by James Linker (BSc, PGCertEd)
of Shredded Sports Science
Lifting heavy stuff off the floor is about as primal as an exercise can get, but for many it’s because they’re so hunched over that they look like the earliest members in the timeline of human evolution. The conventional deadlift is an outstanding exercise for developing size and strength, but performing it often leads to the same problems, of which this article will address two.
this article would be 700 pages if it covered everything wrong with this deadlift; fortunately, there's a solid video summary on YouTube 1
1. Hips Shoot Up First
It’s more biomechanically efficient for your hips and chest to rise at the same time when pulling the bar from the floor than for the hips to rise then hinge. This problem arises because your hips are too low to the ground, and your knees and hips overly flexed when you grip the bar. This can cause your quads to detract from your posterior chain’s involvement at the start of the lift, namely the hamstring muscles. The squat is often quad-dominant, but the deadlift is not a squat and should not imitate one.
- Start with higher hips.2 Think “chest up” rather than “hips down.” You will sit into a tighter setup that will allow for a more efficient deadlift. This deadlifting position might feel awkward and tense, but these feelings are desirable when you pull, just not in most other situations.
- Position the bar over your mid foot with your toes slightly pointed outwards, then bring your shins to the bar. Don’t lean forward, as this will shift your weight over your toes. Instead, bend your knees and hips when the bar is positioned over mid foot.
2. Bad Bar Path
You should be dragging the barbell up your shins and thighs when you deadlift, not allowing the bar to drift in front of you. This is hard to notice, but any gap between your legs and the bar results in a biomechanically inefficient deadlift.3
Engage your lats. Imagine holding a one hundred dollar bill between your armpits. When you are pulling the bar, do not let those bills fall to the floor. After all, if you let the barbell drift away from your legs when pulling, you may need that money for medical expenses.
The fixes above revolve around your deadlift setup because that’s usually where most problems arise. Unlike the squat and bench, the deadlift starts from a standstill, so you can’t “fix” a sloppy rep. If the setup is bad, then the deadlift rep is likely doomed. Working on your starting position is generally the best way to rectify the majority of your deadlift problems and avoid resembling the frightened feline mascot of CrossFit fame.
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- latissimus dorsi image: https://rad.washington.edu/muscle-atlas/latissimus-dorsi/