T Nation

Deadlift Form Help


#1

Hey Guys,

My deadlifts have consistently sucked my whole life. I'm trying to figure out my form as I consistently hurt myself in my back deadlifting. Here are two videos with multiple stances and I'm trying to figure out the best one ie most comfortable and correct. Which is the best stance to save my lower back? Just tell me where in the video or tell me if all of them were terrible.


#2

What kind of barbell are you using?


#3

It’s hard to tell with no weight on the bar, but you don’t look like you are tight on any rep that I saw. Learn how to brace your abs and keep a neutral spine, plus lat activation.


#4

You should read Mark Rippetoe’s article right here on T-Nation from just a couple of days ago (Deconstructing the deadlift, I believe it was called). The one glaring mistake I see right off the bat is that your placing the bar way too far from your shins. It should be right above the middle of your feet, about an inch away from shins. You have them on top of your toes. That will definitely increase lumbar stress and reduce your lifting capability.

There are tons of deadlift tips that people will talk about, but aside from initial bar placement, here are my favourite three (in no particular order):

Engage your lats (walk up to the back pretending you have oranges stuck in your armpits, and keep that tightness throughout your lift)

Take the slack out of the bar

Your eyes should point at 90 degrees from your spine, always. This means never look up (a common mistake). Since you are slightly crouched at the beginning, you start by looking at the floor (not straight down, but at about 45 degree off the floor), and then gradually approach a parallel (to the ground) eye stare as your erect yourself. Basically, just keep it 90 degrees with your spine, and that will work.

Oh, and I’ll add one more just for fun: if you are doing reps, make sure to stop at the bottom (I like to take my hands off the bar briefly to make sure it is a full stop). This forces you to rethink your form…I have hurt myself a couple of times by touching the floor and going right back up.


#5

Just looked at the vid again, and I can see that you are looking forward. You should only be looking forward once you are standing tall. Think of the 90 degree angle between eyesight and spine.


#6

Had a third look (again, just for fun), and you aren’t pulling close enough. I would recommend you get some soccer socks and pull close to your shins/thighs the whole time. You are being inefficient by keeping the bar so far away from your body. It may also cause lumbar stress.

I’ll add another point which is probably more obvious, but it is hard to tell from a video…the early part of the lift is largely legs (it’s really a leg push until you get past the knees), then think hip thrust. If you try to “pull” too early (especially without enough help from your legs), you could hurt yourself.


#7

It looks like there’s a lot of room for improvement. The only thing I can really see you focusing on is keeping an arch in your back. You aren’t loading up your hips and hamstrings and you aren’t bracing your abs. Sometimes you aren’t using your lats to pull the bar to your body. The lack of ab bracing and using the hips is likely whats contributing to your back pain. Your knees are so far forward because you aren’t loading up your hamstrings. Eventually you’ll want to learn to create tension throughout your entire body during the lift.

I recommend three movements: goblet squat, romanian deadlift and lunges.

With goblet squats, take in a deep breath and brace your abs hard every rep (poke your sides to make sure it isn’t soft). Push your knees apart with your glutes, which will also cause your hips to push forward. Focus on tightness in the erectors, abs, hip flexors and glutes throughout the lift. This is where you learn to spread/screw the floor. When ascending, lead with your chest.

With romanian deadlifts, brace your abs hard, tighten your erectors and use your lats to pull the bar to your body. Keep tension in your hip flexors throughout the lift. Load up your hamstrings. Your knees will be slightly forward to allow you to use your quads. Balance the weight between the balls and heels of your feet to ensure you’re using both your hamstrings and quads. While keeping everything tight, lower yourself only to the point that you can maintain tightness even if starting off with a ridiculously short range of motion. Don’t sacrifice muscle recruitment over range of motion. Eventually you will incorporate spreading/screwing the floor but worry about that later - master the ab bracing first to protest your back.

With lunges, keep your entire torso tight and make sure you feel tension in your hip flexors and glutes when doing the movement.

