Beginner lifters rarely perform deadlifts with correct technique. Usually, beginners, breaking all the laws of physics and anatomy, try to stretch the weight with the help of their hips. This technique resembles the Romanian deadlift or straight-legged deadlift and is quite traumatic for the lower back.
To do the deadlift correctly, the following guidelines must be followed:
- Feet. Take the starting position with your feet under the bar. When viewed from the side, the projection of the bar should pass through the middle of the feet. It is difficult to independently determine whether the feet are positioned correctly. Therefore, ask someone from the gym to help you.
- The position of the legs. Keep your feet at a comfortable, natural distance, but not too wide. The socks look a little to the sides, but you don’t need to turn your feet outward unnecessarily.
- Gripping the bar. With your feet correctly positioned, go down and grab the bar with a regular or mixed grip (grip). The mixed grip allows you to work with more weight.
- Subseat. Perform a squat, touching the lower legs of the bar. The thighs should be in a natural position, approximately parallel to the floor. They can be lowered or raised slightly if necessary. If the hips are too high, the mechanics of movement will be disrupted and the lower back will take all the load. If your hips are too low, you will not be able to develop enough explosive force.
- Head. The gaze should be directed straight ahead. In the positive phase, the torso rises behind the head. By starting the deadlift with your eyes down, you risk losing your balance and disrupting your technique. The entire load will go to the lower back. This is a common mistake among gym goers.
- Back. It is forbidden to round your back. Make it a rule to always do your deadlift with your back straight.
Having taken the correct starting position, you can proceed to the execution of the deadlift. It is impossible to abruptly tear the barbell off the platform. Despite the fact that this exercise is called “pull”, when the projectile is suddenly lifted off the floor, the hips are raised too high already in the initial stage of the movement. When lowering the head down (and this is inevitable with a sharp separation), the hips rise even higher. As a result, the deadlift turns into a Romanian deadlift. You will not be able to develop enough explosive force, and your lower back will be overloaded.
The bar does not need to be pulled, but to stand up, holding it in your hands. Lifting is a natural movement. By maintaining a natural body position, you will be able to exert more strength and maintain correct technique.
The upward movement should start with the head that rises first. Imagine that your head is flying up. Following the head, the whole body rises.
When the bar reaches your knees, try to push your hips forward. Often, athletes have to stop doing the exercise because they are still trying to pull the bar at dead center. At the “dead center” it is necessary:
- Climb. Again, keeping your body in a natural position.
- Work your hips. You need to feed your hips forward.
Remember that the deadlift is not really a deadlift. Pulling objects off the floor, unlike lifting, is not a natural movement.
Is deadlift dangerous?
Is the deadlift a dangerous exercise? The risk level in the deadlift is no higher than in any other basic exercise performed with gross violations of technique. Day in and day out, the gym goers do the hit-and-run bench press and crush their knees with partial squats.
The main mistake in the deadlift is doing the exercise with an unnatural body position. Read the technique tips discussed above carefully (several times if necessary) and start practicing with a moderate weight. In the initial phase of the movement, the hips should be in such a position that you can develop maximum effort. The bar should be lifted (starting from the head), not pulled.
Comparison of the classic deadlift and the sumo deadlift
Below we will compare two ways to perform deadlift – sumo and classic. At the end of the article, a table will be compiled that will help you decide on the choice of “your” style of deadlift.
Deadlift – muscle growth
- Classic deadlift . In the classics, the main load falls on the back muscles and spinal erectors. If you have a strong lower back, the classic style is most likely preferable. (Physique is also important.)
- Sumo-style deadlift . In sumo, the load is shifted to the gluteal muscles, hamstrings, quads, and upper traps. If you have a weak lower back or have had problems in this area in the past, then it is better to give preference to the deadlift in the “sumo” style.
Deadlift – Physique
- Classic deadlift . Athletes with a short torso and long arms perform better in the classics.
- Sumo-style deadlift . Athletes with a long torso and short arms are generally better suited to the sumo style.
Deadlift – bar movement
- Classic deadlift . The bar travels a longer distance.
- Sumo-style deadlift . The range of bar movement is shorter. From a theoretical point of view, a wide leg stance helps to take more weight in the one-rep max. However, a wide sumo stance requires a good hip stretch. It may take some time to get used to.
Deadlift – foot position
- Classic deadlift . As a rule, the feet are placed straight or slightly turned outward.
- Sumo-style deadlift . The feet should be in a line that runs through the upper thigh to the middle of the knee joint. Pivoting the feet at an unnatural angle places significant stress on the knees and reduces leverage (legs).
Transition . The transition from one style of deadlift to another is usually accompanied by a decrease in performance, even if the new style is better suited to your physique. The fact is that different ways of doing the exercise involve muscle groups in different ways (angles change). You may need to reduce the load slightly in order to gradually increase the weight of the projectile.
Experienced powerlifters . Athletes who have performed deadlifts in the same style over the years may experience a significant decrease in their 1RM results when switching to a different style. Muscles have been getting used to one type of load for years, and it takes time for them to rebuild.
Combination of styles . If you decide to experiment with a new version of the exercise, you should not immediately abandon the current style – until the muscles adapt to the new type of load. Train with equal diligence in both styles.
Beginners . If you have never performed deadlifts before, then you should not guess with the choice of the execution style, based only on the recommendations presented in this article. Everything is learned in practice. By trying both methods, you can determine which one suits you best in terms of comfort or current fitness.
Romanian deadlift . Often, beginners cannot boast of the perfect deadlift technique. Poor technique turns your regular deadlift into a Romanian one. If you are familiar with this problem, but all your attempts to correct the technique have been unsuccessful, try to practice sumo for a while.
Supporting exercises . If you are training to compete in powerlifting competitions, we recommend using a stance like the deadlift for other exercises. For example, when doing a sumo deadlift, you can apply wide leg stances in assisting exercises — straight-legged bend with a barbell over your shoulders, box squats, and Romanian deadlifts.
A few more words about physique
The Strength and Conditioning Journal published an article by Dr. Michael Hales analyzing the differences between long and short torso, and long and short arms. The optimal deadlift style can be determined with the help of a centimeter and a belaying partner.
- Step 1 – Measure the length of the torso, starting with the greater trochanter of the femur and ending at the crown of the head. The greater trochanter of the femur is a bony protrusion at the top of the thigh. When measuring the length of the torso, stand upright.
- Step 2 – Measure the length of the arm, starting with the bony ridge at the top of the shoulder and ending with the last phalanx of the middle finger. The arm should be extended straight.
- Step 3 – Measure Height. (You don’t need to guess.)
Torso length. Divide your torso length (in centimeters) by your height in centimeters.
- Short Torso – If the resulting ratio is less than 47%, you have a short torso.
- Long Torso – If this ratio is greater than 47%, you have a long torso.
Arm length. Divide the length of your arms (in centimeters) by your height in centimeters.
- Short arms – If the ratio is less than 38%, you have short arms.
- Long arms – If the odds are greater than 38%, you have long arms.
Comparison of torso length and arm length to select a deadlift style
Knowing the length of the torso and the length of the arms, you can determine which style of deadlift is more preferable – classic or sumo:
- Short arms and short torso – either classic or sumo
- Short arms and medium-length torso – sumo
- Short arms and long torso – sumo
- Medium arm and short torso – classic
- Medium arm and medium torso – either classic or sumo
- Medium arm and long torso – sumo
- Long arms and short torso are classic
- Long arms and medium torso – classic
- Long arms and long torso – either classic or sumo