10 WAYS TO ADD 10KG TO YOUR DEADLIFT TODAY
Mastering the deadlift is a crucial element of becoming a better powerlifter, as well as to seeing the most of your strength training across a number of sports
Creating total stiffness through the body while coordinating the structures of the pelvis and ribcage to overcome the greatest possible weight from a dead stop is one of the truest and most raw expressions of strength achievable with the human body.
As a powerlifter, your golden rule of thumb is that if you cannot be the strongest outright at a competition then you will always want to be the heaviest deadlift - it statistically contributes the highest proportion of weight to your total, as well as providing a strategic advantage by being the final lifter in competition if you happen to have the outright heaviest attempt, which can make or break your performance
There is also a TON of unfortunate misinformation out there surrounding the lift due to misunderstandings of the mechanics of the spine, how we perceive injury & pain, and the execution of deadlifting technique
To make this as simple as possible, I have refined the TEN MOST KEY POINTS for deadlifting success that you can implement tomorrow to start putting kilos on the bar, and leaving fear & worry behind you
Let’s take a look:
1. LEARN HOW TO BRACE PROPERLY
When we brace properly and effectively we prepare the body for accommodating force - considering you’re about to drive as much force down into the bar and floor as humanly possible, it’s a good idea to make sure that your brace is on point.
Bracing, however, seems to remain a fairly ephemeral and poorly explained concept.
Traditionally bracing is taught as a large breath in - however, you’ll quickly find that this is often a very poor strategy for bracing because it:
- Lengthens the abdominals, lets the ribs and extends the lumbar spine
- Shifts the centre of gravity forward of the bar
While you’re unlikely to notice your weight shifting forward as being a problem when there is minimal weight on the bar, when you’re deadlifting weights far and above your bodyweight it becomes absolutely crucial to pull your weight back behind the bar, get the ribs down and drive as much power into the floor as you can.
Fully exhale, like you’re blowing up a balloon, until you feel the abs engage and the ribs pull back - take a little breath in through the nose, keeping the abs tight and ribs down.
This is an ideal braced position for the deadlift.
2. ECCENTICALLY LOAD YOUR POSITION
When you bench press and squat your body gains an advantage from eccentrically loading into the position i.e. the ‘lowering/lengthening’ phase of the lift.
As you bring the weight down your body’s natural stretch-reflex will assist in creating an incredible amount of tension as the muscle lengthens and force increases.
HOWEVER in the deadlift, especially for a heavy 1RM or single, you get no such advantage - you are pulling from the floor and finishing at the hip.
This means you need to be aware of building tension in the lift as you approach the bar - you should feel the hamstrings tighten and create tension through the legs as you lower yourself to the bar.
If all you do is crouch down and grab the bar, you’re leaving a lot of precious kilos behind.
After you brace, drive the hips back as you lower yourself to meet the bar - you should feel the hamstrings tighten as you do so.
Draw the hamstrings and tailbones towards the back of the head to lengthen them - if they feel TOO TIGHT, you are likely over-arching, in which case relax the lumbar and ease off enough tension to ensure you reach the bar in a strong but manageable position.
3. DON'T WASTE TIME ONCE YOUR HANDS ARE ON THE BAR
Once your hands are on the bar, it’s go time
The longer you sit in the bottom position of the deadlift, the more you are going to begin to relax as well as mentally psyche yourself out from the lift
Do all of your mental preparation long before the hands touch that bar - run through your mental inventory of the 1-2 cues you want to have as a focus, reach the hips back, brace hard, then push with the legs
If you’re hanging out at the bottom trying to psyche yourself up for the lift, don’t. Reset your position, start from the top, do the mental work, then as soon as you touch that bar you GO.
4. KEEP YOUR HIPS HIGHER THAN YOU THINK
A lot of power can be lost when the hips are too low and the knees are too forward. Striking a balance between a more squat-dominant position vs a hinge-dominant position is key to creating power in both the conventional and sumo stance deadlift, both of which require a far higher hip position than most people believe.
