It’s the most badass exercise that you could hope to do in the gym. Picking up a huge weight and slamming it back to earth makes you feel like the a Norse God. Are you doing it right? Let’s go through a few points that people commonly get wrong with the deadlift, break down the lift so you can correctly perform this.
Pick Your Goal
Just like with anything in your lifting or life in general, you need a goal. Your rep ranges are going to be different depending on your goals. If you are hoping to get optimal hypertrophy from your deadlifts, then rep ranges in the higher range of 5-10 are where you should train. If you are just interested in building as much strength as possible, then you need to be training in the lower ranges. This is 3-5 and even singles and doubles.
Pick Your Stance
This might take a little experimentation, but with the normal barbell deadlift there are two main stances. These are Conventional & Sumo stances.
Without getting too much into these stances, there are different benefits to these. Sumo is better used by taller and thinner lifters, whereas conventional is generally favored by shorter thicker lifters. Another consideration is again your goals. From a hypertrophy perspective conventional stance should generally trigger a better crossover for bodybuilding. Now let’s break the lift down.
A good setup for the deadlift is essential for the optimal execution of the lift. Let’s take a look at 8 points you need to get right before you start the lift.
• Walk up to the bar, and position your shin 2.5cm (1 inch) from the bar.
• Depending on your stance, you should place your feet accordingly. (i.e shoulder width for conventional and much wider for sumo)
• Put your shoulders over the bar. This is important, since your back will engaged a lot during the start of the lift, and having your shoulders over the bar is the optimal position.
• Don’t have your hips too low. If your hips are too low, it is going to be much harder to develop the sufficient drive necessary.
• Engage your lats. This doesn’t mean squeezing your shoulder blades together, it means pushing your shoulders down. You should feel the tension in your lats, this is good.
• Chest up, arch your back, don’t look up.
• Suck in a belly full of air. Hold it and tighten your whole body.
• Grip hard.
1. This is the start of the lift. You are going to pull the bar upwards, your lats engaged fully, your spine arched.
The bar should move in a straight line, the common term is “scrape your shins”. Now, you shouldn’t scrape your shins, but keeping that close distance you started with is very important. If the bar is flying all over the place, you will not be lifting very much for much longer. Keep pulling the weight until it gets to above your knees, then prepare for phase two.
2. This phase is more explosive. Make sure that you are not just straightening your back out. That is a fast way to injury.
Use your hips. This means that you should be focusing on thrusting your hips forward. This drive from your core is the strongest way to move the weight. Imagine doing a kettlebell swing, that is how explosive you should aim to be. Of course the weight won’t fly up like a kettlebell would, however being explosive is a must.
Squeeze your ass. When you get to the top of the movement, you want to lock out your hips, that is how you finish the movement and always remember, don’t arch your back! This is a rookie move, and will just give you an injury. Finish in a strong position, but stretching back like Ali dodging a punch? Nope. These pointers should be enough to get you through the movement. Below are a few things that you should avoid during your deadlift.
What Not To Do
It can be tempting to let your back arch over. Never do this. Proper deadlift technique does not allow for a rounded back. It will just lead to injuries such as a slipped disc or something worse. Unless you are in a competition going for a record, then there is no excuse for rounding the back.
Take your gloves off. Wearing gloves is a bad idea for many reasons. Primarily, when you are lifting heavy, the bar tends to slip a little, this will cause the glove fabric to bunch up, and make the bar hard to hold. There is a reason why the biggest deadlift number in the world are by people who don’t wear gloves. The second reason is that calloused hands are badass. No science to back that claim up, it just makes sense.
Don’t wear running shoes. Either have no shoes on, or wear flats (Chuck Taylors for example). regular gym shoes are not designed for deadlifting. You are not a treadmill monkey, so get your footwear in order.
Don’t do heavy deadlifts too often. Heavy deadlifting is hard work on your nervous system. This being the case, allow a week between heavy deadlift sessions. Unlike squats where you can hit them 3 or 4 times per week, the same is not recommended with deadlifts.
So this should tell you what you need to know about deadlifting. To sum up:
- Pick your goals, stance and rep ranges
- Shins 1 inch from the bar
- Big breath, Lats tight, Chest up
- Drive to the knee
- Hips engaged, fully extend
- Contract glutes, keep back tight.
- Look awesome
Adding deadlifts to your routine is one of the best steps you can take toward becoming stronger and bigger than you have ever been before.