Deadlifting is hard. That’s why not a lot of people do it. It’s uncomfortable. It takes practice. If you don’t do it right, you’ll probably get hurt. Planet Fitness won’t even let you do it in their gyms.
Such is the price you pay for greatness. The deadlift is unmatched by any other exercise in its ability to build muscle and strength all over the body. Show me a guy who can deadlift three times his body weight, and I’ll show you a guy who’s built like a Mac truck.
Just getting the damn thing moving is the hardest part. For most lifts, the sticking point is somewhere in the middle of the range of motion. For heavy deadlifts, the majority of people struggle to even budge the weight off the floor.
Here’s a trick I’ve started using to make the start of the deadlift a little easier. When setting up to deadlift, use a light weight (135 pounds should work for most people) and try this before your first rep:
“UNWEIGHING” THE BAR
- Sink your hips down to a half-squat position
- Lift your chest up to keep your back flat
- “Pull” the bar into you with your lats (as if you were doing a stiff-arm lat pulldown)
- Rock your weight back onto your heels far enough so that the bar lifts just a few inches off the floor
The weight should be light enough that the bar actually comes off the floor a bit and the bar becomes “weightless” before you’ve even started the rep. Check the video:
Now you’ve essentially taken some pounds “off the bar” before you’ve even started the lift. The bar won’t actually leave the floor once you get a couple hundred pounds loaded on there, but you’ll build tremendous tension in the starting position which will set you up for success.
START STRONG TO FINISH STRONG
The starting position of the deadlift will make or break the lift. The ideal position will vary from person to person, but there are two things that are absolutely essential to a good deadlift setup no matter who you are:
- You’ve gotta get your weight behind the bar
- You’ve gotta keep the bar close to your body
If you don’t take care of these two things, the bar will drift forward and your body will follow. This creates an unwanted increase in the distance the bar has to travel. It effectively takes the all-important hip extensor muscles (glutes and hamstrings) out of the picture. And it makes it almost impossible to keep a tight arch in your back, which increases risk of injury.
Bottom line – you have to shift your weight back so you can drive through you heels, activate your glutes and hamstrings, and control the bar throughout the whole lift. You can’t simply pull “up” and expect things to fall into place. You have to pull “up and BACK” to be proficient.
Give this technique a try on your next deadlift day and feel how much easier it is to maintain good lifting technique with heavy weights.