Proper Deadlift Form: The Key to Getting Strong Fast!

I promised you a video of me deadlifting, and in my human imperfection I got so caught up in the workout that I forgot to have it taken.  Sorry!  I promise to get you one the next time I’m deadlifting.

I’m preparing for a competition in September, and I’m pleased with my progress so far.  What I’m doing is working up to determine my current 1-rep maximum for each of the three powerlifting lifts: Deadlift, Squat and Bench Press.  Once I’ve determined that, I’m going to back off on the intensity of my workouts until about 2 months prior to the competition.

That means that I’m just going to lift for form and to keep a baseline of strength, but I won’t start going hard and heavy until July some time.  I’ll give you a weekly rundown of my workouts, what I’m focusing on, and why I’m doing it, when I’ve started the final training run.

But right now I want to talk about deadlifts.  I told you I’d give you the lowdown on proper deadlift form, so here it is.

First, start with the bar on the ground: it’s a DEADlift, lifting a dead weight off the ground.  This is the proper starting position.  When you address the bar, make sure your legs are fairly close together.  You can see in the picture of me demonstrating a deadlift to Michelle (the pic at the beginning of this blog), my shins are within the smooth part of the bar.  That smooth part is there specifically for deadlifts: I’ll explain why in a minute.

Your shins should be touching the bar.  Wear knee-socks or long workout pants of some sort on deadlift day.  You want your shins protected because you should actually be dragging the bar up your shins as it comes up.  The further away the bar is from your shins, the more strain there is on your lumbar spine and sacrum.  Keep it close!  This is why the bar is smooth in the middle, and why your shins need to be lined up with the smooth part.  It prevents abrasions on your shins.

Don’t start with your hips too low; your thighs should be about 30⁰ above parallel to the ground.  This isn’t a squat, so don’t start by squatting down low.  Don’t use gloves or any other foam-type grip aid to deadlift: it actually weakens your grip by thickening what you’re gripping.  At best use chalk; let the deadlift training also train your grip strength.

Grasp the bar with an overhand grip (for advanced deadlifters, use a combination underhand-overhand grip – you’ll get a couple of extra reps that way).  Make sure your back is straight, push your chest out just a little bit, and when you lift, make sure your shoulders rise at the same speed as your rear-end.  In other words, don’t bend forward: that’s too much strain on your lower back. At no point during the lift should your back round out, ever.  Keep it straight.  This is crucial!

Make sure the bar stays in contact with your shins and thighs as it comes up.  Stand up straight, lean back just a little at the top by pulling your shoulders back slightly, straighten your legs (but don’t lock your knees out), then descend doing the exact opposite of how you came up.  Let the weight touch the floor before you come up again.

Remember to not go too heavy at first.  Work up to heavier weights, but as you get heavier, reduce the number of repetitions.  Heavy deadlifts should never be done at higher than 4, maybe 6 reps, but even that might be pushing it.  Be careful: again, you can hurt yourself on these things if you’re not careful.

I promise to get you that video 2 weeks from now.  I’ll be attempting 425 lbs for 3 repetitions, so wish me luck!