Tips For Better and Stronger Deadlifts
by Evelyn Valdez·
Deadlifts vs squats, who takes the crown for being King of all exercises? Well, we don't have an answer, but one thing we do know that there are not many exercises that can do what the deadlift does. The conventional deadlift requires full-body strength and works the core, back, shoulders, upper arms, and the entire lower body, which includes the hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, calves. All lifters should be working on perfecting their deadlift form and technique, especially if building muscle and strength are the main goals.
Having proper form and technique is ideal for better results, but most importantly, to avoid the risk of a serious injury. Lucky for you, not only do our Lifting Straps and Lifting Belts help you deadlift safely, so will our top deadlifting tips that will ensure you're maximizing gains while reducing your risk of injury!
How to Deadlift
Before we dive into our tips, in case there are any new lifters, we're going to give step-by-step instructions on how to do a proper conventional deadlift.
- Once you've put the barbell on the ground and it’s loaded and ready to go, approach it placing your feet shoulder-width apart. Make sure that you're front and center of the bar, and that your feet are flat and driving down through the heel.
- Bend at your waist with a slight bend in your knees and grab the bar. Choose a grip that's more comfortable for you, but if you're new to deadlifting we recommend starting with a double overhand grip. So, place your hands about shoulder-width apart and use a double overhand grip, meaning both palms are facing toward your body and arms are vertical to the floor.
- It's time to assume position. Bend your knees, or hinge your hips back, until your shins are nearly touching the bar. Keep your chest up to help keep your back flat and to maintain a neutral spine. Pull your shoulders back and pack your neck so your head and neck are aligned with your back. Your body should look like a straight line but at a downward angle. This is the starting position before the lift. Every muscle should feel tight and ready, especially your lats, core, and hamstrings.
- Take a big deep breath, keep your muscles tight and engaged, and using your glutes and hamstrings, drive through your heels to straighten your hips and pull the bar straight up. As the bar travels up, remember to keep it as close to your body as possible. Once the bars at your knees, use your glutes to lock you into an upright position. Don't pull with your back! At this point, you should be standing tall with your chest open, your spine in a neutral position, and your muscles still engaged.
- Instead of just lowering the bar straight to the floor, start by hinging the hips back, as if you're going to do a Romanian deadlift. Continue hinging at the hips, and once the bar is past your knees begin to bend them to lower the bar completely down to the ground. This is only if you're resetting before your next rep, if you're not, then just lower the bar as close to the floor as possible.
That's one rep! Once the bar is back to where you started, brace yourself for your next rep! As for how many sets and reps you should perform, it depends on the weight you're using. Powerlifters typically go for heavier weight and lower rep ranges, so if you're using a heavy weight stick between 1-6 reps. Lifters using lighter weights can stick anywhere between 8-12 reps.
7 deadlift tips that will improve your technique and gains
The deadlift might seem like a simple exercise, you're essentially just picking up a bar and setting it back down, but there's far more to it... It's one of the best strength training exercises that lifters can do to build muscle and strength. You're able to recruit your entire body to lift an insane amount of weight! However, lifting heavy isn't the only way to maximize your results deadlifting! We have a few tips that will help you master the deadlift with good form and technique so you can maximize your results safely.
Don't treat it like a squat
The deadlift is not a squat, so don't treat it as such! New lifters may confuse the two because the movements look similar when they're not. A squat involves sitting down into a squat position, a deadlift is a hip hinge movement that involves sitting back. So instead of squatting down to the bar with the bend coming from mostly the knees, hinge back and make sure the movement is coming from your hips.
Doing this will not only ensure that you're reaping all the muscle-building benefits from the deadlift, but it also reduces your risk of lower back pain. Squatting instead of hinging can make the bar drift away from the center which places a strain on your lower back. So, remember, hinge - don't squat.
Pause on the floor
Many new deadlifters will usually let the bar bounce right back up and go straight to their next rep. There's nothing necessarily wrong with this, but you're definitely limiting your deadlift if you're constantly doing this. Plus, it gets harder to do as you increase the weight.
So, on your heavier sets practice resetting before your next rep. Set the bar down, adjust your grip if needed, assume your position, and give your next rep your all. Resetting is a great way to nail your setup, practice getting every major muscle group tight, and pulling the slack from the bar. For those who don't know, "pulling the slack" refers to the setup phase in which you create tension before physically lifting the barbell. Overall it'll help you improve your form while helping you tackle heavier weight!
Work on your form before increasing weight
Practicing progressive overload in any exercise is important to obtain better results, but it's a process that shouldn't be rushed! In the long run, technique and form are more important than how heavy you can lift. Why? Because if your form and technique are off there's a higher risk of injury, muscle imbalances, and other weaknesses.
You want to have stronger deadlifts with a lower risk of injury and to do this you have to work on your form before increasing the weight. Your form might not be perfect again once you go heavier, but that's why you have to practice your form again before increasing.
