5 steps to improve your deadlift

The deadlift is the king of all lifts. It is a very functional movement that allows you to harness the full strength potential of the human body. Of all the lifts this exercise should allow you to exert the most force. Meaning on a single all out lift, this should be the most weight you can lift of all the other exercises through a full range of motion.

It targets the lower back, it also works the trapezius, lats, the quadriceps, the hamstrings, and the glutes. There is also the side benefit of the massive increase in growth hormone levels associated with lifts like this.

Many people struggle with the deadlift and considering the loads that can be lifted with even bad technique, many people leave this lift out of the arsenal because they fear breaking something.

The following 5 tips will help you master the “King of lifts” and take your training to an all new level of intensity.

1 – Foot position

To address the bar walk forwards with feet shoulder width apart. Stop walking when the bar is directly over the middle of the foot. By foot I mean the toe to heel, not the ankle to the toe. This position is usually half way up the laces. In my opinion it is best to lift bare-foot or with very thinly-soled flat shoes.

From this position, when you bend forward you will have a natural shin to bar position and the shin should just about touch the bar when you reach it with your hands.


2 – Hand position

From the side profile view the hands should be slightly behind the shoulders at the armpit. This helps to focus on pulling the weight towards the body, recruiting the lats thus assisting in the pull.

3 – Push the floor

People often focus too much on lifting the weight up. The focus should be on powerfully pushing the feet through the floor or pushing the ground away from you. This can take time to master but can add a great deal to your performance. Take the time to visualize the lift first before attempting the lift. Also make sure you practice this with your warm-ups.


4 – Back corner

As well as concentrating on pushing the floor away you should also drive the bar upwards to the upper back corner of the room.

Think about it. If you weight 75kg and the bar you are lifting weights 150kg then the leverage required is massively against you if you try to lift it directly upwards from the hips. You should instead pull the weight towards your body and drive your head to the upper back corner of the room. This will bring the bar very close to your shins and is why powerlifters wear socks. So they don't leave DNA on the bar.

5 – Use special lifts

Don’t always reply on the traditional deadlift to guarantee you deadlift gains. There are so many variations of the deadlift that it is beyond the scope of this article to cover them all here.

Instead I will give you three variations to use that cover three different training stimuli.

Variation 1 – Overload

Use platforms to raise the bar to just above the knees. This is great for those who struggle with the top phase of the lift. It also allows strong lifters to lift even more weight with less risk of injury.


Variation 2 – Sumo deadlifts

This variation should be regularly cycled in with your training routine. Use the same strategies outlined above for the technique. This is great for taller lifters who have trouble reaching the bar with optimal alignment and often replaces the regular deadlift position. As the legs are wider it does sacrifice some of the raw strength offered by the traditional alignment but often makes up for it by how much less of a range you have to lift the bar through.

Variation 3 – Accommodating resistance

The use of chains and bands has become more and more popular due to the work of The Westside Barbell club who boast some truly amazing results amongst their members.

The use of chain and bands means that the lifter has to work harder as the bar moves through the stronger phases of the lift. This allows for maximal effort through the lift. Chains prove a steady increase of load to the top position while bands actively try and pull the bar away from the lifter. I recommend using both but would move towards bands if I could only choose 1. On the other hand, chains really annoy everyone due to the load and invasive noise they make so I’m a little bit torn.