The deadlift, when performed well, can evoke feelings of strength, capability and empowerment but on the flip side it's an easy one to get wrong, there's so much to think about, and if you aren't thinking about it when performing a deadlift then you are probably not doing it right and increasing your chance of injury.
With this in mind I've laid out how I perform a deadlift. Keep in mind, this is what works for me, there may be further adjustments that will improve your own deadlift. I suggest observing through watching videos online, filming yourself and watching it back and practise again and again until you have a consistent pattern of movement. Ultimately you should feel in control and capable and the bar should be moving up and down in a straight line.
Here's a video of me performing a deadlift with a bit of slo mo on the second rep. Below this I have broken the movement down into three phases; getting into position, the way up and the way down.
Getting into position - important!
1. Stand so that when you look down the bar it is hovering over mid foot - where you would tie your shoe laces.
2. Reach down and grab the bar just outside of legs, keeping legs straight if you can.
3. Bend your knees to bring your shins forward to touch the bar - do not roll bar back to touch shins.
4. The shoulders should at this point be forward of the bar.
5. Set upper back by pushing chest out and set lower back by switching on glutes (your bottom).
6. Use your lats to pull bar back against legs, this will help in the setting of the the back.
The way up
1. Before lifting, pull on the bar to create tension through the arms without losing your tight back position.
2. To lift drive feet into the ground as you start to straighten knees allowing the torso to start to straighten up too. Keep the back tight and the bar pulled back against the legs.
3. Don't let the bottom shoot up without the torso starting to straighten too, otherwise you'll end up straightening legs and then using the back to lift.
4. As soon as the bar passes the knees drive the hips forward to stand up straight.
5. Lock out hips at top to 'finish'. Keep glutes engaged and abs braced
to support the back position
The way down
1. Hinge at the hips sending bottom back.
2. Slide the bar down the legs.
3. Don't 'drop' the torso instead let the torso come down as a result of the hips going back.
4. Whatever you do DO NOT BEND THE KNEES SO THEY MOVE FORWARD. This will cause the bar to circle around the knees taking away from the body. The bar will also end up too far in front of the shins at the bottom.
5. Once the bar comes past the knees they can move forward.
7. The bar should end up EXACTLY where it started.
To perform a full set you need to reset between each repetition, so start every rep from 'getting into position' point 5, and repeat sequence of movements from here.
This is a lot of info and if you want to keep it simple, just remember the following:
1. Start with shoulders forward of the bar.
2. Set the back.
3. Drag bar up legs - keep contact throughout.
4. Send bottom back and slide bar down legs - keep contact throughout.
5. Don't relax the back position at any point.
Final thoughts and tips.
When performing a deadlift you need complete focus and your full attention should be given to the exercise and to what your whole body is doing at all times. Consistency of movement is important and every rep should look the same. Keep the repetitions low and wait until you have nailed technique before going past 6 reps. The deadlift is primarily a strength exercise anyway which means fewer reps and heavier weight. When watching yourself back on vid a major clue as to whether you are doing it right is that you should see the bar moving up and down in a straight line.
If you still feel unsure of your technique or have concerns surrounding potential injury then enlist the help of a strength coach or experienced personal trainer.
Louise Appel Personal Trainer, St John's Wood & Personal Trainer Maida Vale offers customised, individual Personal Training and Pilates at Lords Cricket Ground, St John's Wood. Personal Trainer Harpenden & Personal Trainer St Albans is located at EsTR Fitness.
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