How to Deadlift
The deadlift is one of the 3 main compound lifts used by athletes and gym-goers to pack on size and increase functional strength. It is second only to the squat in number of muscles recruited to perform the lift. A true full body exercise, this movement is by far the most physically taxing on your body, often taking a week to fully recover. It is also the most impressive. While many serious lifters will admire your squat and bench, a heavy deadlift really widens the eyes of onlookers. If you want to get bigger, stronger and execute the most testosterone filled lift out there, here’s how:
I’ve seen people deadlift in everything from slippers to steel-toed boots. You’ll find people who swear by whatever shoes are on their feet. But the plain and simple of it all is that you want to wear a shoe that optimizes your ability to lift this weight off the ground. For this you’re seeking a shoe that keeps you low to the ground, has good grip and a hard sole. The less of a heel you have, the closer you are to the ground. The closer you are to the ground, the closer you are to the barbell. The closer you are to the barbell, the less distance you have to pull the weight and the easier the lift. A shoe that has a soft heel is undesirable because of the loss of energy transfer through the soft malleable sole. It’s for this reason that a hard soled shoe is required as opposed to the soft one found in running shoes and the like. A shoe that encompasses all three aspects is going to allow you to have a solid platform to push from when you initiate the deadlift. Classic deadlift shoes include wrestling shoes, deadlift slippers and Chuck Taylors by Converse.
A sturdy weight belt can be helpful for your deadlift, because it gives you something to brace your abdominals against and keeps you more upright as you complete the movement. Belts can be very useful for teaching individuals to brace their core and stay tight while performing a lift. While not necessary, using a belt will certainly allow you to lift more weight as well. If you decide you’d like to purchasing a belt, look for a 10-13mm belt of uniform width. Avoid using the “bodybuilding” belts that are wide in the back and narrow in the front. Many believe that a belt is worn for protecting your back so the width should be in the back. The truth is that you want a uniform thickness all around your abdominal region so that you are expanding your abdominal walls against all parts of the belt equally to create a tight, braced core. The belt should be worn just below the ribs for optimal support in this lift.
Don’t use straps. Why would you want to be able to pull something your body isn’t strong enough to hold on its own? If you find the bar slipping from your hands as you go up in weight, use climbing chalk. Applying this to your hands will eliminate moisture/sweat and allow you to get a solid grip around the barbell.
SETUP: From Floor to Fore(head):
How wide you place your feet during the deadlift is going to vary based on your body. But in general, it’s best to put your feet in a position where you can generate the most power. This is typically considered to be the stance you would take to take a vertical jump. Once you find this position, plant your feet firmly and do not move them. Some people like to “screw” their feet into the ground to ensure they are firmly gripped to the floor.
Reach and Grab:
After getting your feet in the proper position, reach down with both hands and grab the barbell. Do not bend your legs yet during this process. Keep them straight while grabbing the bar with your hands. There are several different grips you can take on the bar but we are going to go with a double overhand grip. As you go up in weight and find your grip challenged, you can switch to a mixed grip (one overhand, one underhand).You’re going to take both hands and grab the barbell just outside of your shins. Putting your hands wider than this puts unnecessary stress on your body and increases the distance you must lift the bar. The inside of your arms should nearly be against the outside of your shins.
The Starting Position:
You’re now straight legged, bent over and firmly grasping the barbell. Your next step is to keep your grip on the bar and bend your legs until your shins touch the barbell. Your shins will be roughly at 90 degrees to the ground. Now you need to take care of your back. It will be rounded at this point and it’s time to flatten it out. Flatten your back out by pushing your hips and ass back while setting your shoulders back and contracting your lats. These previous steps will flatten your back as well as tighten your core and set you up in an optimal position to pull the weight. Your head should be positioned to look at a point three to five feet in front of you in order to keep a neutral spine.
Before you start you should make sure you are in the proper position to begin deadlifting. Make sure you have flat back (neutral spine), your arms should be straight, not bent, and your lats should be tight and contracted. Take in a deep breath and brace your abdominal wall. This is going to protect your spine and enable you to generate more force. Do not jerk the bar off the ground violently when you initiate the movement, as this can whip the bar and cause your lower back to round. To initiate the deadlift use your feet to “push” the floor away, similar to how you would perform a leg press. You’re essentially pressing the ground away from you. As soon as the weight leaves the ground with the barbell above mid-shin, squeeze your glutes and drive your hips forward. This hip thrusting/hip hinge movement is the key to completely a deadlift with a strong lockout that keeps your back flat and your leverages optimal. Continue pushing with your legs, keeping your abdominal and upper back tight, and drive your hips and ass forward to complete the movement. Once you’ve stood up straight with the weight (locked out), STOP. Do not hyperextend your upper body backwards as this can cause injury and is unnecessary.
Once you’re locked out and ready to descend with the weight, lower the bar by un-tightening your glutes and letting your hips move back. Keep your back straight and lower the weight in the same manner and following the same bar path as you came up with it.
- Keep your back flat. A neutral spine protects your back and allows you to lift optimally.
- Don’t allow the bar to drift away from your shins. This changes your leverages and makes the lift more difficult and much more strenuous on your back.
- Don’t start with your hips to low or your hips too high. You’re not trying to squat the weight up and you aren’t trying to stiff leg it up either.
- Reset your form after each repetition. Many people like to perform deadlifts in a touch and go style. Lowering the weight and letting the plates bounce off the floor to begin a new rep rather than letting the weights settle on the ground and then pulling. Reset your form after each lift and allow the weights to settle to ensure you are pulling with proper form each time.
That’s it folks. That’s your comprehensive guide to pulling heavy weight off the floor. The deadlift takes practice and time to master. But the only way to get there is to go out and lift. Feel free to ask me anything in the comments.