How To Do The Barbell Deadlift Exercise – Learn The Proper Technique/Form In Less Than 10 Minutes

andy-bolton-deadlifting-exercise-with-proper-techniqueGood day there, people who want to learn how to deadlift!

Practicing the barbell deadlift and constantly checking my technique/form so it can be as perfect as it should (I am a perfectionist), I always take notes whenever I learn something new and believe me, reading for so many years has put me into a place where there is really nothing new to learn regarding the deadlift exercise.

There are just too many people trying to learn how to deadlift but are having problems finding a complete resource to learn from and I say this because of what I see daily in commercial gyms: people doing this move with horror technique that my bad hurts even if I only watch them.

There are so many dangers in a badly executed barbell deadlift that it would take me too many pages to detail but simplifying it, the end result of deadlifting with bad form will be: bad back.

We want to avoid that.

Seeing that I couldn’t find a complete deadlift tutorial showing the proper technique and the common mistakes, I decided to do the most complete deadlift guide that you could find on the internet.

Sit back, relax and learn the true way to do the deadlift exercise with a bulletproof technique..

Deadlift is the best back strength builder compared to any other exercise and it is really a simple movement after you learn it well: you pull the bar from the floor with the arms straight and up the legs until it gets past the knees after which you will finish the lift by locking knees, shoulders and hips.

The deadlift is an essential part of training and should be implemented in your routine as the main back exercise and squat assistance exercise.

Barbell Deadlift Exercise – The Name

The deadlift is a move in which you are required to produce force from a dead stop and that’s from where the name was formed.

As a side note before we start learning the proper deadlift form/technique step by step, I must say that deadlifts are hard, maybe the hardest exercise that you will do and that’s why most people don’t like to do them BUT the benefits they give you are just too many to leave this exercise on the reserve bench.

Muscles Targeted

  • Spinal Erectors
  • Glutes
  • Quads
  • Lower Back
  • Hamstrings
  • Lower Back
  • Calves
  • Lats
  • Abdominals/Obliques
  • Upper/Middle Trapezius

Step By Step – A Proper How To Deadlift Tutorial

Before starting to learn the technique, you should know that the bar should be usually loaded with a very light weight and I can’t stress enough on this aspect.

We, men, are the ones that screw up this part because we tend to rush forward and try to move big weights asap. When you first learn a movement, don’t be temped by this desire to progress faster and start with a light-medium weight.

1.Setting The Appropriate Height

It would be optimal to find a 5-10 lb plastic plates with the height similar to a 45 lb plate which usually has the height ~17 inches or 45 cm (these are the standard Olympic plates). If you don’t have access to those kind of plates, you can put some 10-20 kg plates under the plates on the bar to get it higher.

You can also try to get the proper height by setting the bar in the power rack at an approximate height.

Simply put, the height from the floor to the bar should be approximately that of a 45 lb plate.

2. Selecting The Starting Weight

The starting weight should be light enough so that if your form gets worse, nothing bad will happen to your back.

The general rule is that no matter what your body constitution might be, never select a weight bigger than 135 pounds. (40-60 kg is the right spot for most of the people and women should select the lower range).

3. Starting Stance – Starting with the “right foot”

In these many years of perfecting my barbell deadlift, I saw many recommendations regarding the proper foot position and believe me, they were all different.

What I found out that is optimal for most people is that the width between heels should be 8-12 inches or similar to a flat vertical jump with the toes slightly pointed outwards.

deadlift stance

If you are wondering why is this stance narrower when compared to the squat, the obvious difference is that the squat starts from top to bottom and the a proper deadlift form starts from the bottom-up.

Knee and hip mechanics form the stance and also because you need a narrow grip of the bar to get the desired pulling efficiency.

proper deadlift form - bar position to the shins

Look at that picture with Arnold Schwarzenegger doing a deadlift exercise and watch how he sets the bar close to his shins. That’s a pretty good starting position and the best one.

Getting into the start position, you should make sure that the bar is 1-1.5 inches close to your shins which will put the bar directly over the middle of your foot.

This is the optimal starting position for every human on the planet because the most efficient bar path would be the one in which the bar sets off the ground, stays over the middle foot all the way up and down (keeping a perfect vertical line as much as possible).

deadlift skeleton tutorial2

 

A top view should look like this (ignore the fact that the toes are not pointing out – this is just for demonstrating the bar over the middle foot position)

bar-over-the-foot-picture

Toes should always be pointing out with at least 15 degrees and up to 30 degrees. You want to do that because you want to also involve the external adductor and the adductor in the movement as well as the possibility to achieve a good starting position.

