T Nation

Should the Extremely Weak Deadlift?


I don't usually train anyone - ever.

Anyway, today, one guy who works with me (we're tax/finance/litigation professionals) came to work out with me. To put it in perspective, we usually spend 12-14 hours a day at our desks. When we got to deadlifts, he started doing them all wrong. Once I corrected the errors (grinding his knees inward, rounded back, head looking at his navel, activating the lower back before the hip, etc.) he could only deadlift 75 pounds. He weighs 180.

His leg drive seems OK, he can leg press around his weight, or so. I really think his lower back, hams and glutes are weak.

I'm scared to actually train again with him... Is there a risk of injury for someone this weak? I mean he must have the weakest posterior chain I've ever seen. Im almost at a point where I feel like telling him to hit the "Good Morning" machine.

I tried to see what I was doing in 2009 when I started out ... and I was deadlifting 135.... for 8-10 reps. At the same weight (180). So I have no idea....


ew no


no. people with a weak deadlift should never pick anything up like ever. not a stack of papers or anything.

wait - what?

there is a difference between 'good enough' and 'perfect'. and sometimes perfect is the enemy of the good. i mean in terms of potentially overburdening someone with cues...

hold your lumbar arch yes. aside from that... most things tend to sort themselves out. start light, yes. get used to the motor program.

trap bar deadlift is often suggested for beginners because it really is very idiot proof.

perhaps starting with the bar raised up a little because he may simply lack the flexibility to pull from the ground.


WOW somebody needs to start small...ok DL's are definitely great, in fact, divine for exercise standards, but this is only when done with proper form and decent strength base. Try to get your friend to strengthen up his posterior chain with glute ham raises, low back extensions, back squats, weighted lunges, planks, and pretty much all major core exercises 1st, even if this means bodyweight reps spread over the course of the entire day. AND IF DEADLIFTING is a MUST get him to work with just the bar and perfect his form before adding weight.


Nice info here, especially the trap bar DL's. They'll seriously do great help, and IF somehow no trap bar is a available, have him hold dumbbells in each hand with his hands by his sides.


Correct deadlifting form is not hard to learn. I believe this is a good beginner movement because it will stress and strengthen the whole body (bones, joints, tendons, muscles) from top to bottom. But if this dude is seriously pathetic, definitely don't push him into something which he has niether the will or mental strength to do properly.

If he really wants to follow your advice, he would be watching videos and taking a real interest in deadlifting and serious weight-training by now. It's of course clear that almost all men want to be bigger and stronger, but that the majority will not go through the pain and discomfort of achieving that goal.

You can always send him to the rowing machine where he'll be less of a danger to himself and others.

There was a good article by Dan John on here recently emphasising the importance of the hinge position. I think this is an important concept for new deadlifters because it stresses the role of the hips/glutes/abdominal section, and not just the hamstrings/back muscles.


I feel like a bitch compared to 90% of the people on this site, but I get asked a fair few questions from people at work/mates regularly about training the big lifts.

I'd keep at it, as long as you felt comfortable. Dead lift strength, as we know, sky rockets in the first few sessions anyhow. So his strength/technique should come up with it pretty quickly.

He may also decide that he is embarrassed by how much he can do and not ego check at the door and just stop training all together. Problem solved.


'If you're bad at something, should you avoid doing it?'

I think the awnser is as obvious as it gets.


he probably just needs more practice. those are a lot of cues for a newb to get right AND deadlift confidently.

keep it light until he starts ripping it off the ground without breaking himself in half.


I don't see why not, as long as he's lifting safely, it's all good.....we all have to start somewhere.

Also, since you've only just shown your friend how to DL correctly it's very possible he can actually DL more than just 75LBS he's now holding himself back a bit (mentally, through fear of injury etc).


'you are doing it all wrong'
'i'm scared to train with you'

gee i wonder why the guy doesn't want to lift much weights.
that is how come trainers get people doing stuff on a bosu ball i think.

one legged deadlifts on a bosu ball?


Alexus, I stated, in my first line, that I'm not a trainer.

I'm good at listening to my own body; but I've never really sized up others. I've told people "how" to train but never really followed up - that's the extent of my "experience".

Anyway, thanks for writing back. This thread's made me realize we both need to man up.

If he's going to keep following during lunch time to sneak off to the gym, I'm going keep him working on the deadlifts. We'll start with a bar and two 10's (65 lbs), and then do some assistance work. A GHR would be great but I doubt it's a possibility. Practicing the lumbar arch while bent over (I know it sounds lame but he's so weak it might actually develop his strength), Core work and hypers and we'll take it from there.


If he's only deadlifting 75lbs then that means there is only 20lbs on eac side of the bar. This would make the bar a fair bit lower. Try making the bar the same height as it would normally be using 45lb plates and see if he can do more. He can then improve from there, it won't take long to deadlift 135lbs for reps.


he might not be able to hold a lumbar arch.

that could be it.

i do understand your freaking out if he isn't holding that...

ripptoe has an article 'back position for power'. got some tests.

1) hold lumbar arch.
2) reach down and grab the bar while maintaining lumbar arch.

maybe he isn't flexible enough to keep his arch while he gets down there. hip mobility could be lacking (from all that sitting. get him stretching out the front of his hip / foam rolling).

raise the bar up more (turn it into a rack pull) if you need to.

3) maintain lumbar arch while pulling. if this is where he loses it then strength is limiting. if the problem occurs earlier then the problem isn't strength rather it is mobility.




rack pulls

start just above the knees , work his way down over a few months



  1. You say you're not a trainer, so what are you doing training someone? Many gyms have a policy forbidding training by anyone who isn't registered with them. At my gym, you could be thrown out the door for this.

  2. You started deadlifting 135 for 10 reps easy . . . so exactly what leads you to believe everyone is equally gifted?

  3. Was there any particular reason you couldn't use weight below 75 lbs? Like a bare 45 lb bar? A 25 lb bar? A broomstick?


He's not a trainer, doesn't mean he can't show his friend a few things to do in the weight room. As for the gym policy, I've never heard of gyms that kick people out for trying to help a friend begin weight training, except ya'know, gyms like Planet Fitness(deadlifting, Lunk Alarms). Now having a spot and a few pointers doesn't call for a ban from the gym, that's a bit harsh.

For the OP, I've had a similar problem with friends of mine. But they don't seem to really want to know how to do things right. They've come and gone, still doing wrist curls while having no clue why. If he sticks around, that's great, means he wants to get better. Tell him to watch videos and read articles on how to improve his form. Sometimes I just like to squat,bench, and deadlift at home with the air as the bar, but that's just me and my family thinks I'm crazy.


Theres a good article on this site on how to progress into deadlifting.

It might be by Mike Robertson, I dont remember.

I think it went

1 Pull thrus
2. Rdl's
3. Trap bar

Found it http://www.T-Nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance/exercise_progressions_for_bigger_pulls