People are always arguing about how to do a deadlift properly. Distance of the bar from your shins and how low your waist is before you begin the lift are just a couple of sticking points in these arguments.
Here is the bottom line.
Protect your back.
To protect your back you must lift with your legs. Back position, distance from the bar, whether your driving through your heels as opposed to toes. These are all factors. Foot position, plant, and distance apart and glute activation through hip rotation, to name a few more. Technique is more important than the weight on the bar and is quintessential if you care to continue to put up numbers.
A few pointers.
First, if your feet are too far apart a few things happen.
- You lose the ability to let your knees track outwardly because your arms are now in the way. This can cause your knees to, sort of, cave in more which puts them at risk.
- You lose grip strength more quickly and at higher weights. A wider stance forces a wider grip. The wider the grip the harder it is to hold the bar because your hands are now gripping the bar at an angle.
- You’re not able to rotate your hips through during the second half of the upward motion. This is exacerbated if you duck feet.
I keep my feet less than shoulder width apart. My hands make contact with the bar directly outside my legs. This causes my hands to make contact with my legs through the entire rep.
Sit into the rep properly.
I make sure to sit into the rep with my glutes slightly above the knee. You shouldn’t have your legs straight or too straight and you shouldn’t be sitting too deeply into the rep.
Keep your back arched.
You already know this one. Please don’t be that guy who rounds his back. You need your spine. Protect it.
Keep your shoulders back.
This helps protect your back and shoulders. AND it’s something you can only do when you begin the rep in the proper position. Let’s say you can deadlift 500lbs. You probably can’t row 500lbs. If your legs are straight and you’re doing more of a straight leg dead, you won’t be able to pull your shoulders back and your shoulder blades together at higher weights. Your back probably isn’t strong enough for this. If you’re in the proper position for deads before you start the lift, you should be able to keep your shoulders back and packed. Don’t unpack your shoulders.
Drive through your heels.
If you lean forward into the rep and drive through the toes, chances are you’ll be able to put up more weight more quickly. However, the weight is farther from your body and has more leverage on you than you on it. In other words, your upper body is a lever, the fulcrum your lower back, and the weight is cranking on that lever. (This doesn’t mean “don’t have your whole foot firmly planted!” Make sure your entire foot and all toes are in contact with the floor.)
This brings me to my next point.
Keep the bar close to your body.
Now, how close will depend on your skeletal structure. For myself, I keep the bar right against my shins. I drag the bar right up my shins and over my knees. The bar never breaks contact with my body. This allows me to sit far back, keep my shoulders back, drive through my heels, and lift with my legs for the majority of the rep. It keeps the weight from having so much leverage on your lower back. You should be able to feel the difference. If the bar is farther from your body, you won’t be able to sit back, your legs will be straighter (which takes them out of the lift and makes it more of a back exercise), you won’t be able to keep your shoulders back, and you’ll drive through your toes.
This is why I wear pants!
My legs are always bruised and abraded from deadlifts. It’s like a badge of honor. Although, they never heal when you don’t wear pants. AND it’s disrespectful to bleed all over the bar. Keep your DNA on your person as much as possible. Wipe the bar if you don’t!
Deadlifts are my favorite exercise, by the way. Get it!