The first and simple reason why I hate the deadlift is that I’ve always sucked at it and making gains on it was the slowest process in the world. Actually the only real time I made decent gains was when I stopped doing them altogether.
I never hurt myself (seriously) doing the deadlift and was scared to do them (how can you be scared picking something up?) and they really aren’t that hard to do. Sure, if you do 20-rep sets they will kick your ass, but so will 20 reps sets on just about any compound movement. My point is that there really isn’t any real reason why I hate the deadlift so much, but I do.
To me, the deadlift was just that thing you had to do in a meet before you could go to dinner. I was NOT one of those “the meet doesn’t start until the bar hits the floor guys.” To me, most meets NEVER started on time and it sure as hell wasn’t when the deadlift began. To regress, deadlifting in a meet wasn’t that bad, it still sucked, but it was a means to a total and I thought that was always the most important thing. What I pulled was always more determined by what I wanted to total than by breaking a deadlift PR. Toward the later years of my career, I knew I could pull between 700-740 pounds on any given day, if I trained the lift or if I didn’t. What I ended up pulling was based on how I finished the squat and bench.
Training the deadlift was much worse. The BEST thing about when I trained at Westside was that we didn’t deadlift often (many times not once for months). We did pin pulls, close stand yoke bar low box squat, TONS of goodmornings, and special movements, such as reverse hypers and glute ham raises. Not only did these increase my squat (and deadlift), they also provided a means to NOT deadlift and that was AWESOME!
Now that I’m retired from the sport, I don’t care if I ever pull another deadlift in my life. I don’t write my own programs, but I will admit if I see the deadlift or pin pull in the program I WILL replace it – even if I have to do three extra movements for 12 extra sets, I would much rater do that then a few sets of deadlifting.
I CAN’T stand the deadlift!
That ONE day
There was ONE day where I almost liked the deadlift, but as usual with the deadlift, that got shot down. I have no idea why, but at a local Ohio meet back in 2002, I pulled my 650-pound opener and it was easy (it always was). I then jumped to 720 pounds for a PR total. Normally I would call it a day and pass the third, but the 720 was really easy. This isn’t “powerlifer talk” it was seriously really easy. I called for 770 pounds on my third attempt for a 30 pound PR. The bar flew up and right before lockout without even slowing down, my right hand popped open and the bar hit the floor.
At this point, I did the infamous “hand stare.” You’ve seen it. You may have actually done it. This is when you drop a pull and look at your hands like WTF just happened.
I was totally confused and did the hand stare for what seemed to be 20 minutes until Louie finally walked over and said, “Your pulls looked really good.” I asked him what the hell happened to my grip. His answer, while classic Louie, just made me hate the deadlift more, “You were never strong enough to have a grip problem before.”
At this point you may be asking why I’m writing this article. Here is the honest answer: we are having a Day of the Deadlift Sale the same day this article is launching, so it can’t help to have this extra promotion. Since I’m writing about something I can’t stand, the least you can do is check out the sale. Hahaha – wait! I’m serious.
I also figured if I’m going to do this, I want to write something that will actually help you all. I’ve been in the sport for a very long time and taught hundreds (if not thousands) of people how to deadlift. For many people it is really as simple as just bending over and picking it up, for others it is a real struggle to teach them how to pull effectively and correctly. Unlike the squat and bench where deep detailed instruction seems to work best, deadlift instruction seems to work best with very simple verbal cues.
This gave me the idea to send an e-mail to Team elitefts™ and ask them for their top three verbal cues when teaching the deadlift. At the end of their tips, I posted mine with a couple videos that I think might help you out.
These tips are listed as Sumo or Conventional. Some of the team provided just how they pull, while others provided tips for each.
- Get your heels underneath the bar
- Sit down, push your knees out to keep shoulders over the bar
- Tight lats/pull the bar BACK
- Arch hard
- Get your hips low
- Take the slack out of the bar and get your whole body tight
- Spread your knees hard
- Spread the floor
- For any style-deadlift, flex your triceps while pulling (this helps prevent bicep tears)
- The hook grip is an excellent way to protect your biceps and back. However, you need to condition your hands for this, especially your thumbs. It gets better every week. Be patient.
- If you are riddled with injuries and still want to pull, try a trap bar.
- Get and keep your hips flexible.
- This applies to either doing 75 to 80 percent work. Ease the weight off the floor. Once it leaves the floor, about two to three inches, then apply as much speed as possible.
- Overextend at the top by trying to get the shoulders behind your waist as fast as you can. The bar will ride the legs and distribute the load better. Squeeze the UPPER glutes at the top to lock the quads in and limit bent-knee lockouts.
- Going back to easing it off the floor, a way to know if you’re getting the legs and glutes in it, once it comes off the floor, if you are holding the best leverages, you literally FEEL the weights drop into the legs, hips and glutes.
