Tricks of the Trade: The Deadlift
The deadlift is one of the most technical moves we have in weightlifting. It is also probably the foundational movement of weightlifting. Essentially, a deadlift is picking things up from the floor. As we move about the gym doing our routine, and then go home and live our lives, we have the chance to perform a deadlift multiple times a day.
There is a myth that this lift came from the battlefield of Rome that this was the approved technique to lift the bodies of their fallen comrades. Literally, “lifting the dead.” This was used not only to help young soldiers get familiar with battle and death, but to also increase overall strength. These days the deadlift refers to lift a weight that is at a dead stop.
The deadlift ins a hip hinge exercise, the hip being the dominant mover. That is to say, your spine and legs are stiff as a board and the only joint movement is coming from the hips.
Lets go over some of the cues and hints to make your deadlift better. This is going from bottom to top, from set up to execution
Put your shoulder blades in your back pocket
Depress and pack your shoulders down, this cue, ‘Shoulder blades in your back pocket’ is a good visualization to keep those shoulder blades back and down. This movement activates the lats and keeps the spine straight during the deadlift.
It’s a push, not a pull
Most people treat the DL as a pull exercise because we appear to be pulling it up from the ground. What you are really doing is pushing the ground away with your feet. When you treat the DL as a push, it become easier to master.
Stare at a spot 3-5 feet in front of you
Anytime you do balance work or an exercise that has your torso moving up and down, pick a spot 3-5 feet in front of your an d try to burn a hole in it with your eyes. Better yet point your nose at the spot. This will keep you from cranking your next as your do the movement.
People have a tendency to perform this in front of the mirror. That means every time the barball touches the ground, the are looking at themselves, rather than the ground. This is the neck crank. This will mess up your lift quicker than anything. Our goal is to keep the WHOLE spine straight when we move. This will protect us from getting hurt and allow us to move more weight.
Belly button to spine and out your throat
When setting up for the DL, person your 5 point set up and brace that core. I literally have a 10-15 different cues on how to brace your core but the one I like the most is “try to pull your belly button out your throat.” First you pull it back to the spine, and up out your mouth. This usually lifts the pelvic floor as well. Keeping this brace will serve you well.
Knees fit inside your elbows
You want a grip wide enough on the barbell where your knees can fit comfortably inside your elbow. Tall folks will have a much wider grip while shorter folks stay narrower - but all this really has to do with the shape and mobility of your hips.
Just remember your knees inside elbows and make enough room for them. The last thing you want to for your to have to rotate your knees inward at the bottom of the lift. This disengages many of the primary muscles used to person the lift in the first place.
Sink back into your hips
As you perform the deadlift, you are going to sink back into your hips as far back as possible. Don’t just bend forward, sit back. This movement is all about the movement of the hips going backward and forwards.
Keep the bar over the midfoot
As you move you want to keep the bar as close to you as possible. In competitive weightlifting, the athletes scrape the barbell along their shins. Yes, its; terrible and makes you bleed a bit. I don’t do this because I’m a Lady and keeping the barbell five millimetres closer to my shins has a low ROI. Just don't let the bar get too far in front of you. Keep the bar path over your mid foot thought the whole movement and you will be fine.
T n’ A
As you are moving downward and get to the bottom of the lift, remember: Ass out, tits out. This is the most memorable way I have of cuing to keep the spine long and straight. You want to stick your butt out behind you and keep you chest big and proud. Collapsing out of this position will round the spine and hurt your back. Keep it strong with this cue.
Triceps glued to lats
As you get to the bottom of the lift, you want to keep you tricep glued to your lats as best you can. This keep the shoulders and lats engaged, protecting your back further. Ths minute your tris become unglued, you shoulder hunch forward, bar gets out in front of you and the spine is in danger of rounding.
Shine your light at the wall in front of you
Even at the bottom of the lift, as the plate touch the ground, you are going to have that big proud chest. Pretend there is a light on your chest and you are trying to shine it on the wall in front of you. ALWAYS keep you light shining up and out in front of you.
Squeeze from the smile
Coming up from the lift, push the ground away from you and squeeze from ‘the smile.’ This is where the hamstring meets the glutes and creates the upward curve of the bottom of the butt. I got this from a Marine, hence, talking about smiles and butts. But this is a good and memorable cue. Weight lifting is all about the mind/muscle connection and this gets you right there. The lift in the DL comes from the hamstrings and the glutes, not the back.