Written by Brenna Bulach
The deadlift. Potentially one of the truest tests of pure brute strength. We take something heavy, pick it up, and put it back down.
It doesn’t get much more caveman than that.
However, a strong deadlift is also a very calculated move. Being sloppy and inattentive to your body positioning during a deadlift can result in a failed lift or worse, an injury.
The following are just a couple quick tips to consider during deadlifting that can apply to both sumo and conventional pulls:
KEEP YOUR SHINS VERTICAL
First and foremost, before you start the deadlift the barbell should be up against the shins. If you leave the gym after a deadlift session with scrapes up your shins, you did it right. As you bend down to grab the bar, do not let your knees bend forward and push the barbell away from you.
Maintain vertical shins by pushing the hips back and creating tension in the hamstrings. The closer that barbell is to your body, the easier the deadlift is going to be, and the further the barbell drifts away from your body, the more that tension is going to leave your hamstrings and enter your low back, where don’t want it.
Keep the barbell in close.
PACK YOUR LATS
If you’ve ever seen someone pull a super heavy deadlift with a rounded upper back in an ugly Quasimodo-like hunch, then you know that keeping the upper back tight is very important.
You can do this by pulling your shoulder blades down your back with your lats and setting your shoulders. Pretend like you are going to bend the barbell and wrap it around your shins.
This will create a tight, immobile upper back that won’t round when you pull the weight off the floor.
Ideally, a day or two after deadlifting, it is your UPPER back that should be sore, not your lower back.
KEEP YOUR BODY BEHIND THE BARBELL
Just before the weight breaks off the floor, you want to make sure that no part of your body, shoulders included, is in front of vertical plane of the barbell. If your shoulders are hanging out way over the barbell, or your shins lean forward so that your knees are over the bar, this move becomes exponentially more difficult.
Your first motion when breaking the weight off the floor is shifting your hips back so that your body acts as a counterweight to the barbell that is in your hands.
PUSH, DON’T PULL
Changing your mindset for what type of lift the deadlift is will help immensely as well. Instead of imagining the deadlift as a pull off the ground, think about pushing your feet down and driving the ground away from you.
Your bodyweight should be in your heels as you keep your upper body rigid and grind down into the ground with your feet.
SQUEEZE YOUR GLUTES
Finishing a deadlift requires full hip extension by a massive squeeze of the glutes. Activating the glutes in the last couple inches of the deadlift will help you get a nice smooth lockout at the top.
This is especially important in lifters who can rip the bar off the floor quickly but have trouble locking it out. Make sure this “squeeze” doesn’t result in hyperextension of the lumbar at the top or you will have an angry lower back after deadlifting. This occurs when you lean back too far in the name of trying to lock it out.
That’s it. A few tips to help you pull stronger and healthier.