How to deadlift like a pro

Wednesday 23 September 2015
  • Deadlift demonstration

Deadlifts are among the most basic of movements (i.e. picking sh!t up). Yet, they’re actually one of the most complex weight exercises of the lot. 

A well-executed deadlift will hit your hamstrings, glutes, quads, major back muscles (spinal erectors, traps and lats) and core. However, technique and proper form is EVERYTHING.

If done incorrectly, deadlifting can lead to injuries that will significantly stall your workouts.

But that doesn’t mean they’re just for serious weightlifters. Beginners can get huge benefits from deadlifting too. And girls, they ain’t just for guys either. 

Deadlifts are an awesome compound exercise that can help build up your strength fast. 

All you need to do is fine-tune your form and you’ll be lifting like a pro in no time. 

[WANT TO GET DOWN TO DEADLIFTING RIGHT NOW? JUMP TO THE VIDEO]

Before we launch into the nuts and bolts, here’s some of the things you definitely don’t want to be getting wrong when performing your deadlift.

The 5 big deadlift don’ts

A hunched back:

To protect your back, always aim to keep a strong and straight spine throughout the exercise. No arching.

Same goes for the shoulders. No hunching forward when pulling upwards, but also no pulling your shoulders back and puffing out the chest when at the top of a deadlift.

To help with this, keep your abs tight and remember your spine and shoulders should stay neutral the entire time.

Being too far from the bar:

This is all down to set up.

Not keeping the bar close to the body will make the lift a whole lot harder, plus put you at risk of hurting yourself.

You should start with your feet shoulder-width apart and the bar directly over your shoe laces.

As you lift, aim to keep the bar as close to your shins as possible until you reach the knee. From there, the bar should travel in a straight line upwards until you reach a standing position.

Pulling with your upper body:

When lifting the bar, all your strength should come from driving up through your lower body. 

What you’re NOT meant to do is pull on the bar using your arms and back. That’s when you’ll screw up your form.

The drive needs to start in your heels, move to your hamstrings and glutes, and then finish by pushing your hips forward to complete the move.

Over-thrusting your hips:

When you’ve got to the standing position, or ‘lockout’ as it’s commonly known, give your glutes a good squeeze but DO NOT thrust your hips forward. 

If you’re over-thrusting, you are arching your lower back at the end of the movement. 

Not a good idea when you’ve got all that weight in your hands.

Dropping the bar:

Now, what goes up, must come down. In exactly the same way!

Start lowering by pushing your butt back – much like a squat – and follow the same straight line down the body, and down the shins.

Dropping the bar is a cop out and means you’re only doing half the exercise.

It’s also dangerous and a big no no in gym etiquette which makes the gym shake (and our offices upstairs – just FYI).

The step-by-step guide to doing a deadlift

Now to put it all together, watch our lovely PT, Lilly Simony, talk you through step by step how to deadlift like a pro:

 

Lilly’s key deadlift do’s

The set up:
  • “It’s important that you get in the right position to begin with – that’s with your feet shoulder-width apart and the bar directly over the centre of each foot.”
  • “Keep your back straight, and make sure everything’s TIGHT and ready to go!”
The lift:
  • “Pick the bar up with straight arms, just outside of your knees.”
  • “The bar should travel directly up your body in a straight line to the top of the movement.”
  • “Push through your heels, and once the bar is at knee height, activate your glutes to bring the bar up to lockout.”    
The lower:
  • “Don’t just drop the bar or slide it down awkwardly, it should go down in the same way it went up.”
  • “On the way down, again push the hips back and make sure the bar is travelling in a straight line downwards.”

Amy Cox

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
AMY COX
Amy is UQ Sport’s resident blogger. She’s a peanut-butter loving Brit, who exercises to eat whatever she wants. You’ll find Amy either in the gym, playing badminton or doing the wrong moves in group fitness classes.