T Nation

Deadlift Form - Desperately Need Help


#1

I pulled 495 Saturday, PR for me, but it is ugly, and I should be pulling a lot more. I'm 330 lbs, squat is 585, yet my deadlift is very weak.

Here is my sumo:

When it gets heavier, 415, my initial movement is out instead of back. I don't know how to combat this as when I pull back more, I fall over, literally.

that is my PR, seems better form than the above form checks, but I just don't know. I was focusing on having the bar pull me down, which sat me back. I tried to focus on pulling my shoulder blades in and not rounding any shoulders. When I start, I drift forward, and end up pulling it with a lot more back than hips, which is why I can deadlift great one day, and just terrible the next.

Here is my conventional pulling. This feels so much stronger for me.

My sumo is better at lockout, while my conventional is better getting it off the ground.

I think I'd be better at sumo due to my size, but at this point, whatever I can get working for form is what I'll go with.

Any and all help is greatly appreciated.


Bar Keeps Floating Away From Me at the Start of Pull
#2

I’m almost as big as you and I pull fine conventional, which is what I can give you some tips on. Sumo is not my realm of expertise, so this strictly applies to your conventional pulls.

First, try bringing your feet in closer. I believe it was Wendler who said that you should start to jump off of two feet, note where your feet are and then bring them in slightly. This, combined with a light outward pointing of the toes seems to give me a good position to pull from.

Next you should try bringing your arms in closer as well. The wider your grip, the farther the bar must travel to lockout. My ares are nearly vertical at lockout, which also yields the shortest distance for the bar to travel.

Keeping with that notion, ditching the shoes and deadlifting in socks or barefoot will also reduce the distance the bar must travel to lockout. Every little bit helps. Disregard if those are wrestling shoes in the vid, tough for me to tell.

Here is what a man roughly your size looks like applying those concepts. This is me pulling 565 last year @ 295 lbs or so.

Make sure you are getting your hips into the lockout (which I did not do a good job of on that particular pull). Get the slack out of the bar before you explode up. I can’t really tell from the angle, but your hips may be a bit low to start.

I have had success with not over-thinking my deadlifts. I focus on my set-up and let my body take over from there in an explosion of effort. Lift with violence, big man!


#3

I’m wearing the shoes made by Mark Bell, flat and not much of a sole, I actually don’t care for them anymore, my feet are too loose in them. But, they are a good dead shoe.

I’ve tried the narrower stance, it is just that much longer for me to pull. You’d think that bringing in my arms makes a less of a pull, but with kicking my legs out, it evens out. I will try that again though.

I feel the number one problem with all my dead forms is the drift forward upon start of the pull, and I’m not sure how to best combat that.

And, I’ve always had my best pulls when I say fuck it and just rip it. Form goes to shit, but I pull it fine. That’s why I want to really take a step back so when I say fuck it, my body is accustomed to good form, no drift.

Higher hips means more lower back for me for the pull, which is a weak area for me, but there is definitely a sweet spot in there with hip height. I know when I hit it, it’s always on rep 2 lol.


#4

[quote]dzirkelb wrote:
I’ve tried the narrower stance, it is just that much longer for me to pull. You’d think that bringing in my arms makes a less of a pull, but with kicking my legs out, it evens out. I will try that again though.

I feel the number one problem with all my dead forms is the drift forward upon start of the pull, and I’m not sure how to best combat that.
[/quote]

When you fail a deadlift, where does it happen? Is it the same or different with sumo vs conventional?


#5

[quote]flipcollar wrote:

[quote]dzirkelb wrote:
I’ve tried the narrower stance, it is just that much longer for me to pull. You’d think that bringing in my arms makes a less of a pull, but with kicking my legs out, it evens out. I will try that again though.

I feel the number one problem with all my dead forms is the drift forward upon start of the pull, and I’m not sure how to best combat that.
[/quote]

When you fail a deadlift, where does it happen? Is it the same or different with sumo vs conventional?[/quote]

It’s the same, right off the floor. For sumo, i’ll get it off the floor about 2-4 inches, my hips shoot up, back goes down, bar goes down. For conventional, I get it up higher, but same thing happens, hips shoot up, back goes down, bar goes down.


#6

I am definitely not a great deadllifter, but for that very reason, I have put a ton of time, reading, thought and trial-and-error into trying to improve it. You mentioned that it “pulls you forward” when you initiate a heavy attempt. I THINK this indicates weakness (relatively speaking) in the upper back. I do know that strengthening my upper back absolutely helps my dead numbers.

One assistance move that seemed to be a game changer for me was bent barbell rows. I was taught to set it the bar down between each rep then pull with aggression, even to the point of using a LITTLE momentum. Of course, I also do cable rows, lat pulldowns, band pull-aparts and reverse flys with dumbbells.

The cool thing is that these are a two-fer; they help my deadlift AND my bench. They also seem to help with shoulder health, so maybe they’re a three-fer?


