There is no truer test of strength than the deadlift, and no other barbell lift demands more grit.
What is more primal than picking up something heavy? Nothing.
We’ve been hoisting heavy stuff since well before the Pyramids, and we aren’t stopping any time soon.
The deadlift is simple to do, but can be difficult to do well.
Here are four tips that will take your deadlift to the next level.
You aren’t getting tight enough.
First you need to learn how to deadlift well.
Once you’ve positioned your body optimally for the start of your deadlift the next step is not picking up the weight.
The next step is getting tight. And then tighter. And then tighter.
You should be so tight it hurts.
You are looking for maximal contraction of every muscle in your body until it aches.
Then, and only then, are you ready to lift that weight.
Pull out the Slack
Pulling out the slack is paired with getting tight.
Not only do you need to get tight, but you have to use the barbell to accomplish this.
That is where pulling out the slack comes in.
It just means that you have already put upward pressure on the barbell before you decide to lift the weight.
If you “jerk” the weight up or go from just holding the bar to next picking the weight up with maximal force you have not pulled the slack out.
Imagine you are trying to pull a root out of the ground–begin putting pressure on the root (the barbell) swiftly but gradually until it leaves the floor. This prevents you from pulling your body out of position and ensures you apply the appropriate amount of force to lift the load at the right time.
Beginning to pull on the weight takes slack out of the system (your body) and allows for maximal contraction for the biggest deadlifts.
Brush your Hair
Take a video of your deadlift from the side. The end of the barbell should begin directly over the middle of your foot and follow a perfectly vertical line.
To accomplish this you need to move your body around the bar, and not the other way around.
It’s easy to see it on video, but you will only know if your bar path was perfect after it’s already done.
The way to get feedback real time is to keep the bar so close it brushes the hair of your legs from start to finish.
If the bar is too close you will make the lift harder by introducing friction (and bloody shins).
If the bar is too far you will decrease your mechanical advantage making the lift harder.
Brushing your leg hair the entire way up is the perfect distance for huger PRs.
fix your Grip
Most people do their heaviest deadlifts with over/under (mixed) grip. It is naturally very strong because as the bar attempts to roll out of one hand it rolls into the other.
The downside to this grip is the lack of symmetry between your left and right arms. One shoulder will be internally rotated, and the other will be externally rotated. The internally rotated arm (the over hand) tends to stray away from the body during the deadlift and the externally rotated arm (the under hand) usually keeps the bar snug on that side.
This twisting can lead to injury by uneven loading of your left and right halves. It will also lead to asymmetrical development of the shoulders.
The fix is to practice keeping the bar close when using mixed grip, and to reserve mixed grip for your PR attempts.
The majority of your deadlift training should be done with double overhand grip to promote symmetry within the body. This grip is inherently weaker than mixed grip and benefits from using weightlifting straps. If you are concerned that using straps will hinder your grip strength development than I advise you read the case for using straps and prioritize grip training.
By utilizing these four tips to perfect your deadlift you will hit new PRs. However, fixing your form can only do so much. A workout program that will strengthen your weaknesses and add some diversity to your program is essential to continue to make progress in your deadlift. Check out our free Seriously Strong Advanced Program to take your training to the next level.Download The Seriously Strong Advanced Program
For more information on the deadlift visit The Serious Guide to the Conventional Deadlift.