How to Perfect your Deadlift
Throughout the years, deadlifting has been falsely labeled as one of the most dangerous exercises to attempt at the gym - and there is a reason for that falsity. The truth is that the deadlift is one of the easiest exercises to screw up when it comes to proper form. I know that most of you reading at this point are nodding your heads, mainly because you have physically seen some of the most atrocious form from fellow gym goers. It starts with an arched back and barely any bend in the knee, and ends with a deep lean back that causes a loss of balance. Maybe you have even talked to your friends, and they have told you something along the lines of, "My back has never been the same ever since I started deadlifting."
The problem does not lie within the exercise itself, but rather the ego's of those attempting it. It lies with those sacrificing form over ego. I can tell you that bad form will lead to injury in any exercise. The problem is that deadlifting heavy weight looks really really cool, and it is also extremely easy to commit and complete this exercise with bad form. With a bench press, you can absolutely have bad form, but bad form will most likely not help you complete a max rep. This is why knowing the proper form and sticking to it is vital for success in your deadlift.
Why is Deadlifting Important?
Deadlifting is such an important exercise for your body. Completing a frequent regiment of deadlifting can immensely improve your overall strength and athleticism in the gym and out of the gym. Studies have proven that deadlifting leads to stronger lifts in many other facets of free weight movements. This is easy to believe when you think about all of the muscles involved in a deadlift. When you properly deadlift, all of your stabilizing muscles in your back and core are working to lift the weight. Also, this is a compound movement, so both your back and your legs are working in harmony to lift that weight off the ground. Increasing core strength carries on over to your squat, bench press, and even military press. I believe that deadlifting is the most important exercise for building strength. This is why it is so important to focus on completing this exercise with proper form.
Here is a step by step lesson on properly completing a deadlift:
Step 1: Position your feet properly.
A vital piece of proper deadlift form is your foundation for the movement. For this step by step method, we will be focusing in on the conventional deadlift (We can discuss the sumo stance deadlift in another article). For a conventional deadlift, you want to make sure your feet are right around shoulder length apart. You should want this distance to feel comfortable. If your feet are too close together, you will not have a good foundation to lift from. If your feet are too far apart, the lift will feel awkward.
Step 2: Position your hands on the bar at a proper distance.
When positioning your hands on the bar, you want to ensure that the inside of your hands are about 2 inches wider than the outside of your feet. The position of your hands may vary person to person, however the most important part is that your hands are not too close so as to feel uncomfortable, and not too far apart which would cause you to have to overextend to complete the movement.
Step 3: Bring your hips down slightly above your knees, keep your chest up. Ensure your back is straight.
Now that you are grasping the bar, bring your hips down and puff up your chest. You want a flat surface from your hips to the top of your head. Make sure not to bend your neck into a weird position, rather keep it in line with the direction of your back. A common issue among poor deadlift form is a bend or rounding of the back during the movement. You want to keep this straight, strong position through the entire movement! Rounding your back can be a serious cause of injury.
Step 4: Lift the weight, maintaining a straight bar path and a fluid motion from start to finish.
Activate your hips and begin picking the weight up. Be sure to activate your lats by trying to push your shoulder blades together. One common mistake is not having a straight bar path. Be sure to try and keep the bar close to your shins as you perform your lift. It's important to note that many professional weightlifters will wear shin guards due to the close contact a bar will make to their shins during frequent lifting. This demonstrates the importance of maintaining a straight bar path through a lift. As your hips rise, so should your torso. A helpful tip would be to film yourself performing this exercise and critique yourself, or have an experienced lifter comment on your form.
Things to Avoid!
Here are some important reminders to avoid when completing a deadlift.
- Be sure not to hyperextend you back at the top of your rep. This will put unnecessary stress on your lower back at the end of your rep.
Below is a perfect example of what not to do. I know right? This dude is Jacked! Well his form sucks... At the top of this rep he is leaning back and hyperextending himself, this puts so much stress on his lower back. This poor guy is gonna be in some pain tomorrow morning. By the look on his face I think he's in pain right now...
- Be sure not to round your back during each repetition.
- Be sure not to bend down too much (hips below your knees) when starting your repetition. This will cause you to put unnecessary stress on your lower back.
- Be sure not to overload the bar with too much weight! Be humble, and if you notice your form starting to lack, it may be a sign to remove some weight from the bar and try again.
Performing a deadlift is not an easy feat, however it is so rewarding. You will notice a huge difference in your effectiveness at the gym in all exercises if you learn how to master this difficult exercise. The most important thing to remember is to always check yourself on your form. Run through these steps multiple times, do your research, watch Youtube videos before performing this movement. After you think you have mastered this movement, allow a few months to go by and then critique your form again and see if you have picked up any bad habits. It is always important to stay humble in the weightroom.