How To Deadlift Properly

By Yuri Elkaim, BPHE, CK, RHN

Deadlifting is by far the most superior weight lifting exercise around. However, it is also the most dangerous if not performed properly. A single miscalculation during a deadlift can kill your lifting career, or at least put you out of commission for a long time.  Here are tips to help you learn how to perform a deadlift properly, and reap all of the benefits of this full body Olympic lift.

Deadlift revealed
The deadlift movement is one of the 3 gauges for power lifters, and is superior for overall body development. You perform this compound exercise by lifting a barbell, trapbar, or loaded trap bar from the ground in a stabilized bent-over position.

The compound movement of a deadlift works nearly every muscle in the body; focusing on the Erector spinae, lower back, quads, hamstrings, glutes, and hip joints. It is the purest form of strength testing because it requires you to lift dead weight, or weight directly from the ground.

How to perform a proper deadlift
Various forms of deadlifts require different body positioning and movements. Below are standards that work with all forms of deadlifts.

Grips
You can use 3 types of grip when performing a deadlift: both overhand, both underhand, or an offset grip with 1 overhand and 1 underhand. Deadlifting requires a considerable amount of forearm strength. You should practice grip strength exercises to improve the amount of weight you can grip from the ground up.  Offset grip works best at stabilizing the weight and preventing it from rolling about as you move through the lift.

Deadlift technique
Start position:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart
  • Use your chosen grip in a symmetrical fashion, with the barbell resting against your shins
  • Place your shoulders vertically over the bar, flattening your back, and elongating your spine
  • Align your pelvis and head with your spine
  • Retract and depress your scapula

Setting up:

  • Slightly extend your legs to take tension off the bar.
  • Pull your abdominal muscles in toward your spine, holding them tight as you lift
  • Ensure your pelvis is neutral with your sine, and not arched
  • Squeeze glutes
  • Raise tension in the upper back

First pull (from ground to above knee):

  • Imagine forcing your legs through the ground, and extend your legs using your glutes as the primary mover
  • Keep your upper body as flat as possible
  • Do not change your trunk angle
  • Move your shoulders first, and do not allow your hips to take the lead
  • Keep the bar in contact with your skin at all times (best to wear long pants when deadlifting)

Second pull (from above knee to standing):

  • Stand straight up, forcing the hips through
  • Do not hyperextend your trunk in an exaggerated movement

Lowering:

  • Unlike most lifts, the eccentric phase does not mimic the concentric phase in a deadlift
  • You may lower the bar as quickly as possible while maintain control
  • Make sure you are properly set up for your next lift
  • Never rush your lifts
  • Form takes precedent over speed

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