Deadlifts are a staple exercise for building a strong, jacked, and athletic body–if you do them right.
Most people have deadlift form that more closely resembles a dog taking a dump than an optimal deadlift technique.
There are 7 huge mistakes you want to avoid with your deadlifts:
1. Starting with your hips too low.
2. Sloppy touch-and-go deadlifts.
3. “Ripping” the bar off the ground.
4. Training heavy all the time.
5. Poor lat engagement.
6. No air in your belly.
7. Not mixing your grip.
1. Hips are too low.
The king of all mistakes.
When your hips are too low, your shins push forward, forward(like a squat) and push the bar forward. The idea is “lift with your legs..” however, this actually is more stressful on your back .
Think back to the number of times you’ve seen a big deadlift and thought to yourself how much more the lifter could’ve pulled if he didn’t damn near stiff-leg it. I see it all the time. If your hips rise up, this is all wasted movement. This is why your deadlifts feel NAILED TO THE FLOOR and your back hurts.
2. Touch and go deadlifts.
Lose trunk position, ingrain poor movement. Your form never looks the same.
Touch and go deadlifts are tempting, especially if you’re doing more than a couple of reps on your deadlifts.
The problem is, touch and go deadlifts turn into bounce and go deadlifts.
Bouncing off the bottom of the rep leads you to lose trunk stability when you need it most—the start of your deadlift.
This increases your chance of injury.
Worse, it reinforces a relaxed trunk position when its most important…the initial pull.
While you may be able to get more reps doing touch and go deadlifts, you’re using momentum more than your muscle.
You’re better off treating each deadlift like a single.
Hit a perfect rep.
As a general rule, it’s much better to keep the reps on your conventional deadlifts lower so you can maintain the best possible technique.
If you’re interested in using the deadlift movement pattern purely for muscle growth, the Romanian deadlift is a superior option.
3. Trying to rip the bar off the ground on every rep.
When many lifters attempt to rip the bar off the round on deadlifts, they lose ideal hip and spinal position.
They’re ass shoots up like Miley Cyrus twerking at the VMA’s and their deadlift looks like a dog taking a dump.
A better option is to focus on PUSHING your feet through the floor, especially as you’re first getting the bar loving.
Think of PRESSING hard, and as the bar starts to move, apply as much force as you can to accelerate the bar.
This helps you maintain optimal spinal position throughout.
One of my favorite ways to train this is with an exercise called the deadfall.
On the deadfall, you set up in your normal deadlift position.
Push through the floor and PULL to mid-shin…the most common sticking point on the deadlift.
Hold for 2-3 seconds, and return to the ground.
This builds Perfect pulling position and a rock-solid lower back.
3-4 sets of 3-5 reps is perfect.
4. Training heavy all the time.
Testing strength doesn’t build strength.
What does that mean? Going heavy all the time in the deadlift won’t help you.
There’s a reason some of the strongest lifters in the world, like those at Westside Barbell Club rarely max out in the deadlift.
The deadlift is extremely demanding on your central nervous system. The more volume and the heavier you go, the GREATER the recovery demand is. Doing too much can negatively impact your other workouts for the rest of the week.
In addition, deadlifts start from a ZERO, there is no eccentric, so all your muscles have to fire HARD from the get go to get the ball rolling.
It’s very demanding on your grip–and your grip is the first thing to go when your central nervous system is smoked. Straps can be helpful in this regard.
Finally, deadlifts are heavily axially loaded and SMOKE your lower back, which can create plenty of fatigue for other muscle groups.
5. Not pulling the bar back.
The deadlift is all about leverage and positioning.
If you’re standing too close to the bar it’ll have to come over the knee before you can pull back, thus going forward before it goes backward.
If your shoulders are in front of the bar at the start of the pull, then the bar will want to go forward, not backward. If your back isn’t arched the bar will also want to drift forward.
So, get your shoulders EVEN or just behind the bar. This will help you engage your lats, which also increase spinal stability.
Coach Tony Gentilcore teaches a great cue: “pretend like you’re squeezing an orange in your armpit during the entire rep and you’re trying to make orange juice.” Again this helps to fire the lats more effectively , which in turn helps transfer force more efficiently as well as provide a ton more spinal stability.
In addition, test out the band distracted deadlift–this teaches your lats to contract, keeping the bar tight and increasing spinal stability.
6. Not having enough air in your belly.
When you breathe properly, your diaphragm helps create an internal belt, protecting your spine and giving you more strength and power production on your deadlift.
Before you drop down on your deadlift, breathe deep in through your stomach.
If your shoulders rise, it’s a good sign you’re ineffective with your breathing.
Focus on pulling air into your belly button. This will create more internal stability for a safer deadlift and more power.
Bonus tip: If you wear a belt, imagine pulling air in so you can push against the belt.
7. Using a Mixed Grip.
Unless you’re competing in powerlifting, the mixed grip isn’t worth the risk of a biceps tear or…uneven pulling.
Many lifters will rotate slightly when using a mixed deadlift, overloading their lower back and providing unwanted ROTATION with heavy weight. This can be a recipe for biceps tears and lower back injuries.
1. Do most of your deadlift with a double overhand grip.
2. Experiment with a HOOK group–wrap your fingers around your thumb.
3. Use straps. No, it doesn’t make you soft. This is often the best because it prevents your grip from being a limiting factor in your performance in the more. In addition, this will make deadlifts less neurologically intensive, allowing you to go a bit heavier and with more volume without the rest of your form breaking down.