Deadlifts 101


Out of all the things I see wrong at the gym, unless I am at a gym dedicated to sponsored or professional powerlifters, the deadlift is without a doubt the most technical and difficult lift for most people. Other than people squatting shallow, I see the most issues with the DL. Let me dive into them with you now.

  1. Touch and go reps are over utilized. Unless you have short femurs and long arms, using the touch and go technique is eventually going to have form breakdown and your back will begin to round (and you will experience the dreaded back pump that usually has me laying on the floor) So instead, treat every rep as a single. Lay the weight back down on the floor, and start the second rep after a full breath of air.
  2. Body mechanics. This one is unfortunately the most complicated. You truly need to figure out whether you are better off pulling sumo, or conventional. Many good conventional pullers have ended up switching to sumo just to give their erectors a break and within a few months shattered their old maxes. If limb lengths/mechanics are out of your field, have an experienced lifter watch you pull both styles. You will have to adjust footing, set up etc but within that hour long training session, you will have an idea. Now, with that said, You should always have your opposite stance utilized occasionally in your training protocol. This will make you well rounded and strengthen weak areas.
  3. Set up. The deadlift should begin with proper foot placement. Shoulder width for conventional pullers, Sumo can vary greatly. Before you begin a deadlift, you should feel like you have massive amounts of tension across the quads, hamstrings and glutes. Ideally you want to start the lift with a giant breath of air that you hold onto while you brace the core, squeeze the lats back and down, and as you grab onto the bar, flex your triceps. We want your hands right outside of the shins to optimize using the shortest distance of travel for the bar path. Keeping the chest high, drive your feet into the floor without allowing your hips to shoot up first. As the bar travels right above the knee, flex your glutes as hard as you can. This will ensure you get the hips forward and do not hyperextend the erectors to finish the lift.
  4. Weak muscles: I think instead of picking apart peoples form over and over, we need to address what is actually the weak link in the chain. For most people the lower quads are just not up to par, so speed off the floor is difficult. For that I would recommend ATG paused squats, and also Bulgarian split squats done as low as possible with your elevated foot about 12” off the floor. Rounding of the back is also a very common complaint seen among lifters, and long femurs once again do not help. Try sumo once again and see if it is easier to stay upright. Good mornings, Stiff legged deadlifts, and GHR’s should help the posterior chain stay rigid and erect when trained properly. And remember, a bad starting position without the spine and core braced and loaded, will always result in the back rounding.

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