10 tips to improve your deadlifts

The deadlift is one of those exercises that can be tough to master. But once you get the basics right, you’ll be well on your way to the perfect lift.

Here are a few tips to help you get started.

  1. Keep your feet hip-width apart, and toes straight ahead. Your first instinct might be to place your feet further apart to get some leverage for your lift, but doing this can cause you to hurt your back. Keep them under your hips with your toes pointed straight ahead and keep the bar fairly close to your shins. (If you’re heavier, you may need to position the bar a bit further – closer to the tip of your toes.)
  1. Make sure your hands aren’t too far apart, either. Get your lats to help you with the lift and give you more control over the bar, so make sure that your grip isn’t too wide. Keep your hands the same width apart as your hips, your arms straight and elbows locked throughout the entire lift.
  1. It’s all in the hip hinge, baby. This is probably the most important tip when it comes to doing a proper deadlift and avoiding back injury. Push back with your hips, bending your knees slightly and maintaining even pressure on your feet. Your back should be in a neutral position – which brings us to the next tip…
  1. Keep your back flat. As you’re lifting, you should be keeping your back flat and firm (this is also referred to as keeping a “neutral” back or spine).
  1. Stick that butt out! As you’re getting ready to go into your lift, stick your butt out, keeping your back flat and your hips just above your knees.Picture2
  1. Drag it up. When you bring the bar up, you should be dragging it up along your shins and thighs. This technique will protect your lower back and result in a safer lift. If you’re doing the hip hinge motion properly, the bar should travel up and down your body easily.
  1. Lift with your legs, not your arms. Instead of using your arms to pull the bar up, push up with your legs instead. Your arms are really just there to hold on to the bar while your legs, hips, glutes and lats do the rest of the work.Picture1
  1. Look down, not up. It might feel like you need to keep your head up in order to maintain a flat back, but keeping your head up actually puts a strain on both your neck and spine. As you’re about to do your lift, bend your torso over the bar and keep your head down.
  1. Stand up straight when you reach the top. There’s a tendency to arch the back when you reach the top of your lift. Keep your back straight, your core solid and give those glutes a good squeeze.
  2. Set the bar down on the floor at the end of each rep. These workouts are called “dead” lifts because the idea is to lift dead weight every time. Otherwise, you’re just using momentum by bouncing the bar off the floor and not benefitting from the full lift.

One last tip (and it’s an important one) deadlifts aren’t the same as doing squats! While there are some similarities, deadlifts originate from the hips whereas squats originate from the knees. Also, with deadlifts, you’re working the lower back and abdomen, whereas squats are focused on legs and glutes.

Want to work on your deadlift technique? Sign up for our Small Group Personal Training.