Here’s a nice example:

toes-pointing-outward-barbell-start-form

4. Deadlift Grip Position

After getting the stance right, the deadlift grip setting is quite easy.

At first, you should always grip the bar double-overhand with thumbs around it and the optimal grip width will be automatically created by keeping your hands as close to your legs as you can BUT avoid rubbing them against the legs as you go up.

After a while, when bigger weights are involved and the double-overhand grip is not so strong, change it to an alternating grip: one overhand and one underhand.

Now comes the tricky part: getting into the position:

Imagine that you are doing stiff legged deadlift and you lower yourself down by bending over at the waist without lowering the hips.

Grip the bar but don’t move it!

I recommend against moving the bar because it should always stay over the middle of your foot no matter what.

Don’t get the bar out from that position!

Gripping the bar the right way

Just take a look for a moment to see what happens in case the bar grip will be bad from the start:

calluses-formation-picture-when-deadlifting-with-the-wrong-grip

This is the correct way to grip the bar:

deadlift technique how-to-grip-the-olympic-bar

There are also some people that are always using straps to secure their grip so they can move big weights but I am against this practice strapsfor the simple fact that grip strength should always be trained without the use of straps.

You will never develop your grip strength if you are constantly using straps!

There is a saying: “The body can’t move what the hands can’t hold” and this is true in the case of keeping the weight on your hands.

Your body will not put all its resources in getting the bar up if you can’t hold the weight properly.

Start learning the proper deadlift form the right away from the start and the grip strength will catch up to your progression in lifting bigger weights – this is true if you don’t use straps.

We will continue with the most important cues that should get you in the proper position.

5. Continue With Knees Forward

After you secure the grip, bend at your knees and drop them forward until your shins touch the bar but not move it.

Remember: DON’T move the bar!

Again, don’t move the hips, just bend from your knees . Shins and knees move BUT hips stay neutral.

After you successfully got in the position by touching the bar with your shins, freeze your hips there and don’t drop any farther.

Next,  you should shove your knees out a little bit and that will probably make them touch your elbows .

6. “Chest Up” Cue

Now the setup is almost done and the last thing that needs to be adjusted is the chest position.

This is really simple but most people forget to get the chest up and initiate the lift with a rounded upper back, chest down and this can become dangerous when we talk about big weights.

Using the upper back muscles, squeeze the chest up but maintain the shins to the bar position (don’t move the bar).

Get your ribcage up by rotating the chest between your arms upwards.

Now your body has adjusted into the best position for its type.

7. Eye Position

Again, this is an area where many people are doing mistakes because they just stare up to the ceiling and that is wrong on so many levels (hyperextending your neck while lifting up a weight is never a good thing).

After you get in the correct position, staring forward to about 12-15 feet in front of you and getting that chin back would be the position in which your neck is in a normal anatomical position and that’s where we want to be.

8. Shoulders Position

If you did the first 7 steps right, the shoulders position relative to the bar should be slightly in front or over the bar.

Let’s take a recap before we dive straight into executing the movement:

  1. Set the weight – similar to a 45 lb plate
  2. Select a proper starting weight
  3. Get the stance right – 8-12 inches
  4. Grip the bar the right way
  5. Bend at your knees until your shins touch the bar (Don’t move the bar)
  6. Get that chest up
  7. Set the proper eye position (12-15 feet in front of you)
  8. Check your shoulder’s position

9.Initiating the pull

I have separated the pull part of this how to deadlift tutorial from the down part just so you get a better view of what it should happen in a correct performed deadlift exercise.

In the final position of the pulling part, if it were for us to look from the side view, we should see you in normal anatomic position with the eyes slightly pointed down, knees and hips fully extended and shoulders back.

The start of the pulling

Chest up, eyes 12-15 feet forward, back tight, weight over the middle foot, take a big breath (do the valsalva maneuver) after which you will simply drag the bar up your legs.

Don’t forget to keep the bar touching your legs all the time and never let it go in front of you because that will change the center of gravity and also will get the weight on your toes and we want to avoid that because it will make the move inefficient.

Try to imagine a vertical line that the bar should take and always keep the bar over the middle of your foot.

In case  your attempt to keep the bar touching the shins fails, try to get the weight back from your toes over the middle foot and restart the movement.

You will finish the move by lifting your chest, locking your hips and knees. Remember not to shrug your shoulders back or up!

