Who Is Alan Thrall?
Alan Thrall is a Strongman, Powerlifting and Olympic Weightlifting competitor, former Marine, and the owner of Untamed Strength powerlifting and strongman gym in Sacramento, California.
His awards include:
- 2014 – 1st Place Northern Nevada’s Strongest Man
- 2015 – 1st Place California’s Strongest Man
Even though Alan does not know it, he is also my coach along with Mark Rippetoe, the author of Starting Strength.
When I first started to deadlift at the age of 55, I was reluctant to ask for advice from anyone in the free weight area of the gym.
They seemed to be a different breed from the machine goers.
I did not feel like I belonged there.
While I felt right at home in the machine area, that was not the case in the free weight area.
Like most others using weight machines, I was overweight and no one would ever believe I even tried lifting weights.
But, once you enter the free weight area, everything changes;
- the noise level increases
- less chatter and more serious atmosphere
- and you can tell that these people have transformed their physiques
So, one day I found Alan Thrall’s wildly entertaining and informational youtube channel.
It was an important turning point for me because I could finally get some advice on how to deadlift.
And some desperately needed laughs as well.
And Alan Thrall’s deadlift tips, not to mention squats, bench press, training, gear, and nutrition strategies, are all excellent, as you would expect from a strongman and powerlifting maven.
Not everyone has all day to watch youtube videos, so I have curated Alan Thrall’s deadlift tips that helped me improve my deadlift technique and avoid injury.
My comments are interwoven and sometimes highlighted by an * asterisk.
Getting hurt is quite common if you fail to pay attention, especially on the deadlift, and even the more so if you are over 50.
Learning How to Deadlift at age 55
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25 Best Alan Thrall’s Deadlift Tips
#1. Best Stance – Test Your Vertical Jump
Test your vertical jump to determine your best stance.
*Think of the deadlift as a vertical leg press.
You need to push the floor away from you when you start your lift.
To maximize your pushing power, you want your stance to be the same as if you were aiming to jump as high as possible.
So, test what your stance is for a vertical jump, and use that same stance under the bar.
Generally, your stance will most likely be hip-width.
But, everyone is different, so make sure to see how far apart your feet are for a vertical jump.
#2. Foot Placement
Now that you have your stance, the next question is how close should your feet be to the barbell?
Your shins should be approximately an inch away from the bar.
Another way of setting up is to line up the barbell with the middle of your foot from your heel to your toes.
*A good cue for the middle of your foot is to line up the barbell with the laces of your sneakers.
#3. Hand Placement on the Bar
How far apart should your hands be on the barbell for the deadlift?
Raise your hands up to shoulder height in front of you.
Then, let your hands fall down to your sides.
Where your hands land is the correct placement on the bar.
Generally, most people will find that their arms are just outside of their knees with this hand placement.
But, you have to test what hand placement feels best to you.
Some people will perform better with a wider grip.
You have several grip options:
- Double overhand grip – you grasp the bar with both hands in the overhand position with your thumbs below the bar.
- Alternating grip – use an overhand grip for your dominant hand and underhand or supinated grip with your non-dominant hand.
- And if you do not value your thumbs, you can use the double overhand hook grip.
*My suggestion is to use the double overhand grip as long as you can.
Once the weight gets too heavy, then you can switch to the alternating grip, however, never try to lift the bar with your arms, because that could lead to a bicep injury.
#5. Hip and Scapula Position
Your scapula, the shoulder blades should be directly over the barbell before you begin your pull.
And as a result, your shoulders and collarbone will be slightly forward of the barbell.
This alignment of your scapula over the bar will help you lift the bar in a straight line.
Deadlifting in a straight line is the shortest distance to the top, and the safest.
To get this alignment, your hips have to be positioned correctly, which means that they cannot be too low nor too high.
If you set up with your hips in more of a squat position, then your shoulders will be behind the barbell, which is a terrible position for a deadlift.
With your hips too low, your knees will block the ascent of the bar, and you will not completely engage your posterior chain, as now this positioning is more quad dominant.
On the other hand, if your hips are too high, your scapula is forward of the barbell which is a difficult position to initiate the deadlift.
To sum up, your hips should not be too high, or too low.
*Don’t squat, rather bend your knees enough for your hands to reach the bar, set your grip, lift your chest, and make sure that your back is flat and shoulder blades are directly over the barbell.
#6. Head Position
Keep your head position neutral and look slightly down.
#7. Locked and Loaded Starting Position
Now the fun part starts; learning how to deadlift.
You might think that all you have to do is bend over casually and pick up the barbell.
That is an excellent way to get hurt.
You do not want to hurt your back, elbow, biceps, or hamstrings deadlifting.
