5 Steps that Can Help You Perfect Your Deadlift
The Deadlift setup – what is the best way to set up for your deadlift? This is a very important question. True that the deadlift is probably one of the simplest exercises to do in the gym.
However, it is also one of the most dangerous. Mess with the deadlift and you can really hurt yourself. Getting the deadlift setup right is critical for your success and safety.
Deadlift Workout with a Focus on Form
Sometimes, we need to recalibrate and make sure our deadlift form is perfect. At least as good as possible. Because as you know, bad deadlift form can be a big problem, especially for your back.
And if you have ever had a problem with your back, you know how painful that can be. Besides incapacitating. For example, 15 years ago, at 45, and over 250 pounds, I pulled my back.
All I did was to lean over to close the door of my apartment. That was it, I could not move and could barely walk. So, I am grateful that today, I did a deadlift workout at a weight of 173 pounds.
But, I am still wary of anything that can hurt the back. I am sure preventing lower back injury is important to any other guy over 45 or 50.
Proper form deadlifts will make your back stronger, along with the rest of your body. The deadlift is one of the most powerful exercises that you can do for your body and mind.
At the same time, you must respect the deadlift and learn to lift safely. Then, you can enjoy the remarkable benefits of deadlifts. You can read more about the benefits of deadlifts here.
A New Deadlift Setup based on Starting Strength
With that in mind, I tried out a new way of setting up for the deadlift. I had been setting up for the deadlift by using the romanian deadlift as a cue. Before I reached down to the bar, I imagined that I was doing a romanian deadlift.
The purpose of that was to keep my glutes and hamstrings activated. Active glutes and hamstrings engage the posterior chain, rather than the small muscles of the back.
Well, that seemed to be going okay till last week. I felt a bit of a twinge in my back and immediately looked for a new deadlift setup. I came across a deadlift setup tutorial by Alan Thrall, a powerlifter and strongman from California.
His deadlift setup is based on the book Starting Strength, written by Mark Rippetoe. I tried out this 5 point deadlift set up this morning. All I can say is so far, so good!
Even more than that, I can say that the deadlift workout felt great, both in the lifting and lowering phase. Especially in terms of back stability.
First, as with any training session, make sure that you warm up. If you do not have time to warm up, then you really do not have time to train. Do not lift weights without a minimum 5 minute warm up.
Do jumping jacks, inchworms, floor bridges, to warm up. Good, now we can focus on the deadlift setup.
Deadlift Setup – Step 1 – Feet
If you are a beginner, start with low weights. The best way to do this is to use an olympic barbell with 5 or 10 pound olympic bumper plates. Using olympic bumper plates will keep the barbell high off the ground even if you are not ready for 45 pound plates.
This will help you to keep your back neutral/flat when you deadlift. Put a 5, 10 or 15 pound olympic bumper plate on either side of your barbell. If you are not a beginner, still start with moderate weights.
For advanced lifters, moderate weights start with 45 pound plates on each side.
Walk up to the barbell. Do not move the barbell with your shins. Place your feet under the barbell, so that the barbell is mid foot. Your shins should be approximately one inch away from the barbell.
According to Starting Strength, when the barbell is an inch away, this will be midfoot for every human being on the planet. So, do not worry about your body type, just make sure that the bar is midfoot.
If you are wearing long sweats, you can also check your foot position from the side. This is one reason to wear shorts and deadlifting socks instead of long workout sweats.
Keep your feet about shoulder width or a bit narrower. Let your toes rotate outwards about 30 degrees or one o’clock. (If 0 degrees is 12’o’clock and 90 degrees is 3 ‘o’clock, then 30 degrees is 1 o’clock).
At this point, your feet are in the right position:
- The bar is midfoot.
- An inch away from your shins.
- Your feet are about shoulder width apart or narrower.
- Your feet rotate outwards 30 degrees or 1 o’clock.
Deadlift Setup – Step 2 – Grip
With your hands at your side, just bend forward and grip the bar. Bend over and reach down towards the bar with straight legs.
If you need to bend your knees a bit, do so. Use an overhand grip for both hands as you grip the bar just outside of your legs. Your grip should be about shoulder width.
Do not move the barbell either forward or backwards. At this point, your feet, legs and hands are in the right position:
- Your hands are around the bar with an overhand grip.
- Your arms are right outside of your legs.
Deadlift Setup – Step 3 – Shins
The third step of the deadlift setup will put your hips in the right position. Bend forward a bit at the knees till your shin touches the barbell. Do not move the barbell with your shins. At this point, your feet, legs, hands and hips are all in the right position.
- The bar is midfoot.
- An inch away from your shins.
- Now, your shins are touching the barbell, that is it.
- And your hips are in the correct position for the deadlift.
Come Back and Watch this Great Deadlift Setup Video after Reading the Steps!
Deadlift Setup – Step 4 – Back
Here is where you flatten your back. You want to get your back into a neutral position. Right after you touch your shins to the barbell. Tighten your entire body while lifting your chest.
You will see that as you attempt to lift your chest, your back will flatten out. Now, you will be in position to start your lift. My back felt strong and stable using this technique. I think yours will too.
Remember, the key is to lift your chest after your shins come in contact with the bar. Now your deadlift setup is complete.
Deadlift Setup – Step 5 – Drag
Drag? Yes, now is time for your deadlift. Drag and pull the barbell up your body. You want the barbell to stay in contact with your body during the entire deadlift.
Yes, please wear long pants like these or get a pair of Moxy deadlift socks. I tried them out yesterday and they were great, I wore shorts and could easily see the bar over midfoot. Or, if you do not have workout pants or deadlift socks, try out using deadlift shin guards.
Keep your body tight, the position you had it in when you lifted your chest. As you pull the bar up, do not just think about lifting the weight. You also need to think about pushing against the floor. Your skeletal muscles are voluntary muscles.
This means you need to think what you want to do in order to activate the appropriate muscle(s). You drag the bar up your body while pushing from your feet against the floor. As the bar passes over your knees, make sure to use hip thrust to straighten out.
You should not feel the lift in your back. If you feel the deadlift in your glutes and hamstrings, you are using proper deadlift form.
Deadlift Setup Mnemonic – FGSBD
For Goodness Sake, Begin Deadlifting! F – feet, G – grip, S – shins, B – back and D – drag. That is my attempt for an easy mnemonic to remember the 5 point deadlift setup. If you have a better one, please suggest it. In the meantime, next time you go to deadlift, remember the mnemonic.
What is Your Best Deadlift Setup Technique?
How do you setup for your deadlifts? Do you have a better deadlift setup? Please share!