The deadlift...ahh the deadlift. Such a beautiful lift, the holy grail for strength training and arguably the greatest test of full body strength, closely followed by the squat of course.
The deadlift tests the strength of everything from legs right through to your grip and it will take no mercy when highlighting areas of weakness when the weight gets heavy. Identifying these and correcting them is the best way to continually improve your strength in this lift.
So what does the perfect deadlift look like?
The perfect deadlift can differ from person to person and will also depend on what style of deadlift you choose, conventional or sumo. However, a few common truths will hold true. The ideal starting position will have your hips above knees and shoulders above hips. Lower back will be locked into a neutral lordotic curve and your thoracic spine will be extended. The perfect deadlift will have you hold this position throughout the first portion of the lift (just above the knee), from here you will extend the hip with the shoulders raising at the same rate, locking yourself into a solid upright position with your chest up and shoulders behind the bar.
This is an ideal world scenario here. As the weight reaches near maximal then form is of course going to fail and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The point at which your form fails merely highlights areas you need to work on if you wish to lift heavier weights with “perfect” form.
For the most part, especially in beginners, your limiting factor in the deadlift is going to be your upper back strength. So if you are serious about improving ensure you employ plenty of work to correct this and make it as strong as possible. Think rows…….. lots and lots of rows. Single arm rows, bent over rows, Pendlay rows. It doesn’t really matter just get your back as strong as possible.
Next is going to be your hamstrings. These play an important part in the initial portion of the lift, as the bar leaves the ground and ensure your hips don’t rise too early leaving your lower back to do all the work. Again the stronger you can make these the better equipped you will be to pull some big numbers. My personal favourites include GHR and RDLs. If you’re not walking like John Wayne the next day you have done them wrong.
If lock out is your problem then your glutes may not be pulling their weight, literally, and a little more focus on getting them strong is necessary. Weighted hip bridges work well here as do rack pulls. Just make sure you focus on squeezing the backside here and building that dereire.
All in all, the road to a bigger deadlift is making yourself as strong as possible and leaving no weak points.