Use this 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 by using the Romanian deadlift as a cue. Before I reached down to the bar, I imagined that I was doing a Romanian deadlift variation. 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 setup because back pain meant that I still did not know how to deadlift. I came across a tutorial by Alan Thrall, a powerlifter and strongman from California. Starting Strength, the classic book of basic barbell training is written by Mark Rippetoe, and is the source for Alan Thrall’s 5 step deadlift setup video.
I tried out this 5 step 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. And I can report to you that three months later, I added over 100 pounds to my deadlift.
I started with 10-pound bumper plates on the Olympic bar, which is 65 pounds total. Start with a light weight. So far, so good, always respect the deadlift.
First, as with any strength training session, make sure that you warmup.
[bctt tweet=”If you do not have time to warm up, then you do not have time to train.” username=”HashiMashi”]
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.
Step 1 – Feet Starting Position
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, which will help you to keep your back neutral/flat. 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 midfoot.
- 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 person on the planet. So, do not worry about your body type; make sure that the bar is midfoot.
- If you are wearing long sweats, you can also check your foot position from the side, which is one reason to wear shorts and deadlifting socks instead of long workout sweats. I am a big fan of deadlift socks.
- 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.
Step 2 – Grip
- With your hands at your side, 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 a double overhand grip or mixed grip 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 backward.
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.
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. 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.
Step 4 – Back
- Here is where you flatten your back.
- You want to get your back into a neutral spine position immediately after you touch your shins to the barbell.
- Tighten your entire body while lifting your chest.
- You will see that as you lift your chest, your back will flatten out.
Now, you are in a 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.
Step 5 – Drag
Yes, now it is time for your deadlift.
Drag and pull the barbell up against your body.
You want the barbell to stay in contact with your body during the entire deadlift.
I use the socks together with the long pants.
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, use 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, which means you need to think about what you want to do to activate the appropriate muscle(s).
You drag the bar up against 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 step 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 Technique to Learn How to Deadlift?
Watch Aaron Thrall Demonstrate the 5 Step Deadlift Setup.
How do you set up for your deadlifts? Do you have a better way of learning how to deadlift?
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