Mastering Your Deadlift

Piotr Leniart

Many people consider the deadlift as an ultimate showcase of overall strength. The entire body has to work in unison to accomplish the task. You can find a lot of information about deadlift in social media or many other websites. I would like to shear with you my thoughts to help you finally achieve deadlifting perfection.


Setup

Without questions, the setup makes or breaks the deadlift. If you're lazy and just go through the motions, you'll fail miserably, or worse, get hurt. Conversely, if you check your ego at the door and take the time to set up correctly, more often than not, you'll be rewarded with a bigger lift.

On several occasions I've noted that one should retract (pull together) their shoulders blades when setting up for the pull. This stiffens the mid-back, engages the lats (which in turn provides more spinal stability), and activates the thoraco-lumbar fascia, which help to better transfer force from the lower body to the upper body.
As such, while I still feel that stiffening the upper back and activating the lats is integral for improving the deadlift, I've slightly modified my approach.

Trying to actively pinch the shoulder blades together while deadlifting just feels awkward. But when I use the phrase, lock your shouder blades into place and think about putting them in your back pocket it's like magic, and people get it. As a result, many of the benefits that I described above come into play. You shorten the lever arm length from the shoulder to the lumbar spine, and you also engage the lats to help protect the lumbar spine and the SI joint.

But as a general observation, the pull just feels stronger. Try it out on your next deadlifting day. I can almost guarantee you'll notice an improvement.

Correct deadlift technique
Correct deadlift technique

Neck position

Possibly more important for a healthy, powerful, deadlift is packing the neck as opposed to hyperextending it, which is a big no-no for several reasons. Hyperextandng the neck isn't safe. We've got one spine, and whatever happens in the neck will, concurrently, mirror itself in the lumbar spine. We wouldn't allow someone to deadlift with a hyper-lordotic lower back, so it stands to reason that we shouldn't allow hyper-lordosis in the cervical area, either. Spinal stabilization is and always will be the name of the game when it comes to pulling big weight. It's no coincidence that the positions of integrity are also the positions that lend themselves to improved performance.

In closing, here are some other random bits of awesomeness to kick up your deadlift. For the love of all that's holy, take off your shoes. If you train at the gym that forbids barefoot training, at the very last, get yourself a pair of good trainers. Slow down, when performing multiple reps of deadlifts, think of each rep as it’s own set. This works really well with clients when trying to clean up their technique. There's nothing wrong with pausing on the floor between each rep to gather yourself, get your air, re-establish a good back position, activate the lats, and perform a clean rep

Now go and enjoy your deadlift!

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