#7

[quote]Dr J wrote:
I am definitely not a great deadllifter, but for that very reason, I have put a ton of time, reading, thought and trial-and-error into trying to improve it. You mentioned that it “pulls you forward” when you initiate a heavy attempt. I THINK this indicates weakness (relatively speaking) in the upper back. I do know that strengthening my upper back absolutely helps my dead numbers.

One assistance move that seemed to be a game changer for me was bent barbell rows. I was taught to set it the bar down between each rep then pull with aggression, even to the point of using a LITTLE momentum. Of course, I also do cable rows, lat pulldowns, band pull-aparts and reverse flys with dumbbells.

The cool thing is that these are a two-fer; they help my deadlift AND my bench. They also seem to help with shoulder health, so maybe they’re a three-fer?[/quote]

Barbell rows are something I do also, generally work up to set of 5 of around 285-300 lbs. But, I was rowing for that amount a year ago, which is when I hit my pr of 485, so I can see the correlation of the two. I honestly don’t know why I don’t row more, maybe I dumped it from my program for a couple cycles. Regardless, I agree, I plan to bring them back in.

Also, I don’t do any assistance work on anything really, I was just doing squats, rows, deads, bench, and incline bench. I am modifying my program (partly due to an injury, I have a bone edema in my bone marrow, and also a stress reaction on the outside of the bone), and partly to focus on where I’m weak.

I’m happy with my squat, I went from around 400 to 585 in a year. Bench has gone down in a year, due to my injury, which I am now going to fix. Dead stayed the same in a year, probably because I didn’t do any assistance work.

So, this go around, I plan to do heavy pulls once a week, but 2 other days on the same week I plan to do assistance work, volume conventional deads, Romanian deads, barbell rows, straight legged deadlifts, and hamgstring curls.

I always though the bar pulling me down was me being weak in my lower back, but it makes sense to be weak in upper back / all around back area.

Due to my injury, I need around 9 weeks of healing. That means, no squat (unless I can find one of those bars where you put your arms in the front, and I’ll probably do front squats), no bench, no shoulders, no triceps, no biceps. That leaves back, direct leg work, and deadlifts. I’m weak on dead, so i’m going to give this cycle a real focus to get it up to par.


#8

For me personally, figuring out what assistance exercises to keep in my program is one of the toughest choices.
At 46, I need to maximize recovery, so I don’t do ANYTHING “just because”. Each exercise is to address a specific need or weakness. Another thing that makes it tough, is that those needs will change with time. As you improve one weakness, another will become evident. Then, of course, at times you have to work around injuries, as you are right now.

Oh, and make a concerted effort to progress on those accessories. Some sort of measured progression.


#9

You are a pretty big dude, its gonna be hard for you to get in the right position for a sumo. Even though yours doesnt look bad, I think conventional might be best for you.


#10

[quote]cparker wrote:
You are a pretty big dude, its gonna be hard for you to get in the right position for a sumo. Even though yours doesnt look bad, I think conventional might be best for you.[/quote]

Dude, I go back and forth on this every day haha. I’m big, makes sumo hard. But, because I’m tall (6’3"), it seems like the right form to do, less of a pull. I’m stronger in my hips than my back, which screams sumo also, I think.

And, I just started really pulling sumo. For a meet in November, I trained conventional the entire time, but day of the meet, I changed to sumo and pulled a PR, nothing spectacular, but it was still a PR.


#11

Ya im with you, im 6’1" but not as heavy. Sumo is my go to but im train both. Whenever I’m not training for a meet I do alot of beltless conventional and deficit DL on occasion. Then switch to sumo with stiff leg dl for assistance. But theres no reason not to train both, I think they help each other. Its just a matter of what you are comfortable with and prefer.


#12

[quote]Dr J wrote:
For me personally, figuring out what assistance exercises to keep in my program is one of the toughest choices.
At 46, I need to maximize recovery, so I don’t do ANYTHING “just because”. Each exercise is to address a specific need or weakness. Another thing that makes it tough, is that those needs will change with time. As you improve one weakness, another will become evident. Then, of course, at times you have to work around injuries, as you are right now.

Oh, and make a concerted effort to progress on those accessories. Some sort of measured progression.[/quote]

I’m 35, so I’m starting to get into the recovery mode. I go in spurts, if I bring a new lift, I have to start real slow, give it 2 weeks of light weight, and slowly progress to heavy weights, or else I’m out for about 6 days from soreness, the type of soreness that prohibits range of motion. The more I eat, the better it gets though of course.

But, for like squat, I’ve done that 3 times a week for a year, heavy on 2 days, no issues. But, since I started pulling sumo, my hips are very tight and hard to stretch out, usually about set 4 or 5 on squat is when they are warmed (I slowly progress up to one working set of squats).

I log all my workouts, and what I noticed is I received the largest increase on deadlift when I was doing 5/3/1, but I also injured myself the most. I injured myself the most because I was new to powerlifting, getting that last rep with crap form. I’m better now, at least for injury.

During the 5/3/1, I was doing higher reps, a lot more assistance work. I originally shunned this style as just newbie gains, but considering I haven’t gained anything since I stopped 5/3/1, I’m thinking it’s time to bring them back.


