Do you ever scroll through instagram, watch YouTube videos, or look at people at your gym deadlifting 500, 600, and even 700lbs like it’s nothing? Do you ever wonder how in the world do they make it look so easy while you have no idea what you’re doing wrong? Want to figure out how you can increase your deadlift by 50, even 100lbs? Here are some basic things that you might NOT be doing with your deadlift that you NEED to start doing NOW!
Have you ever had someone tell you to keep your “abs tight” and have no idea what they’re talking about? What they mean is for you to BRACE. This is probably one of the most crucial and important pieces of deadlifting, along with every other lift. In order to brace, you have to fill your body up with air by taking a big breath, and then lock your abs into position, making sure there’s no instability in your lift.
What does this mean? Think of your body as a building. WIthin that building is the foundation. If that foundation isn’t strong and sturdy, the entire building will collapse. Think of your core (abs) as the foundation, and without them being strong and sturdy, your body and your form will collapse and break down.
Bracing will be how you stay “tight” through the entire lift, making sure you hold your breath through the entire movement, keeping your abs locked in the whole time.
If you’re interested in taking a deeper look into bracing, I will be covering why bracing is so important, exercises to help with developing a strong core, and why a 6-pack doesn’t mean that you have strong abs in my next article!
2) Foot placement
Now that you’ve gotten the fundamentals of how to stay tight, we have to talk about the position and form. For now, we’ll just talk about how to set-up for a conventional deadlift, but I will go over the differences between a sumo and conventional deadlift in a later article.
A basic and easy way to set-up for your deadlift is to walk up to the bar and begin with your feet shoulder width. If you’re still not sure where to put your feet, just jump up and wherever your feet end up landing is a good starting position. From here, you can move your feet closer or wider, depending on comfort and leverages.
One big mistake I see a lot of people do is keep their hands too close to their legs at the start of the deadlift. If your hands are too close to your legs, your knees end up caving in to make room for your arms. This ends up putting you in a disadvantageous position because now your glutes are out of play, making your lower and mid back the driving force of your deadlift. This is an easy way to get hurt, which is NOT what we want. You want to make sure your feet are at a good distance apart and your hands are about thumbs-distance from your legs. This way, your knees won’t come in and you can engage your hips and glutes much more throughout the movement.
3) Bar Placement
Now we have to discuss where you should line up to the bar. There are a few things that can play a role in where you line the bar up, but for now, we’ll keep it as simple as possible. A good way to start is by lining up the bar with the middle of your shoelaces. Why the middle of your foot? If the bar is too far away from you, there are some key muscles not being engaged in order to lift the most amount of weight you can in the most efficient way possible. One of those muscles being your lats, or upper back. With your arms being too far in front of you, you are susceptible to rounding your back, which can make locking out the lift very hard, and can possibly lead to injury. With the bar being so far away from your body, you can also be taking your legs out of the equation, making your lower back the driving force, which can again lead to injury.
If you line up too close to the bar, you can be risking the bar rolling forward as you set up without even realizing it, resulting in everything we just discussed.
4) Basic Set-up
Let’s talk about form for a minute. There are a lot of different ways you can set up your deadlift depending on leverages, how tall/short you are, strengths, mobility, the list goes on. For now, let’s keep it basic and simple. You might want to write this down. Here it goes….
Keep your butt lower than your shoulders.
That’s it. The simplest way to make sure you’re in a good position for a deadlift is that your butt is lower than your shoulders. By doing this, you’re allowing your body to use your legs, while also getting upper back involvement. If your hips are too high, you’re taking the chance of getting too much lower back in the movement, leading to injury and a weak deadlift. Your strongest pull will be because of how well you are getting your legs and hips into the exercise.
5) Don’t Just Pull...Push
One common mistake I see so many people do is think of a deadlift as just a pulling motion. Although you are pulling the bar off the ground, you are also PUSHING! You want to think about starting the lift by actively pushing your feet down into the ground, while pulling your upper back up to the ceiling. Once you get the bar past your knees, you’re then thinking of pushing your hips and butt to the bar while still driving your upper back and chest up. At the end of your lift, your knees should be locked out and your butt should be squeezed.
There are a lot of other factors that go into a deadlift. Like I’ve talked about, there are many different unique things that individualize the movement to different people. This is a simple check-list you can use to see what mistakes you might be making with your deadlift. Try these tips out for your next deadlift session and let me know how you like them! Be on the lookout for more content on how to get as strong as possible and if you’re really not sure about your lifting and want some guidance, contact us for a free evaluation so we can get started on getting better today!