We've already given you steps on how to deadlift, but here are more tips to help improve your deadlift form:
- Your core and upper back should be tight throughout the entire rep. Maintaining your core and lats engaged will help keep your lower spine from bending to handle the heavy load thus reducing the risk of your lower back rounding.
- Make sure that your body is moving in unison. Your body should be moving upwards and downwards at the same speed. Many lifters make the mistake of lifting their glutes before their chest and other muscles, it’s usually a sign that they're not extending their hips properly or driving through their knees instead of heels. Remember to use your hips and drive through your heels so that your glutes come up at the same time as your chest. Lead the movement with your chest and your entire body will follow moving at the same pace.
- Don't look up, no matter how heavy the weight gets! As the weight gets heavy, you'll be tempted to crank your neck up, but try your best to avoid this. This can cause a serious strain. To avoid this, pack your neck slightly downwards (it should look like you have a double chin), and keep your eyes focused a few feet ahead of you.
- Take a big breath and hold it in before lifting! To deadlift properly, you need a lot of intra-abdominal pressure and stability. Bracing your core and taking a big breath in is a good way to get the intra-abdominal pressure you need. You want to take a huge breath in so that it fills your belly with air, then tighten your core so the abdominals are against the air in your belly. This will help keep you tighter and more stable throughout your lift. As your lifting and coming close to the top of the movement, begin to exhale.
- Avoid hyperextending your back at the top of the movement. You want to extend your hips and use your glutes to lockout at the top of the movement, but be careful when doing this. Completely locking out can cause you to hyperextended your back placing a strain on your lower back. To avoid this, slightly and carefully lockout at the top using your glutes, and stop the movement once you're standing upright and your spine is neutral.
If you want to take things further, you can even film your lifts to study where you can improve on!
Have warm-up sets
Don't just jump into your heavy sets without warming up - and we're not talking about your warm-up routine before your workout! Before hitting your heavy sets, have 1-2 warm-up sets to help decrease your risk of injury and increase your performance on your heavy lifts.
The weight used on your warm-up sets will depend on how heavy you're lifting. A good starting point for most is warming up with the barbell itself first, then following that up by adding an amount of weight that will fully prepare you for your heavy sets.
Build upper back and lower body strength
This tip is especially important for new deadlifters! If you want to improve your deadlift then you have to improve your leg strength and upper back strength. Although deadlifts should be one of the main lower body exercises you do on a regular basis, don't neglect other exercises that better target the muscle groups that play a big role when deadlifting.
Implement exercises in your workout routine that target your hamstrings, glutes, quads, traps, and lats! You can introduce other compound exercises like pull-ups (one of the best back exercises), barbell rows, lunges. Or you can also include isolation exercises like hamstring curls, leg extensions, and lat pulldowns. This will help you achieve a stronger deadlift, but also help you gain better full-body strength!
Use other deadlift variations as assistance exercises
Assistant exercises are a great way to build your deadlift. Popular deadlift assistance exercises include the kettlebell swing, leg press, and rows. These are great exercises you should be doing, but if you really want to improve your deadlift then work on perfecting the other variations!
Once you've built sufficient lower and upper body strength, and have been improving your deadlift, then you're ready to try different variations! Here are a few of the best deadlift variations you should implement in your routine:
- Romanian deadlifts
- Kettlebell sumo deadlift
- Rack pulls
- Trap bar deadlift
- Single-leg Romanian deadlifts with dumbbells
Use lifting gear
As your sets get heavier, deadlifting with good form will get increasingly harder. To the point where you feel like you don't think you'll be able to load the bar any longer! So, if you want to hit a personal record on your one-rep max then consider using lifting gear like lifting straps and a weightlifting belt.
Grip strength is important for any type of heavy lifting, but there's only so much your grip can take and it may be holding you back from pulling heavier weights. Lifting straps are designed to help reduce grip fatigue while also protecting you from injury. They feature a loop designed that allows you to wrap and connect
your hand to the barbell (or any free weight) - look at our Lavender Lifting Straps as an example. This helps to improve your traction, protect your grip, and prevent the weight from moving around. Lifting straps can be a very helpful tool to use on your heavy deadlifts!
Lifting belts are another great tool that can help support your heavy lifts! They actually work in a way that helps increase intra-abdominal pressure to give your spine the supports it needs to stabilize. They are meant to be worn around the waist to form a rigid wall around the lower torso to help prevent the back from hyperextending or from twisting and bending.
Lifting straps and lifting belts aren't magical tools that will have you hitting world records on your deadlifts, but they can help give you the support you need to go really heavy in a safer way. They can also provide a sense of confidence and security when lifting, which is something everyone needs!
Now, you can be a deadlift pro - Just follow our deadlift tips and you'll be on the right path to stronger, better deadlifts!