*You can even get lateral epicondylitis aka tennis elbow deadlifting, as I did, so this next section is critical to get right.
- The barbell is over your midfoot
- Your feet are about hip-width apart
- And your hips are not too high or too low
- They are in between the height of your knees and shoulders
- You shoulderblades are directly over the barbell
- And your arms are straight and locked
- Loose noodle arms are another great way to get injured, so, don’t do it
- You have a tight grip on the barbell just outside of your knees
- With your head in a neutral position slightly looking down
- Lift your chest
- Pull yourself into a locked and loaded position
- Your lats must be engaged
- *You can engage your lats by imagining that you will bend the barbell over your shins
- Tighten your body like a spring
Your starting position is tight and braced, which means that you have taken in a full breath and braced your entire core.
If you only have time to watch some Alan’s How to Deadlift video from 2014, make sure to see the starting position segment that starts at 5 minutes and 25 seconds into the video.
Watch Alan Thrall demonstrate how to pull yourself into the deadlift position
#8. Pull Out the Slack
Pull the slack out of the barbell before you begin your leg drive to initiate the deadlift, which means that you slightly lift the bar till you hear the click of the barbell against the loaded plates.
This cue indicates that you are flexed and ready to explode.
#9. Standing Up
Your knees and hips need to open from their starting position and lockout at the same time.
How do you do that?
- Get a training partner to check your deadlift form
- Record your lifts with your phone or video recorder
- It’s all about what you are thinking in your head, for example:
- Imagine that the barbell is chained to the floor and cannot be moved.
- But, the ground below you CAN be moved.
- So, pull yourself down to the bar as explained above in #7
- and drive your feet through the floor trying to push the ground away from you
Thinking about this image will help you use maximum leg drive to break the bar off the floor.
Once the bar is up to your knees, squeeze your glutes together as hard as you can and drive your hips into the barbell.
#10. Lowering the Barbell
Lower the barbell in a straight line, just as you lifted it.
#11. Touch and go or Dead Stop?
Should you do touch and go deadlifts, or deadlift from a full stop?
Bouncing deadlifts off the floor is an invitation for injury.
*Tennis elbow was my result from touch and go deadlifts, don’t let that happen to you.
Instead, deadlift from a full stop.
However, one benefit of touch and go training is that it increases your time under tension.
So, if you choose to do them, use lighter weights for higher reps at the end of your workout.
#12. Quick Recap of Allen Thrall’s Deadlift Tips
- Feet hip-width
- Hands straight down
- Shoulder blades over the bar
- Head neutral
- Pull yourself down to the bar
- Drive your feet through the floor
- Squeeze glutes together
- Lower the bar in a straight line
And Train Untamed!
#13. Get Deadlift Shoes
Last but not least, you need to forget about deadlifting in a comfortable impact-absorbing pair of running shoes.
If you don’t care about getting injured, then, by all means, stay with the sneakers.
But, if you want to train safely and effectively, you do need to invest in the right gear for the deadlift.
Buying additional footwear was not something I believed would make a difference, until I tweaked my knee.
Immediately I was humbled and got me a pair of Nike Metcon 4 cross-training shoes.
You need a pair of deadlift shoes that have a flat sole and will provide you with excellent support closer to the ground and the barbell.
Do not wear a squishy pair of gym shoes that will have your legs wobbling.
It is not safe.
Why The Deadlift?
Because I was obese and had a bad knee, I was looking for an exercise that would exercise most of your body’s muscles but did not require as much mobility.
I wanted an exercise that would demand more from my body than ever before.
An exercise that would be akin to plowing the earth and preparing it for planting.
The reason was when I visited Wolffer’s Estate, a vineyard on Long Island, the thought occurred to me that I could best treat my Depression and obesity by physically strenuous exercise.
Similar to how the earth needs to be plowed before planting.
When I searched online, I read many articles about the deadlift.
I was terrified to try it because of my age, obesity, a torn meniscus in my left knee, and previous back problems.
When I told neighbors in my building I wanted to try it out – they almost plotzed (fainted) saying it is way too dangerous.
Fortunately, I went against my typically cautious nature and did, because the deadlift saved my life.
Alan Thrall Deadlift Tips – Final Thoughts
You can learn just about anything at Youtube University, including how to deadlift.
Alan is an excellent instructor and motivator, besides having a funny sense of humor.
If you want to learn all about deadlifts, be sure to check out his youtube channel.
The deadlift helped me finally beat obesity and depression at the age of 55.
I’d hate for you to wait that long.
Alan Thrall’s deadlift tips will help you get lean and strong, even if you’re over the age of 50!
If you are struggling with obesity or it’s correlated diseases like:
- high blood pressure
- type 2 diabetes
- high cholesterol
Know that the deadlift can help you change your life.
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