How To: Proper Deadlift Technique
Deadlifts are by far my favorite lift. There's just something about being able to pick up a bar that's heavier than you that makes you feel like a badass. They are also my favorite lift to teach people. It's fun to watch their face light up like, whoa, I just did that!
But they can be a bit intimidating at first.
It's one of those lifts that looks easy when you watch someone do it, but getting your body to understand what muscles to activate and what proper form feels like can be another story. The risk of injury is real if you aren't doing it correctly.
So is it worth it?
100%. We actually "deadlift" all the time. Ever picked up a kid? Or moved a dresser because you thought rearranging your room was a good idea? (It's actually a great idea on occasion)
This motion of picking something up and putting it down is a deadlift! And because we do this movement almost everyday, I would argue that it's more dangerous NOT to train it!
It's actually awesome to perform everyday activities after you've started getting stronger, because it's not as much of a struggle. Your body knows how to brace in all the right places, so there is no worry of throwing out your back or tweaking your shoulders.
So let's focus on that outcome: Stronger with no injury so that life is easier, shall we? Here are the top three common mistakes I see people make while deadlifting, and how to fix them.
1. Not hinging properly at the hips.
Some people don't hinge enough because they aren't aware they need to, and some people don't hinge enough because they don't have the hip mobility (at least yet) to do so. This form also applies to regular life, not just when deadlifting at the gym, so read up!
How to test: Get in position, before you start the motion, glance over at a mirror and check that your back is perfectly flat before starting.
How to fix: If you glance over and notice that your lower back is rounded, flatten it by sticking out your butt (like really stick it out, as if you were in a club). If you try this but still see or feel rounding, it may mean your hips are a little tight (common for desk folks), or that you do not have the range of motion from the floor yet. Simply elevate your starting position/weight to whatever height you need in order to get that nice flat back hinge.
2. Squatting instead of deadlifting.
Squats and deadlifts are two different motions. Squats are primarily knee and quad dominant, while deadlifts are primarily hip and glute dominant.
How to test: Get into position and observe where your chest and knees are, the "bend" should be more in your hips and less in your knees. Also pay attention to what muscles are being used.
How to fix: Without a weight, bend over with a flat back as you watch a mirror. Keep your knees parallel to the wall and your chest parallel to the floor. Once you have a good feel for the form (elevating the weight if you need), perform the exercise and focus on using your glutes to control the movement, not your quads.
3. Not bracing the core throughout the movement.
Often a deadlift will look strong in the starting position, but as the motion continues, or as the reps pile up, the form starts to go. This is usually because you aren't bracing your abs properly.
How to test: If you perform the motion and feel it in your lower back, you are likely not bracing through your core as you stand up.
How to fix: Start by using a lighter load and focus on locking your abs into place (i.e. engaging your core). To do this, get into the starting position and tighten your abs as if someone was about to punch you in the stomach. This tightening motion will help you protect your spine and maintain a beautiful flat back throughout the motion. You can also sync this action with your breath by inhaling at the top of the deadlift motion, and exhaling as you finish.
Now you are ready to get after it! Drop a comment below if you have any questions!