Deadlifts are a great exercise for overall strength, low back health, posture, and building muscles. It is an exercise work developing the skill and getting strong. Before you get started with a deadlift, you need to know how to hip hinge. If you are not sure what a hip hinge is, check out my past blog on hip hinges.
With this blog, I want to help you get stronger. When you are stronger in your deadlifts, everything else gets stronger as well. Your core, grip, upper back, shoulders, and all of your legs get stronger.
The tips I give here, I want you to practice. Practice the skill of these tips before you try to work heavy. Keep the weight light, and volume high, and practice till you do not have to think about it—bonus tip, record every deadlift that you do. Watch and learn what you can do better each time.
- DEADLIFT FORM TIP #1: GRIP THE FLOOR WITH YOUR FEET
You should be paying attention to what your foundation is doing, which is your feet. Having a strong and stable foot position will put you in a good position for deadlifts.
Here is how you can put your feet into a strong stable position. First, place your feet into your deadlift position. This will look different from person to person and takes trial and error to find the optimal spot for you.
Once you have your deadlift position, grip the floor with your feet. All your toes should be engaged in grabbing the floor.
After you grip the floor, corkscrew your feet outwards, without actually moving your feet. The combination of corkscrewing and gripping the floor will engage all the little muscles of the feet and create stability.
A stable foundation will allow you to move better, be stronger, and feel better with any exercise.
- DEADLIFT FORM TIP #2: BRACE YOUR CORE
One of the most important aspects of training is to keep your spine safe. During the deadlift, you should keep a neutral spine during the whole movement.
Having a solid core and help you achieve this, but you also need to brace your torso correctly.
Imagine your lungs are a balloon and you want to fill up that balloon as much as you can. Before you fill this balloon, tighten your core like you are about to get punched in the gut.
Once the core is engaged, inhale air through your nose and fill up the balloon. Not only will you feel pressure in the front of your body, but you should also feel pressure on the side and back of your body. You should have 360° of pressure with the core braced.
This creates stability around your low back, keeping it safe and minimizing any energy leaks during your deadlift.
- DEADLIFT FORM TIP #3: ORANGE IN YOUR ARMPITS
Imagine that you have an orange in your armpits, and I want you to squeeze all the juice out of that orange. At the same time, drive your shoulder blades down toward your back pocket.
With this tip, you will create stability in your upper back during the deadlift. The stability of the upper back will also create stability in the low back, helping you keep a neutral spine.
You’re also increasing the neural activation in the body giving you the ability to lift more with good form.
During a deadlift, what you do not want to happen is letting the upper back relax and have movement in the spine. This would be a big energy leak, making the exercise harder than it should be, and increasing the risk of an injury.
Remember form is more important than the weight you are lifting.
- DEADLIFT FORM TIP #4: PULL THE SLACK OUT OF THE BAR
The bar and weight plates will have some space between the two. You can test this by lifting the bar and listening for the bar to hit the weight and you can feel a slight movement.
After you do tips 1-3, you want to take the slack out of the bar before lifting. Here is how you do that, complete tips 1-3 and hinge down to grab the bar. While grabbing the bar, gently push your feet into the ground, and sit back into your heels until you feel the bar pushing on the weight or hear the metal clinking noise.
This will create a lot of tension and should take a second to do. You are trying to create as much tension as you can with these tips, with no loose pieces. Before you lift the weight, check out the next tip.
- DEADLIFT FORM TIP #5: PUSH YOUR FEET INTO THE GROUND
The final tip for your deadlifts is about pushing with your feet and legs. Deadlifts are often categorized as a pull exercise, so people think of pulling the weight up.
The problem with the pulling mindset is the disengagement of the hips, which puts more strain on the low back.
Instead, I suggest you think about pushing your feet into the ground. Try and push the ground away from you and drive your hips forward while maintaining a braced core and neutral spine.
When you push instead of pull, you will get more engagement from the legs and hips, making your deadlifts more efficient and safe.
Before you go and test these tips, go and practice them. Practice gripping the floor with your feet and corkscrewing them without weight. Practice bracing your core with 360° in mind. Without lifting the weight, go and practice taking the slack out of the bar.
Finally, practice putting it all together and push the ground away from you with lightweight.
Practice the skill and slowly build up from there.