In conventional deadlifting, if the knees are too far forward this will drive the bar too far away, often causing you to miss at lockout or have the bar drift away from the shins at the beginning of the lift.
In Sumo, if the hips aren’t kept high the bar will become caught on the knees - getting the knees out of the way and into extension QUICKLY is the cornerstone of good sumo deadlifting.
A higher hip position will not only generate more tension and power through the hamstrings, glutes and quads but also ensure that you’re not unnecessarily loading the knee with a vertical shin and losing power off of the floor.
5. KEEP THE ARMS LONG
Powerlifting is all about maximising efficiency in movement. The more efficiently you move, the more kilos you are going to stack onto the bar.
Many people confuse two key muscles - the rhomboids and the lats. They’re told to engage their lats in the deadlift (which IS important) but are CUED to pull their shoulders back, which instead engages the rhomboids and places the lats into insufficiency.
When we keep the arms long we not only shorten the distance between the hands and the bar, leading to a faster lockout with the bar now needing to travel significantly less distance, but also creates significantly more mechanical leverage with the lats now lengthened around the rib cage, keeping the bar close to the body throughout the lift.
6. Forget About Vertical Shins
SOME forward knee travel is fine in both conventional and sumo stance deadlift.
When we have a completely vertical shin, this often displaces the hip too far back for us to effectively drive our force DOWN into the floor, along with throwing the chest too far forward.
We want to allow for some forward knee travel to allow a conventional deadlift to maintain midfoot pressure and create a more explosive movement off of the floor, as well as to allow a sumo deadlift to keep the hips closer & more over the bar to drive forcefully down.
7. Forget About Neutral Spine
Neutral is an important concept if you struggle with end range movement i.e. you find that you have a big bias toward EITHER extension or flexion.
However this can often be very self limiting, with people fixating on the idea that we must always be neutral and never flexed and minimising their ability to produce power off the floor or at lockout as a result.
The best kind of deadlift is dynamic - we need a more flexion dominant position at the start so that we can move into a more extension dominant finish. Trying to stay in one position, and one position only, throughout the lift is just an exercise in futility.
Build your capacity in both extension AND flexion by utilising variations like SSB squats, good mornings, zercher squat & split squat variations etc.
8. Pronate the Foot & Treat it Like a Leg Press
Take a look at your foot!
Which toe looks like it’s made for pushing? Your BIG toe (hint: it’s in the name) or your little toe?
There’s a reason the big toe, heel, ball of the foot (first metatarsal) and arch of the foot can all flatten into the floor and take at tremendous amount of force - it’s what they’re structurally best at.
While there is a lot of talk about tripod foot, or pulling the floor apart, in practice the majority of your force production will come from the inside of the foot as you pronate aka drive force down over the inside of the foot.
Learning to do this and treating your deadlift more like a standing leg-press than a pulling motion will instantly transform your ability to create power.
9. KEEP THE ARMPITS OVER THE BAR
While this may seem initially counter intuitive, it’s incredibly important to make sure that you keep yourself positioned over (not in front of) the bar during the deadlift.
The temptation (and bad old school cueing) will always be to lift the chest early, but all this does is allow the bar to drift forward, limit force production DOWN into the floor, and shift your gravity forward.
Instead, think solely about keeping your armpits in line with the bar the entire time and allowing your hips to come through to ‘meet the bar’ rather than a dramatic hip thrust at the end!
10. PULL YOUR BODY INTO THE FLOOR TO PULL THE SLACK
When the bar is heavy, you want to use it as a tool. It’s crucial to make sure that you’re not ripping on a bar that has zero tension in it so that you don’t get thrown forward as the plates break from the floor.
However, many people rely too heavily on trying to pull the bar up - even pulling the tension up too early and not allowing themselves time or space to get into a more optional position for the lift.
Instead, we have our lifters conceptualise nearly the opposite - rather than pulling the bar to you, think about using the weight of the bar to wedge yourself down between it and the floor, until your legs start to get incredibly tight.
Once you’re at the point where it feels like your legs are springs that are ready to explode that bar up to lock out, you’re good to go.
So there are our ten key ideas to take into your next deadlift session.
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