Deadlifting is one of the most common exercises for strength training. It is a compound movement that activates not only your back muscles, but also your hamstrings, quads, glutes, and core. Therefore, performing deadlifts is a great way to have a good workout in a shorter time frame.
It’s common to see professional and beginner powerlifters struggling with stubborn performance plateaus while deadlifting. Fortunately, with the right technique, these plateaus can be overcome.
There are tons of scientific benefits to deadlifting. It is the most effective exercise to activate your hip extension and boost your metabolism. It also works on the lifter’s core and reduces lower back pain.
But all of the advantages are nullified if you’re doing it wrong. Many people, even some pros, make some common mistakes when it comes to their deadlift techniques. That is a lot of potential wasted.
As such, we’ve come up with some tips and tricks that powerlifters can use to improve deadlift form and correct other common mistakes.
15 Deadlift Technique Tips
Deadlift, albeit one of the most common exercises, is not everyone’s cup of tea. Not for the lack of trying, though. Walking into the gym, you would probably see many people trying to pull a barbell off the floor.
But deadlifting involves one of the most complicated compound movements at the gym. To reap all the benefits of the exercise, having a proper deadlift technique is vital. Here are some deadlift tips to help you with that.
Many bodybuilders labor under the misconception that high-frequency training is always good. As such, it’s common to see beginners and experienced bodybuilders deadlift four to five times a week.
Unfortunately, too much volume or intensity while deadlifting can be physically and mentally taxing. It also does not allow time for recovery and can lead to injuries.
Contrary to popular belief, deadlifting often won’t allow you to progress weight-wise. You have to be smart with your schedule. If you have overtrained or have hit performance plateaus, take a deloading week to recover and try again.
The ideal frequency for deadlifting should be twice or thrice a week.
Use Deadlifting Strap
Contrary to popular belief, deadlift straps do not allow bodybuilders to cheat while working out. Using a strap to lift heavier weights should be the norm.
Sometimes, when you increase the weight while deadlifting, your body might be ready for the change. However, your wrist grip might not be as accommodating.
This is where deadlift straps can help. They help engage the posterior chain while taking the pressure off your hands.
Again, you should only use straps during some sets when you’re struggling to lift heavier weights. It’s equally important to build up one’s grip strength.
Don’t Start with your Hips on the Floor
If you start your deadlift by placing your hips too low, it increases the horizontal distance between the lumbar spine and the barbell. The resulting position puts your lower back under increased pressure and decreases the efficiency of deadlifts.
The right way is to place your hips as close to the bar as possible with your shoulders behind it. Arch your lower back and round your upper back. That is the perfect deadlift form that you should always have.
Of course, this won’t make things easy. It’ll just give you the best results.
Record your Repetitions
If the above tip is not working for you, make videos of your deadlift repetitions. It will help you relate to how your body felt during each set.
It’s also the safest way to gauge your deadlift form. Looking sideways to ensure that the barbell is even can often lead to injuries.
Look Forward, Not Down
When lifting, it’s common for bodybuilders to look down at the weight. But that is not the smartest move while deadlifting.
If you’re looking down, your body will force the barbell to move forward, resulting in an incorrect posture. Instead, you should always look forward at a spot just above your eyes.
Doing so will ensure that your neck is always in a safe, neutral position while lifting.
Hinge Downwards, Don’t Squat
Another area where bodybuilders often need to improve their deadlift form is when they come back down with the barbell.
They often tend to forget that there are no squatting movements in a deadlift. Instead, the focus should be on a hinging movement, where you start lowering from the hips.
In the hinge motion, you basically start lowering your body with a slight bend in your knees and an intact back. Lean your chest forward and then start pushing your hips in the backward direction. That is the perfect deadlift motion.
Deadlifting is a complex movement. At the end range of the exercise, sometimes the barbell might not reach as far up as your quads. That happens when your form is incorrect.
But even in this situation, you should not push your hips forward or lean your body back to compensate. That could result in some nasty lower-back injuries.
Ideally, you should always have the barbell placed against your quads when you stand up during a deadlift. There should be no further extension.