The main goal is to get you to learn what the movements feel like. It’ll take a few months of working on these lifts. You can eventually progress the romanian deadlift to full ROM deadlifts. Take your time to progress and don’t rush the process or you may have to relearn it. If it’s too much at once, focus on one or two things each session and progressively add in more cues. Doing a simple linear progression like 3x5 is fine. Start off light and don’t be afraid to eventually go heavy. It won’t look great at first but you’ll have to strive to maintain technique which will help you build the muscles you want.

There is no best stance to save your lower back. You have to learn to use the above muscles effectively to reduce risk of injury and increase performance. Your optimal stance for performance is your own preference and you can make tweaks to figure that out after learning the above. Hope that helps.

Edit: I forgot to add that with the lunges, you learn to pull your hips forward with your hip flexors. Combining this pull forward when using your hip flexors with pushing your hips forward and knees/feet out with your glutes results in spreading/screwing the floor.


#8

What they all said, plus this: Keep the bar closer to your body. Weight on the bar helps, but your vid shows the bar too far in front of your legs at nearly all points in the pull. A tuition payment for deadlifting is scraping some skin off your shins and thighs.

To play armchair doctor I’ll speculate that your injuries are a consequence of the poor bar position and lack of overall tightness–those two things complement each other with negative impact to your lift. Bar out in front=more stress on lower back=rounding of lower back=misery


#9

[quote]MarcF wrote:
Oh, and I’ll add one more just for fun: if you are doing reps, make sure to stop at the bottom (I like to take my hands off the bar briefly to make sure it is a full stop). This forces you to rethink your form…I have hurt myself a couple of times by touching the floor and going right back up.[/quote]

I had problems with touch and go in the past but it was because of lack of tightness. IMO, people should be able to perform any variation without much trouble - being able to keep tightness throughout should transfer across movements/variations. It’s something I’m continually working on too.


#10

General consensus: Re-film with at least 135lbs on the bar. Deadlifting with an empty bar is like practicing the olympic lifts with a dowel rod. It’s not heavy enough to transfer anything.


#11

[quote]Colbstar wrote:
General consensus: Re-film with at least 135lbs on the bar. Deadlifting with an empty bar is like practicing the olympic lifts with a dowel rod. It’s not heavy enough to transfer anything.[/quote]

I do agree that using a significant load can help us evaluate the OP better. But it looks like he can’t even create tension with the stabilizers using little or no weight so I’m guessing it’s a problem when weight is added.


#12

[quote]lift206 wrote:

[quote]MarcF wrote:
Oh, and I’ll add one more just for fun: if you are doing reps, make sure to stop at the bottom (I like to take my hands off the bar briefly to make sure it is a full stop). This forces you to rethink your form…I have hurt myself a couple of times by touching the floor and going right back up.[/quote]

I had problems with touch and go in the past but it was because of lack of tightness. IMO, people should be able to perform any variation without much trouble - being able to keep tightness throughout should transfer across movements/variations. It’s something I’m continually working on too.[/quote]

I agree - touch and go can be ok for those with good form, but I think some people (including myself) need a moment to reset everything at the very bottom. Given the form issues of the OP, I would recommend that he stick to true deadlifts (i.e. release at bottom) on every rep to focus on form until he nails it.


#13

[quote]MarcF wrote:

[quote]lift206 wrote:

[quote]MarcF wrote:
Oh, and I’ll add one more just for fun: if you are doing reps, make sure to stop at the bottom (I like to take my hands off the bar briefly to make sure it is a full stop). This forces you to rethink your form…I have hurt myself a couple of times by touching the floor and going right back up.[/quote]

I had problems with touch and go in the past but it was because of lack of tightness. IMO, people should be able to perform any variation without much trouble - being able to keep tightness throughout should transfer across movements/variations. It’s something I’m continually working on too.[/quote]

I agree - touch and go can be ok for those with good form, but I think some people (including myself) need a moment to reset everything at the very bottom. Given the form issues of the OP, I would recommend that he stick to true deadlifts (i.e. release at bottom) on every rep to focus on form until he nails it. [/quote]

Agreed