable and not painful. It’s in the middle, outside of the comfort zone but not in the danger zone. That’s where growth happens.
- Each rep starts from a dead stop.
- DON’T BOUNCE THE WEIGHT
Deadlift — Adjustments
If you’re squatting your deadlifts, stop. Use a kettlebell or dumbbell to teach you how to actually hinge at your hips.
- Take a kettlebell and hold it behind your back with both hands, like you’re being handcuffed.
- Hinge at the hips by pushing the hips backward.
- If you are doing this correctly you will feel the kettlebell “pushing” against your ass, opposing the backward movement.
- If you are doing this incorrectly, you’ll feel the kettlebell hanging freely behind you because you are squatting straight down.
Low back pain is a sign that you are not neutral through your low back. Drop the weight and focus on a neutral spine. With load, it will feel hyperextended, even though it is just at neutral.
If your low back is in flexion at all, YOU’RE WRONG. Drop the weight and become more strict on your form. If your back is in flexion, it means you will have to finish the deadlift by bringing your spine in neutral. The spinal erectors are not designed to bring huge weights from flexion to extension, they are designed to contract isometrically.
Sometimes the hands hurt. This could mean you need more chalk or to trim your calluses. Remember: lifting is not comfortable. The deadlift will never feel like getting a back rub from your secret lover (unless, of course, she’s a dominatrix.)
Neck pain happens when you are cranking on your neck to “lead” the movement. Don’t do that. It won’t make you stronger. Choose a spot 5-10 feet in front of you on the ground and look there the entire time. This will keep your neck in neutral.
Caveat: This exercise guidance should never usurp the advice of your medical professional. If there is a question in your mind as to the suitability of this exercise for you confer with your doctor. WATM is not liable if you do something ill-advised after reading any of our fitness content.
Deadlift — Further Resources
- 5 Steps to Deadlift Perfection
- Starting Strength
- Sumo w/ Calgary Barbell
- Shredded by Science
- Untamed Strength
- Composure Fitness