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Test Lower-Body Mobility
People often give up on deadlifting because they simply cannot pull the barbell off the ground. That may happen because their lower-body mobility isn’t good enough to support the hinging motion that is vital for performing the deadlift movement.
There are multiple hip flexor and rotator stretches that could help in this regard. Working on your quads can be pretty effective as well.
Focus on getting the Shin Placement Right
It’s common to see powerlifters place their shins as close to the barbell as possible. Why do they do that? Because the best lifters follow that position.
The position of your shin should be influenced by your frame. If you have a thicker build, placing your shin too close to the barbell might disrupt the ideal posture for deadlifting.
Try to drag the bar against your shins. But, your shin placement should be according to your body.
Remember that you have to pull the barbell toward your body, not away from it. Place your shin accordingly.
Perform Accessory Exercises
The deadlift is one exercise that requires cooperation from your entire body. Or most of it, anyway. If you have a weak link in your body, that would limit your deadlift capabilities.
So, you need to improve the weak points with accessory movements. Some common exercises that you can perform are pull-ups, barbell bent-over rows, grip crushers, hip thrusts, rack pull, deficit deadlift, and lat pulldowns.
These exercises target the most common weak links that people have in the muscles supporting the deadlift movement.
Pull with your Heels
A lot of times, it’s the pulling motion that confuses people. It’s hard to focus on your form while lifting heavy weights, so it’s natural to be slightly disoriented on one front.
However, there’s an excellent strategy to correct this. Dan John, a former Olympic lifter, advised his followers to stop thinking about pulling the weight upwards. Instead, they should think about pushing the heels downwards. Alternatively, you can think about pushing the ground down with your heels. Doing so will help lifters keep their back straight while lifting the weight upwards.
Avoid Touch-And-Go Deadlifts
Touch-and-go deadlifts are those in which there is no pause between repetitions. On the other hand, reset deadlifts require the lifter to drop the bar to a complete stop between each rep.
While touch-and-go deadlifts are effective in some cases, they also hinder progress. By not stopping between repetitions, you don’t build a strong starting position, which is a key part of heavy deadlifting.
Reset deadlifts, on the other hand, promote consistency by allowing people to focus on their starting positions.
Squeeze Glutes Isometrically
One of the most common tips for deadlifting is to squeeze your butts at the top of the movement. But more often than not, people make a common error while doing this. Instead of squeezing their glutes, lifters tilt their pelvis posteriorly. This causes the butt to tuck under, pushing your body backward.
Correcting this is easy. You simply have to train your body to squeeze your butt isometrically. Meaning, you need to squeeze your glutes without changing the length of your muscles. Alternatively, you shouldn’t move your body during the squeezing motion.
One easy way to practice this motion is to lie on your back, clench your buttocks for 15-20 seconds, relax, and then repeat.
Don’t Always Max Out
It’s scientifically proven that deadlifting the heaviest weights is not always effective. Even if you’re lifting 70% of your one-rep max, the exercise is bound to increase your strength.
So if you’re able to deadlift 100 kgs for a single rep, you should work with 70 kgs for your sets. Doing so will help you focus on your form and technique while also building your strength.
Breathe and Brace Properly
The deadlift motion is about getting that core stability and working with intra-abdominal pressure. As such, following proper breathing techniques during the movement is vital.
The proper way to breathe while deadlifting is to take a deep breath into your belly while initiating the lift. Hold your breath throughout the lift, as it will stabilize your core and derive the most power. This will not only ensure safety but also help you maximize weight.
Lifters don’t need to exhale while coming down, as there is no load on their bodies during this movement. So, you can take exhale and inhale again in between different repetitions.
But if you’re following a touch-and-go pattern, breathe out whenever you’ve almost completed the repetition. But always make sure to breathe or inhale deeply before starting the next rep.
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The deadlift is a complex compound movement that might often appear too complicated or daunting to many lifters. However, if you’re hell-bent on improving your deadlifting technique, implementing these tips and strategies might help.
Ultimately, it’s all about always progressing in terms of fitness.