The 6 Most Common Deadlift Technique Mistakes

Strength Training 4 min Read

Written by

Keith Hansen

Everyone loves the deadlift because it seems so simple.

Grab the bar, pick it up, and then set it down.

But it isn’t that simple. There is a lot going on with the deadlift.

Read The Serious Guide to the Conventional Deadlift to learn the right technique.

Read this article to learn the 6 most common deadlift faults.

1. Twisting

Twisting happens when the bar does not stay parallel to your feet. One end of the bar gets farther away from your body and loads you unevenly. This is very dangerous for your back.

There are two ways this happens.

The most common is when people use an over/under grip on the bar and fail to keep it close. Pay attention when you use the over/under grip and avoid this mistake (and potential injury) by keeping the bar CLOSE.

Twisting also happens when there is asymmetrical strength in the body. Your body will always take the path of least resistance, and it may twist the bar to load up your strong side. You can use the mirror, unilateral work, and a friend’s eyes to identify strength/development asymmetries in your body.

Fix them using unilateral (dumbbells, single leg work) exercises.

2. Gapping

This is the most common fault I see in beginners and failed deadlifts.

Gapping occurs when the bar separates from the body. In a great deadlift, the bar will maintain contact with your body the entire way up and down the lift. This is the reason long socks are a requirement for powerlifting competitions—it keeps the competitor’s flesh out of the knurling.

When viewed from the side the bar will start over the mid-foot and travel perfectly vertical.

This gapping can occur because of an incorrect starting position where the bar is too far forward (not over the mid-foot). This is easily fixed by adjusting your starting position.

This guy didn’t get close enough to the bar when setting up.

It can also be caused by a lack of tightness in the lats. To fix this ensure you are actively pulling the bar into your body by activating your lats.

3. Yanking

Yanking is guaranteed to throw your deadlift form off. It’s painful to watch, and it can be incredibly painful if it causes you to pull a muscle.

That same guy from above did yanking.

Yanking happens when you go from zero effort to max effort all at once. It creates a distinct clanking sound on the plates. It’s a sound I associate with bad technique.

Read more about it under the “Rip it from the Floor” cue in the article 5 Conventional Deadlift Cues That Suck.

Apply force to the bar swiftly but gradually. You want to increase the force on the bar until it lifts off the ground. Don’t try to yank it off the floor.

4. Hitching

Hitching occurs when the bar stalls above the knee. People will then set the bar on their thighs to rest muscles for an instant before trying to jerk the bar up the rest of the way.

CrossFit has been made famous for this as it is legal in competition. Powerlifting federations do not allow hitching. In fact, powerlifting competitions will disqualify a deadlift if it stops moving up at any time even for an instant, with or without hitching.

Hitching is no good because it means you broke form at the beginning of your lift. You rounded your back and straightened your legs instead of extending your hips to get the bar off the ground.

That same, poor guy, hitched because he yanked and gapped.

5. Slipping

This just means the bar is slipping out of your hands.

If your grip isn’t 100% locked in it will distract you from focusing on the rest of your deadlift.

Use chalk. Train your grip. Use straps when you need to.

Trust me. A solid grip makes an enormous difference in your ability to deadlift well.


This means you aren’t finishing the deadlift. You’re slacking.

Full range of motion in the deadlift consists of fully extended (locked out) knees and hips with your shoulders behind the bar.

Anything short of that doesn’t count in competition, and it means you aren’t getting everything you can out of the deadlift.

Most people have an issue with reaching the “finish” position of the deadlift if they made any of the previous 5 mistakes.

You can also slack with a fake lockout where your hips don’t fully extend but the lower back arches to mimic a finish position of a deadlift. If your hips don’t extend then you’re doing your glutes and your lower back a disservice.

Touch & go deadlifts are an acceptable time to short the lockout, but if you are setting a PR or lifting in competition you must reach lockout.

This guy didn’t reach lockout.

Fix Your Deadlift

Check out The Serious Guide to the Conventional Deadlift to learn proper technique.

Get Strong

Follow one of our FREE training programs like the beginner program below to train your deadlift.

Download The Seriously Strong Beginner Program

Keith Hansen

Keith was an All-State wrestler in high school and in 2007 hung up his singlet to attend Florida State University to pursue a B.S. in business management. He wasn't sure what industry he wanted to be involved in at the time, but soon realized after graduating in 2011 that fitness was the ever-constant activity in his life. Keith began studying to become a personal trainer and in 2013 earned the National Strength and Conditioning Association's Personal Trainer certification. After a short stint as a big box gym trainer he realized he wanted to bring something different to Tallahassee. Keith competes in Powerlifting, Olympic Weightlifting, and Crossfit.