The Down Portion Of The Barbell Deadlift

The down position is the opposite of getting it up.

Start the movement by unlocking your hips and showing them backwards, letting the bar slide down your legs and keep the knees locked (as much as you can) until the bar passes them after which you can unlock them to finish the move.

Don’t unlock the knees before the bar passes them because that will mean that you will also lose the tight lower back lock and that will do “wonders” for your back when big weights are involved.(sarcasm included).

Again, look for a vertical path for the bar and keep your lower back locked in extension whole the time.

A good practice that also helped me would be to check every little detail from your setup before starting to pull the bar. Think about how everything should be and tighten yourself in the right way.

This picture should sum the starting position:

proper deadlift exercise

Looking over the little details of a deadlift technique:

Keep Arms Straight Every Time

Having your arms straight when performing the proper deadlift form is the proper way to reinforce a good technique because you don’t want them involved in the movement.

Not only keeping your arms bent will put unnecessary stress on your elbows and biceps but they will also increase the distance the bar has to travel until the lockout so what you are effectively doing is to create additional movement required for the bar to get in the locking position along with potential dangers for your elbows and biceps.

Bouncing The Weight

Many people like to bounce the weight off the floor when doing deadlifts and this is wrong because you are not effectively training your starting strength.

It is called a deadlift because it should always start from a dead stop. Don’t bounce the weight!

Breathing The Right Way

This is also an area where many people are doing it wrong. They start the movement by taking a big breath in, lift the bar and at the top of the movement exhale for a moment before inhaling back to lower the bar on the ground.

We don’t want to lose our abdominal support for the spine when all the weight is up in the air. We want to restart our valsalva maneuver when the weight is safely down on the floor without any danger of hurting our back.

So the correct way to breath:

  1. Take a big breath when starting the movement (use the valsalva maneuver)
  2. Take the weight up and down (keep the breath in)
  3. Exhale when the weight is on the floor
  4. Restart from point 1 for the next repetition

Raising The Bar The Right Way

Some lifters are simply doing the starting portion of the deadlift in a wrong way and never realize it.

Raising your hips faster than the shoulders is a common problem that usually happens when the lifter either jerks the bar up in the attempt to move more weight or the lifter’s quadriceps/glutes are weak so the hamstrings take over the movement and the lifter literally stiff-legs the weight up.

It is true that you should push with your legs but remember to keep the shoulders ascending the same way as the legs and don’t leave them “behind”.

To sum it up: your shoulders and hips should raise at the same time because that will help you keep a proper torso angle until the bar will pass the knees.

Finishing The Lift Flawlessly

The correct way to finish the movement is by locking out the chest and bring the hips, knees and your lumber spine in extension at the same time.

Don’ts:

  • Don’t shrug your shoulders up at the top of the movement
  • Don’t overextend your back at the top of the movement
  • Don’t exaggerate hip extension at the top of the movement
  • Don’t keep your knees un-locked
  • Don’t exhale until you have set the weight down for the next rep
  • Don’t try to set the bar down too slowly – you can set it down at a faster pace because the important part is the starting part and the concentric one.
  • Don’t use weights/platforms under your heels
  • Don’t raise your hips quicker than the shoulders

I also selected a few videos that show the proper way to do a deadlift and this will help you visually to reinforce the theory behind a proper barbell deadlift technique/form.

My advice is to look carefully at every step they take in performing the deadlift.

NOTES ON THIS VIDEO: You should ignore when he says that you should start with alternating grip because you will only use that grip after you some months of training that will get you to some bigger weights.

Simply put: use the double overhand grip as much as you can and switch it with alternating grip only when you are not able to hold the weight anymore.

Now that you’ve seen how a proper deadlift form should look like and you also learnt all the technical aspects of a proper deadlift technique, let’s see how you SHOULD NOT do a deadlift:

And one of the most famous ones straight from “Diesel Weasel”:

Next time you enter a gym, you will know more about how to do a proper deadlift than most of the people if not all the people present in your gym.

Now I want you do to something for me:

I know that there are many people out there that have the desire to learn how to deadlift but they simply don’t have the right material to learn the right technique.

I would appreciate if you can share this with your friends and with anyone that might benefit from reading this.

Also, what are the corrections that you’ve made to your technique after reading this article?

Leave a comment bellow (It’s free ;) ).

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Comments

  1. Trish@knowtrish says:

    the videos of diesel wiesel are funny as hell !!!

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