Introduction to a Perfect Deadlift
This is the proper form deadlift checklist I wish I had when I started to deadlift. A lack of good form is a recipe for disaster, especially for beginners who are not seasoned weight lifters.
A lower back injury is not what you want. You are looking for the great strength and fitness gains that will come from using correct form for ever set and every rep.
I experienced plenty of strains, lower back pain and even tennis elbow because of poor form and lack of information. The deadlift appears to be a simple move, but it is more complex than meets the eye.
Some people are naturals, but I was not and when you deadlift after the age of 50, deadlifting is a humbling experience.
This post will give you a checklist for beginners to ensure that you are using the best form possible for the conventional deadlift.
1. Warm Up
- First, make sure that you are warmed up!
- You cannot just walk into the gym and start doing deadlifts cold.
- You can, but I think that is playing with fire.
- A great way to warm up for deadlifts is with squats.
- Now, if you are not up to squats yet or do not do them, no worries, other good ways of warming up is walking and stretching at the minimum or any other type of activity that will get your body feeling more flexible and breaking a bit of a sweat.
2. Start Light
- Don't start with heavy weight.
- Always do warm up sets first, and then your work sets.
- My suggestion is to start light, whatever that is for you.
- I first started doing deadlifts with the olympic bar and 2.5lbs on each side for a grand total of 50 lbs.
- Hey, that was enough for me to actually start to see results, the first of which was that I was incredibly sore in my legs and back just from that light weight.
- Now I warm up with 95 lbs and am working my way up to deadlifting 170 lbs, but when I am not feeling strong enough like today, I am not going to go for a heavier weight, just enough to maintain and not go backwards.
- So, no matter how great your form is, if the weight is too heavy, trouble is brewing, therefore, please start light and gradually increase the weight.
- You do not have to lift heavy to see amazing benefits from deadlifting.
3. Approach the Bar
- Approach the bar.
- Do not move the barbell around to set up your starting position.
- Rather, place your feet a little narrower than shoulder width apart underneath the bar.
- Your feet should be in a jump comfortable width stance. Meaning, that if you were getting ready to jump as high as possible, what width would you position your feet? That is the correct width underneath the bar. Depending on your most powerful stance to jump, that is the correct width. For many people, at this width, your feet are just within the knurlings on the barbell.
- The barbell should be close to but not touching your shins.
- The bar should be about in the middle of your feet when you look down.
- To check, make sure that the barbell is directly above the laces on your shoes.
- You do have deadlift shoes right? While this post is about correct deadlift form and alignment, you need to get deadlift shoes. See this post about how to protect your shins from scraping.
- If you place your feet too wide, then you will be interfering with your grip and if too narrow, then you will not have good balance when lifting the bar.
4. Get a Grip
- The next most important phase of a proper form deadlift is getting a very good grip on the bar.
- Some people use an overhand grip for both hands and some use one overhand and one underhand.
- I prefer the latter with my right hand being underhand.
- Deadlifting with this type of overhand and underhand grip feels more balanced to me.
- See which one you like better. In any case, no matter which grip you use, get a good grip, a strong grip and make a commitment to deadlift this weight.
- As you can imagine, the deadlift will build phenomenal grip strength.
- Use a double overhand grip or mixed grip and grab the bar firmly with both hands.
- Focus on your deadlift to stay safe and free from injury.
- Stop thinking about other things that are not related to your deadlift.
5. Keep Your Back Straight
- Read this subheadline once again, or maybe a hundred times more, keep your back straight.
- This means that when you are in the squat position, at the low point of your squat, your back must be straight and solid.
- You must not ever do deadlifts with a rounded back.
- When you lower yourself to the bar, you use a hip hinge, you hinge your hips backward.
- This means that you do not bend your back to reach the bar.
- Again, you push your hips back, hinge your hips back and keep your back neutral and straight.
- Then you will feel yourself lowering towards that bar.
- That is not a proper form deadlift, that is a recipe for a back injury. You might think that it is better to not deadlift so as to avoid lower back pain. The irony is that according to bornfitness.com, he writes that “studies indicate that the deadlift can fix low back pain by strengthening the spinal erectors, or the muscles that maintain the integrity of the spine. According to research, the deadlift trains this musculature better than anything.”
- Practicing perfect deadlifts every time will strengthen your posterior chain plus the rest of your body. And not hurt your back. Remember to keep a neutral spine.
- When you are gripping the bar:
- Your feet are shoulder width under the bar.
- Grip the bar with a strong grip.
- Your shoulder blades are directly above the barbell.
- Hips must be a bit lower than your shoulders.
- Lift your chest up to straighten your back.
- Keep your head neutral.
- Spot the floor or wall in front of you.
6. Deep Breath and Lift
- When you feel like you are ready to go for the deadlift,
- Take a deep breath, tighten your core and keep it solid
- Start your lift by driving with your feet and legs against the floor.
- Push against the floor as if you are doing a leg press.
- Do not use your arms to lift the weight.
- You are going to use the power of your legs and your straight solid back to lift the weight.
- The bar will rise as you are driving with your legs and keeping your back straight, somewhat in a straight line from the floor to past your knees, legs and you will settle into the top position holding the weight.
7. Keep the Hold and Lower
- Maintain the hold of the bar and weight for a couple of seconds once you are standing up straight.
- Do not lean back, just stand straight with the barbell in your hands and feeling the power that you just generated.
- Using the best form is going to minimize your exposure to injury.
- Deadlifting is a risky activity for those who are sloppy, lazy or just lose their concentration.
- Hold the bar for a moment in the upright position.
- Now lower the bar the way you brought it up.
- The number of reps is up to you, sometimes I will do a max of five reps and sometimes just one rep, because I think that even just one rep is the functional use of a deadlift.
The deadlift is the premier full body exercise to work most of your muscle groups simultaneously. No matter what your age, the deadlift can make you look and feel like an athlete.
For example, last week I helped my sister in law on the way to the airport. Here I was, in front of my wife and mother in law and sister in law. The suitcase weighed in at 90 pounds, 30 pounds over the limit.
It was large and bulky and I had three pairs of eyes on me. Could I lift this suitcase into the trunk of the car and pull it out?
So, I looked at that suitcase like a barbell. And then did my best to execute a perfect form deadlift with that suitcase. Voila, I picked it up easily with no back strain. Even better, I got a nod of approval from my mother in law as having done a good job.
That is what I mean when I say building strength has real life functional benefits. Now, once I lifted the suitcase one time, I was not going to take it out of the trunk, put it back in over and over again. Once was enough!
I would like to hear comments about best practices for the deadlift in your experience.
Thanks for reading and please let me know if you found this information on perfecting your deadlift useful or not.