How to Deadlift
In this video we cover our teaching progression for the deadlift. We’ve also included a helpful video so you can watch / learn the progression in real time. To get the most out of this article, I would recommend watching the video first, reading the material, then watching the video again. Complete this cycle as many times as needed for you to confident in your set up next time you head to the gym.
(1) A Note on Deadlifting
(2) The 5-Step Set Up
(3) Errors & Corrections
A Note on Deadlifting
In many non-strength circles, the deadlift is a movement that has gotten a bad reputation for being unsafe. Additionally, many medical professionals, personal trainers and coaches simply don’t use the movement with their athletes. At Brentwood Barbell, we feel like the deadlift is a fundamental movement pattern and that any program omitting the pattern would be sorely lacking for the development of basic strength.
The 5 Step Set Up
Step 1 – Mid Foot Under the Barbell
To set up for a deadlift, you will need a barbell, a platform and 17 ¾” plates, which can be made out of metal or rubber. With the bar loaded, walk up to the center of the bar with your feet “inside of your hips” or in a stance that places the feet more narrow than your hips. Toes slightly turned out. Place the middle of your foot under the bar. A great way to find this position is to look down and line the bar up with the knot of your shoes or the upper strap on weightlifting shoes.
Step 2 – Grab the Bar (without moving it)
Now, reach down and grab the bar with a double overhand grip right outside of your shins without bending your knees. Your back should be rounded and knees mostly straight. This will create a gap between your shins and the bar. In step 1, we put the bar over the middle of your foot. A heavy deadlift will not come off of the ground without being over the middle of the lifter’s foot, so we need to make sure the bar doesn’t roll away from that spot. If you do move the bar, go back to step 1.
Step 3 – Bring Your Shins to the Bar
Next, slide your knees forward to touch the bar. Your hips will likely drop a small degree, once your shins are touching the barbell. Shove the knees out slightly.
Step 4 – Pull Your Chest Up
Once your shins are touching the bar, your hips are set where they need to be. Without dropping your hips, take a big breath and “pull your chest up” to establish a flat, tight back. Focus your gaze on the floor approximately 15’ in front of you. The key note here is to tighten the back without allowing the hips to drop. Do not change your hip position while tightening the back.
Step 5 – Drag the Bar Up Your Leg
Once you have your back set, push hard into the ground with your feet and drag the bar up your leg. The bar should stay in contact with your shins and thighs the entire way up. This leg contact makes sure the bar path is over the middle of your foot. To lock out the deadlift, stand up completely straight with your shoulders slightly behind the bar and your hips and knees straight. Set the bar down while keeping your back tight and sliding it down your legs.
From here, simply repeat the process adding a little weight each set of 6 repetitions. We are looking for a weight that presents a little challenge but allows for perfect technique. This is usually represented by the point at which the lifter “slows down”.
Errors & Corrections
Let’s now cover a few major errors in deadlift technique. Of course this list is not exhaustive, that would be impossible. Presented here are some of the more common issues that we see.
Error 1 – Shoulders Behind the Bar (or dropping your hips in step 4)
This is a very common problem that can occur. It’s likely you were too far away from the bar during your initial set up (step 1). This position will usually result in a “hips too low” start. Make sure you are over the mid foot during the initial set up.
Error 2 – Shoulders Too Far in Front of the Bar (or too close to the bar in step 1)
If you are too far forward or hips are too high, this isn’t a strong position either. It’s likely the bar was touching your shin during your initial set up (step 1). Make sure you are over the mid foot during the initial set up. This is often keeping the shins about an inch away from the bar.
Error 3 – Inefficient Bar Path
Every time we deadlift, we want the bar to move in a straight line up our legs. We often see the bar move away from the leg or move around the knees. Most often, this can be due to a hip position that is too low, resulting a “shoulders behind the bar” position at the start.
Error 4 – Back Rounding (spinal flexion)
The level of tension needed to successfully pull heavy weights cannot be overstated. We often tell lifters to point their chest at the wall in front of them or “put wrinkles in the back of their shirt”. The lifter must understand how to pull their back tight without dropping the hips in order to build intra-abdominal pressure.
Error 5 – Rushing the Start
During the setup, a lot of people want to rush it and combine multiple sets together. This can be useful in some circumstances but more often than not (particularly with novice lifters) this rushing results in poor hip and shoulder positions. Most of the time we see a hip drop as the lifter is trying to pull their back tight only to see the hips shoot back up into position as the bar is pulled off the floor. Take an extra second or two and break down each step during your set up. You can’t be too tight!
Error 6 – Letting Go of the Breath
When you take your breath, hold it until the bar is back on the ground. If you let go of your breath during the movement you are losing pressure in the abdominal cavity. Revisit step 4: big breath then chest up.
Question? Drop us a line, we love helping pick up barbells!