- Setup is key
- Get one big breath before grabbing the bar. So many of us lose our air.
- Use your ass from the floor
Disclaimer: I’m such a non-technical lifter and still learning, so my thoughts may be completely wrong.
- Push your abs out as far as you can to take up as much space as they can vertically. When my abs push out, they also force my chest up and keep my lower back from rounding, which is important under heavy loads. The stronger your abs, are the more weight they can hold. I think of it as a turtle shell that runs from my nipples to my nads.
- DO NOT STOP PULLING! A lot of amateur lifters miss their pull because they thought that it was hard and mentally decided to quit pulling. Lifts CAN be finished! It’s just like every grip event, you have to tell yourself that you will NOT quit. The only way that I will stop is if it simply falls out of my hands or drags me back down to the floor.
- Spread your knees out to get your crotch close to bar
- Arch hard and pull your chest up
- Spread the floor
- Start pulling your head back
- Be patient while driving off the floor
- Pull the slack out of the bar
- Don’t jerk the bar off the floor
- Push your feet through the floor and drive your head up
- Set your feet in the most powerful position for your body
- Pull yourself into your arch before breaking the bar off the floor
- Keep your lower back tight, but your upper beck relaxed
- Keep your arms straight, do not bend your elbows
- Lean back to the point that you would fall if the weight was not there to counter balance you
- Keep your head in the neutral position. Neither up nor down, but straight ahead.
- Keep the spine “organized”
- Lean back into the heels and add tension to the glutes and hamstrings
- Scrape the shins and then throw the hips into the bar like you mean to do on a Saturday Night
- Like in those ballet classes you got kicked out of, Plié. Push your knees out along the bar.
- Arch hard
- Sink back into the heels
- Put tension in your hamstrings and glutes and GO!
- Rip the skin from the shins
- For a great deadlift, you have to have “skin in the gym, for the win.”
- Visualize yourself completing the lift ahead of time. The lift is done before you approach the platform.
- Speed is your cue as you approach the bar
- Commit to the pull!
- Pull the slack out of the bar
- Arch your lower back, but don’t shrug your shoulders.
- Keep your hips down, but don’t sit too low. Find the point where you’re in a good position, but still get some pop off the floor.
- Drive down through your heels
- Pull up and back
- Drive your head back as you pull
- Try to push out to the sides with your feet versus down, “spread the floor.”
- Open your groin as much as possible to keep your hips in close and improve your leverage.
- At the start of the pull, use your quads and try to squat the bar off the floor to get it moving quickly, which will keep you in a good position leverage-wise for the lockout.
- Keep your ass down and head up
- After taking the slack out of the bar, rip it off the floor.
- Grip the bar with your hands directly under your shoulders to get the maximum length from your arms and to decrease the distance you have to pull the bar.
- Flex your lats and tris when taking slack out (tri -lat tuck)
- Put your weight on your heels/big toe up
- Drive your hips into bar once it passes the knees”fuck the bar.”
- Fall back at lockout
- Get your head up at the beginning and keep it there the entire time until you finish the lift.
- Make your arms long and relax your shoulders.
- Pull on your heels, but keep your feet flat and toes down.
- Explode but don’t jerk!
- Pull the bar into your legs as close and as hard as you can. Try to drag the skin off your legs.
- If you’re having grip issues at lockout, you may be pushing the bar out in front of you when your hand is against your leg. Try widening your hand spacing.
- Don’t be afraid to use straps in training. It will allow you to focus on the pull without the worry of your grip failing. It will also allow you to work your back evenly.
- If you don’t have a problem with lockout and miss off the floor, open your feet up and push your knees out to the side.
- When you pull, drive your heels into the ground as if you’re pulling yourself into the ground.
- Don’t try to lift the bar straight up! Try to pull the bar back into you.
- When setting your grip, use your elbows to push out your knees before you pull.
- Have a training partner flatten the bar before you pull. When the bar is loaded, sometimes it’s left with a bow when it is let down from loading. If that bow is there when you begin the pull, it can cause an unusual recoil.
- Keep your head up, your chest bowed out and your shoulder blades together.
- At the top, when the weight slows, squeeze your glutes like it’s your first night in prison. This really helps the last few inches to lockout.
- Buy a Metal Pro Deadlift suit. I’m sorry, sometimes I pander…
- “Squat the weight up”
- Thrust your hips forward and squeeze your glutes at the top
- Keep shoulder blades tight
- Always think of your start as a PUSH with the legs, not a PULL with the back.
- When you set up, keep your crotch over the bar the entire time you sit down
- Arch your lower back
- Round your upper back
- Begin the pull by flexing your abs
- Keep your arms straight
- Keep your head UP
- Try to fall over backwards