#13

[quote]cparker wrote:
Ya im with you, im 6’1" but not as heavy. Sumo is my go to but im train both. Whenever I’m not training for a meet I do alot of beltless conventional and deficit DL on occasion. Then switch to sumo with stiff leg dl for assistance. But theres no reason not to train both, I think they help each other. Its just a matter of what you are comfortable with and prefer.[/quote]

Exactly my thought at this time, I’m going to train both. For now, I feel I can pull heavier on sumo when I do good form, so I’ll train heavy on sumo, and more of the 5 rep range on dead. I already planned on deficit deads as the gym doesn’t allow chalk, so I use wraps on deficit days, and when I’m home lifting, I use chalk, so regular lifts.

From what I’m gathering is I’m just weak. Even though I can pull 500 lbs, because I’m weak in the upper / lower back area, it prohibits me from pulling more, because my weakness takes me out of form.


#14

Honestly I wouldn’t think its a back strength problem, I think that is rarely the case. You squat 585 which to me means your back is plenty strong. Its just a setup and tightness problem I would think, you seem to be on the right track though focusing on technique.


#15

I keep hearing about engaging the lats, keeping them tight, etc. I’ll make an attempt to figure out how to do this and see if it helps.


#16

I share these videos all the time because they’ve helped me the most so ill post them for you:



If you want some more videos on abdominal bracing check out more of chris duffin’s videos


#17

Awesome videos, great info. Really drives home the lats, which I know for certain I do not do.


#18

[quote]dzirkelb wrote:
My sumo is better at lockout, while my conventional is better getting it off the ground.
[/quote]

That’s super common, and was also what I saw with my own training. When my hips were stronger than my back, my sumo was better. When my back got stronger than my hips, my conventional deadlift was better and felt more natural.

If you want to stay sumo (and I don’t know that you should), approach the bar closely enough to touch it with your shins. Grab the bar and lever your hips down. Put your weight in your heels. You should be close to falling over backwards, with the only thing keeping you upright being your grip on the bar. Eyes open, head and neck neutral but looking up, flex your lats, pull out the slack, and rip that bar up your legs. Blood happens sometimes, I’ve ripped fingernails when they get caught under my shorts, and scratched my shins and legs with bar and nails. Try long socks and baby powder if you’re getting grabbed and scabbed, but keep it away from your hands and feet (very slippery).

When I compete in PL, I pull sumo, and have trained with some of the best sumo pullers in Colorado. However, deadlifting has never been my forte and my squat has always been a better lift. When I compete in strongman, I pull conventional.


#19

[quote]Be_Sound wrote:

[quote]dzirkelb wrote:
My sumo is better at lockout, while my conventional is better getting it off the ground.
[/quote]

That’s super common, and was also what I saw with my own training. When my hips were stronger than my back, my sumo was better. When my back got stronger than my hips, my conventional deadlift was better and felt more natural.

If you want to stay sumo (and I don’t know that you should), approach the bar closely enough to touch it with your shins. Grab the bar and lever your hips down. Put your weight in your heels. You should be close to falling over backwards, with the only thing keeping you upright being your grip on the bar. Eyes open, head and neck neutral but looking up, flex your lats, pull out the slack, and rip that bar up your legs. Blood happens sometimes, I’ve ripped fingernails when they get caught under my shorts, and scratched my shins and legs with bar and nails. Try long socks and baby powder if you’re getting grabbed and scabbed, but keep it away from your hands and feet (very slippery).

When I compete in PL, I pull sumo, and have trained with some of the best sumo pullers in Colorado. However, deadlifting has never been my forte and my squat has always been a better lift. When I compete in strongman, I pull conventional.[/quote]

Well, due to my rehab I will be doing front squats this session opposed to regular back squats, and I haven’t done them in years. After Friday’s session, I can quickly gather that my hamstrings, lower back, and upper back will receive a significant strength increase this cycle.

That being said, I think it’s natural to pull conventional now for sure. I will train both about the same for a few weeks to get a good feel for it though to see which feels stronger.

I’ll report back in like 3-5 weeks or so. Wednesday’s are the days I can film, so I may update this thread with new videos.


#20

A few cues that helped me with conventional, that may help you.

  • when descending toward the bar, instead of squatting down, push your butt straight back. Keep your shins completely vertical, and focus on getting a stretch in the “upper” hamstrings, near your glutes. It should feel very tight and stretched.

  • while descending, actively push your arms down toward the bar, set your grip, then lock everything in tight with the lats. This gives you a slightly higher starting position, but still keeps the back tight as a unit. Your shoulders are pushed forward, and then held in place with the lats.

  • start the pull by pivoting from your hips and using your hamstrings to push your heels hard into the ground. Finish the lift by pushing your hips between your shoulders and your feet.

  • don’t think about moving the bar at all or “standing up”. Your shoulders and the feet should stay in a straight line, and your focus is to wedging your hips forward between the two. Keep your back tight and working as one unit, and keep your shins vertical.

Just some stuff I picked up mostly from Richard Hawthorne videos that helped me.