To many (myself included) the deadlift is the ultimate test of strength and one of the greatest overall “mass” builders of all time. It works the entire posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes, lower back and overall back up into the traps) and for people looking to build a thick dense physique that screams power then it should not be ignored. Take a look at Ronnie Coleman, Dorian Yates or Jonnie Jackson and you’ll see what a big deadlift can do for you.
It seems overly simple to most – walk up to a bar and pick it up. Simple. Easy. Job done. However, done incorrectly it can go for from a great strength and size builder to an injury waiting to happen. Typically, people make mistakes with their deadlift trying to shift too much weight too soon but in other cases it can simply be a case of not knowing how to perform the exercise. Not only are you putting yourself at risk by deadlifting incorrectly but your keeping plates of the bar and ultimately short changing yourself, losing a lot of the deadlift’s benefits!
Here are the most common deadlift errors and how to fix them.
The Deadlift Setup
Before we can deadlift we need to set ourselves up to deadlift. This being the first opportunity to make a mistake on the deadlift is where a lot fall down. Immobility, a weak lower back, lack of body awareness or simply a lack of knowledge causes this.
Issue: Standing Too Far Away
By standing too far away from the bar when initiating the deadlift, you place yourself at a biomechanical disadvantage. As soon as you attempt to deadlift it will immediately feel heavier due to the bar not being over your center of mass. An easy way to show this is hold a plate at your chest, then hold at your arm’s length. Feels heavier at distance, doesn’t it? So why deadlift like this?
Solution: Bar Positioned Over Middle of Foot
If you can’t get shins closer to the bar it is likely due to a lack of ankle mobility. This will lead to the weight being pulled forward onto your toes meaning and your glutes not getting involved in the lift (one of the strongest muscles involved in the deadlift).
Solution: Stretch the Tibialis Anterior
Most haven’t a clue where or what this muscle is. It runs up the side of the shin and allows the movement of dorsiflexion at the ankle (shins coming towards toes). Due to its neglect it often gets tight and needs stretching to increase the ankles range of motion.
To stretch the tibialis anterior firstly kneel on the floor with your feet and toes flat to the floor. Then lean back to sit back on your heels, hold for a few seconds then lean even further back. You will now feel a deep stretch through your ankles and shins. Hold this for ten seconds, afterwards sitting back forwards. Repeat 3 rounds and now get up and deadlift to see the difference!
The Start of the Lift
So we have now set up perfectly for the deadlift, we start the lift – and bang, any form or technique now goes out of the window in order to get that bar up.
Issue: Lower Back Rounding at Start of Lift
Sometimes this is due to trying to lift too heavy a weight but it also caused by weak spinal erectors (lower back muscles). The deadlift requires strong spinal erectors in order to maintain a stiff, flat lower back with the chest facing up.
Solution: Lower the Weight and Perform Good Mornings/Hyperextensions
As with any exercise, when trying to work on a technique flaw or just overall better technique, firstly you must reduce the weight in order to unlearn these bad habits. But don’t worry, by improving these you’ll make your muscles stronger meaning in the long run bigger weights!
To help strengthen the spinal erectors add good mornings and hyperextensions to your routine, which both isolate the muscle perfectly.
When performing good mornings, keep your chest up and bend forward at the waist whilst keeping the weight of your body on your heels. Once at the bottom pause for a 3 count then drive through your heels whilst keeping your chest up. This pause will take any momentum out of the lift and mean pure spinal erector involvement and no help from anything else.
Hyperextensions similar to Good morning should be performed with the chest facing up and a pause at the bottom of the movement.
Look to do 3 sets of each in the 10-12 rep range stopping a few reps shy of complete failure in order to maintain perfect technique.
Now we have sorted how to deadlift there’s only one thing left to do.. DEADLIFT, but the right way!