How To Deadlift

The deadlift is one of the most basic and fundamental movements that you’ll come across in the box. It can develop great strength and can improve the quality of other movements when done correctly. In this article we’ll look at the conventional deadlift – this version is the more popular and in my personal experience allows more weight to be lifted.

The setup has a very important role and is often not given enough focus, resulting in a weak start position. If you set up badly it is more than likely that you won’t be able to correct your position during the lift.

Firstly, approach the bar with your feet no wider than shoulder-width apart. If you are unsure on what is the best stance for you I find that doing a couple of jumps on the spot will put your feet in your most powerful position. Once you have established this you need to focus on your core and back positioning. You should brace your core by contracting your muscles as if you are bracing to take a punch. Then pull your shoulder blades down to engage your lats. Once your braced position is obtained don’t release it until the lift is finished.

The bar should start as close to the body as possible, so should be touching your shins. This is to ensure that the weight stays close to your midline – the further away the bar is from the body, the heavier it will feel. Bend at the waist and knee so that your hips go back. This loads the posterior chain (back, glutes and hamstrings). At this point your shins should be vertical and your hands hanging by your knees.  Reach down until you are able to grip the bar with your shin as vertical as possible. Again ensuring that the bar is close to your body.

When gripping the bar you want to keep your arms close to your body so that you lift the bar the shortest distance possible – the wider the grip the further you’ll have to lift the bar. There are several grip options that you can adopt: pronated (palm of your hands facing towards your body), mixed grip (what most big lifts are achieved with), or you could master the hook grip.

Your head should be in a neutral position. This means that you shouldn’t be looking forward or straight down; instead you should be focusing about 6 foot in front of your feet at the start of the lift.

Now that you are ready to go you want to make sure that you lift with maximum efficiency and minimum risk of injury. Taking the flex out of the bar is the first part; applying force on the bar without it leaving the floor does this.

After you have taken the strain and the flex is out of the bar you can begin to lift from the floor. When doing this there shouldn’t be a sudden movement or jerk. Instead, think about driving your heels through the floor with a forceful leg drive. Now that the bar is moving you’ll want to keep it as close to the body as you can. Leaning slightly backwards will keep the bar in contact with the shins and thighs.

Once the bar has reached knee height think about driving your hips towards the bar by contracting your glutes as hard as possible. As you’re squeezing your glutes bring your torso to full extension by bringing your shoulders behind the bar. The lockout is when your knees, hips and shoulders are all in a straight line. There is no need to lean further back than this, as all it will do is put the lower back into a compromised position.

When lowering the bar back down its path should be the same as on the extension. You should keep the bar as close to your thigh and shin as possible. If you are doing multiple reps take a breath at the top of the movement, control the decent and repeat the lift process.


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  • Fred Durs

    Great post. Perhaps a video to go with it would help?

    • Crossfit Cambridgeshire

      Hi Fred, Glad you liked the article, we are looking at putting together videos for these posts. Thanks for the feedback.


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