The deadlift is arguably one of my favorite exercises. Not just for its mass-building qualities, but also for the hinge motion’s application to everyday activities. Now that being said, it is also one of the most frustrating motions to watch people do incorrectly. Incorrectly performing deadlifts can leave pain on different parts of the body, especially the low back. When people do a deadlift for the first time and do it wrong they are left with a bad taste in their mouth.
This can easily be related to a bad experience in any other aspect of your life. If you go on a boat and get seasick, chances are you are not going to be in any hurry to get back on a boat. If you deadlift and feel pain the following day, you probably won’t be revisiting that motion in the near future. The truth is, and this may be hard to hear, it is not the deadlift’s fault, it is yours. In this blog, I will attempt to help correct a few of the most common mistakes associated with the deadlift to get you back on the boat once again.
How to Correct the Deadlift
The Set Up
The first common mistake seen in a deadlift is the approach to the barbell. The rule of thumb for a deadlift is to have the feet about the same width that you would for a box jump, typically just outside hip width.
- Keep your feet pointed forward
- Keep the bar tight against your legs
- Only after addressing the above, think about hinging to pick up the bar.
Too often the stance is either too narrow or too wide. This can cause the back to round or change this from a conventional deadlift into a sumo. The sumo position (targeting quads, hamstrings, low back, and adductor) is fine. But the sumo does not target the same muscles as the conventional deadlift. Specifically the glutes, hamstrings, and spinal erectors, which is the end goal.
The second and probably most common error is during the lift itself. When a deadlift is performed properly the hips, legs and chest are supposed to open simultaneously. When the legs open and then the hinge is performed through just the hips and low back this results in the rounding of the back which leads to serious back pain and injuries. One way I have found that corrects this is to warm up with a light deadlift from a deficit or on top of a rebook step. Although this seems much harder, it allows you to focus on keeping the spine in a neutral position and also keeping your hips lower to work on opening the hips and chest simultaneously.
The final deviation is at the top of the motion and it is the hyperextension of the back. When completing a proper repetition, as stated before, you are completely extended with hips, legs, and chest completely open.
A common mistake made is to try and take the range of motion past the point intended or safe.
When you lean back after completing the lift trying to exaggerate bringing the hips through you are putting too much pressure on your low back as well as doing unnecessary work.
One way to fix this if you can turn sideways to a mirror. You can also have a lifting partner watch you from the side. Watch when you’re fully extended without overextending and get your body used to that position so you can obtain complete body awareness in the proper position.
When done correctly the deadlift is a great exercise for gaining mass in addition to activating the hamstrings and glutes. The hinging movements can be so beneficial to add to your exercise arsenal. The deadlift is the most basic form of the hinge. Perfect the deadlift and it will quickly go from avoided to the favorite part of your program. If you are the type of person that likes watching progress this is the perfect lift for you. Deadlift and enjoy.