Learning how to deadlift the right way is critically important, not only from an effectiveness standpoint but from a safety standpoint as well. This can be an incredibly satisfying type of exercise, but you want to make sure you’re using the right deadlift form to reap all the potential benefits.
Here are some instructions on how to correctly perform a basic deadlift variation, one known as the conventional deadlift, using the proper form. If you’re new to this type of exercise and a little unsure about it, talk to a professional trainer for tips on your form. And as always, make sure to get your doctor’s approval before beginning any new type of exercise routine.
Why Proper Conventional Deadlift Form Is So Important
You’ve looked at different weight belts online or at your gym and picked the perfect one. You’ve decided the amount of weight you want to deadlift – maybe you’ll start out with a lighter weight before gradually moving to heavier weights. You’ve picked the best pair of lifting shoes you could find. In short, you’re ready to go.
But before you start, keep in mind that safety is the top priority. Using the proper form will help ensure the deadlift will be safe for your knees, back, hips, arms, and shoulder blades. You can’t just bend over the bar and “grip it and rip it.”1
One important thing to remember as you learn how to deadlift is that you want to move your body around the bar – not vice versa. Setting up correctly will help eliminate wasted effort, reduce injury risk, and help you use the maximum amount of muscle mass.2
Here’s a step-by-step guide to ensuring proper deadlift form.
Step 1: Assume The Right Stance
First, set your heels at the same width as your hips. You want to keep your legs from getting in the way of your arms. Don’t keep your heels at shoulder width, or your legs will block your arms, and you’ll be bending your arms when you lift. That may put too much strain on your elbows and biceps.3
Step 2: Establish Your Balance
Without balance, you’ll be risking disaster. Make sure the bar is in line with the middle of each foot, keeping each foot flat on the floor. Don’t set up with the bar over your toes thinking it will keep you from hitting your shins when you pull upward. This may put you off balance, and make it much too hard on your back. Also, keep your toes pointed at about a 15° angle to help strengthen your groin muscles.4
Step 3: Getting Ready To Lift The Bar
Bend over to grab the bar, keeping your legs straight while you do so. Use a double overhand grip, with the palms of both hands facing behind you. As your grip strength improves, you might be able to try a mixed grip (one palm facing downward, one palm facing upward), or some other variation. Move your hips down until your shins lightly touch the bar. Flex your pectorals, and puff out your chest so that your back becomes flat. Once you’re in this position, you’ll be ready to lift.5
Step 4: During The Lift
Breathe in deeply, while maintaining a firm posture in your stomach, glutes, back, and chest. Drive through your legs and lift, keeping your weight on the middle portion of your foot and your heels.
Keep your focus on pushing with your heels rather than pulling up the bar. Make sure your rear end comes up at the same time as your chest, and keep your arms straight. Your core muscles and legs should be doing all of the work, not your arms.6
Step 5: Lowering The Bar
Don’t drop the bar once you’re done, but you also don’t want to lower the bar too slowly, because that could hurt your back. Lowering too slowly puts a lot of pressure on your spine. The safest way to lower the bar is to relax your glutes and gradually let the bar move back toward the ground. Put the bar down along the same path you lifted it up.7
Benefits Of Deadlifts
As long as you use the proper deadlift form, you may reap some serious potential benefits. Deadlifting may help sculpt a lot of body parts, including your core, your shoulders, and your glutes. It really works all of your muscles, and it allows you to lift more weight than just about any other type of exercise. Here’s a look at just a few of the advantages the deadlift may help deliver.
- Increased athletic ability – The deadlift has been shown to improve vertical jump performance, which can come in handy when playing several different types of sports.
- Decrease injury risk – Performing the deadlift could help lower the chances of suffering an injury to your knees, ankles or legs.
- Stronger bones – The deadlift helps increase bone mineral density, which strengthens bone.8
Common Deadlift Mistakes
Just like any new form of exercise, it’s easy to make mistakes when learning how to deadlift. Here are a few common mistakes.
- Keeping the weight extended from the body – Always try to keep the bar right under you during the lift. Count on gravity to do the vast majority of the work when you’re putting the bar down – don’t force it. Try to keep a picture in your mind of barely brushing your thighs and shins when lifting and lowering. If you hold the bar too far from your body, you’ll be wasting a lot of energy – and putting a lot of pressure on your shoulders in the process.
- Rounding the back – Always try to keep your back flat when performing a deadlift. Never round your back when you pick up the bar.
- Arching the back – This is basically the opposite of rounding the back. It happens when you puff out your chest but you don’t engage your core muscles. Arching your back may lead to injury when deadlifting.
- Too much knee bend – It can be challenging to flex your knees just the right amount during a deadlift. You don’t want to keep your knees straight, but at the same time, if you bend too much, you’re basically not doing a deadlift. You’re doing a squat.9
Talk to a Professional First
It’s hard to overemphasize the importance of talking to a professional trainer first before you try the deadlift – or any type of new exercise program, for that matter. A pro can show you the right way to lift and lower the bar (and the correct position) so you don’t run the risk of injury.
Also, please remember to talk to a doctor first before you start deadlifting. You don’t want to take any chances doing anything that could be unsafe. Once you know the proper technique to use, and you get the green light from a medical professional, have at it and start enjoying the benefits.