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5 Ways to Improve Your Deadlift

It’s no secret we have our athletes deadlift quite a bit. There is no bigger bang for your buck exercise when it comes to sports performance. It's a compund lift that does a great job targeting the posterior chain. Most of the time it will be the first lift we perform each week, and I love seeing our athletes get competitive with it and push each other to get stronger. That being said, we don’t want to just chase big numbers without proper technique.

Listed below are 5 ways we’ll cue our athletes to improve their deadlift, get stronger, and stay healthy.

1. Don’t Squat the Hinge

Beginners to the deadlift seem to always want to squat everything.A deadlift is not the same as a squat.

The set-up is crucial to grooving a proper hinging motion. Lots of athletes will break at the knees and squat down to grab the bar. Instead, we should be thinking about pushing the hips back until the hands can reach the bar, and there should be significant tension on the hamstrings. Once you’re in the set up position the hips should be above the knees.

2. Build Tension

This is another crucial part of the set-up, and one of the hardest things for beginners to understand. Your back will thank you if you can create tension and maintain it throughout the lift. A lack of tension will cause the back to round and the hips to rise too fast….This is a recipe for disaster. If someone’s arms bend immediately before they pull off the ground it is a dead giveaway that they are not building tension.

Once in the bottom position you should be actively pulling on the bar and squeezing with a death grip (If the weight were light enough it would come off the ground). This tension needs to be created before you actually pull the bar off the ground.

I prefer beginners to lightly tap (tap-not bounce) the ground and go right into the next rep because that will force them to maintain their tension.

3. Pull Your Scaps to Your Back Pockets

This one goes hand and hand with number 2. This forces your lats to fire and will create tension throughout your upper back.The lats are your largest back muscles and will create the stability needed to keep your back flat and your spine healthy.

4. Take Your Shoes off

Deadlifting barefoot allows you to shift your weight back and better engage your glutes and hamstrings. Lifting in a shoe that has a heel lift will shift your weight anteriorly and can cause an excessive arch to the lumbar spine. With pars fractures being so common these days this is something we want to avoid. Keeping our spine neutral, especially when under load, is very important for spine health.

I see a ton of kids wearing these shoes every day, but these are BAD shoes to lift in.

5. Drive Your Heels into the ground

Think of the deadlift as a pushing exercise just as much as it is a pulling exercise. We want to drive as much force into the ground as we possibly can. One of the cues I commonly find myself giving when a client is hitting a big lift is “Drive, drive, drive!”

Make sure the feet are not too wide as this will not allow you to push into the ground with as much force, and your knees will have nowhere to go but cave inward.

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