The Physics Preventing your Next Deadlift PR

Strength Training 3 min Read

Written by

Keith Hansen

You tried and failed.

Maybe the bar wouldn’t leave the ground.

Possibly you couldn’t finish the lockout.

There are many reasons your deadlifts can fail,

First, make sure you’ve read The Serious Guide to the Conventional Deadlift.

Then let’s break down the physics.

escape Velocity

Escape velocity is the minimum speed required for an object to escape the gravitational pull of another body.

If lifting the bar requires 99% of the force you are physically capable of producing it will not leave the ground at 98% effort.

This is fact, and it’s the same thing that stops rockets from leaving Earth.

If you aren’t used to exerting incredibly high levels of force you will not set your next deadlift PR. This is called grit, and it is why people can lift weights that don’t look possible.

This is the reason linear progression is important. It lets you learn how it feels to use incrementally more of your body’s potential with each session. If you aren’t already following a good training program download the free Seriously Strong Intermediate Program for 12 weeks of programmed deadlifts, squats, bench presses, and more.

Crane Arm

Check out this video of a crane failing while lifting a plane.

That’s what happens when you lose tightness in your torso during a deadlift. This is why it is critical that you get as tight as humanly possible at the beginning of your lift, and maintain rigidity for the duration.

It is the difference of lifting a cinder block with a fishing pole versus a steel rod.

It is your glutes and hamstrings that are producing the majority of force necessary for a deadlift, but your torso is the medium of transfer for this force. If your back does not stay tight you will bleed force and increase your chances of injury.

Tip: Record your deadlift from the side. If your back changes shape at any point during the lift it is preventing your PR. Build a stronger back, improve your mechanics, and develop a stronger core.


Your body is a series of levers. Muscles pull on bones to rotate them around joints. This is how we move.

Our incredibly complex body is made up of simple machines.

This makes it very easy to understand good lifting mechanics, and deadlift PRs rely on this.

To maximize your lifting potential you must master your mechanics. In the deadlift, we need the barbell as close as possible to your body, and directly midway over your base of support. That’s just a fancy word for the balance point of your foot (usually the midfoot).

Ensure the bar is lifting vertically without twisting. Twisting is very common when using the under/over grip necessary for heavy deadlifts. Twisting creates an uneven load on the body and moves the bar away from your base of support.

Start with the bar over your midfoot. Keep it in contact with your body the entire way up to maximize your mechanics. Any separation decreases your mechanical advantage and makes the lift significantly harder.

Tip: Record your deadlift from the side. If your bar does not travel perfectly vertical there is work to be done.

How to Boost your Deadlift PR

First you need to visit The Serious Guide to the Conventional Deadlift to learn how it’s done.

Then you need to follow a good beginner or intermediate program.

If you’ve got all of those bases covered you should read 6 Exercises That Will Boost Your Conventional Deadlift Max.

Ready for more? Check out our Advanced Program.

Download The Seriously Strong Advanced 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.