THREE CUES FOR A BETTER DEADLIFT

THREE CUES FOR A BETTER DEADLIFT

Chances are you deadlift dozens of times per day without even realizing it.  Reach over to grab something off the floor, lift up a child, or move a piece of furniture and you’ve deadlifted.

The deadlift is common and crucial to our everyday movements.  Yet, despite the relative frequency with which we employ this pattern, few people understand how to do it effectively.

Here are three cues you can use to improve your deadlift form, protect your back, and maximize force production.

Butt Back (Not Down)

The hallmark of the deadlift is the concentrated hinge action of the hip joint.  Unlike the squat, which requires movement around multiple joints like the hip, knee and ankle, the deadlift is about creating movement around a single, fixed axis point—the hip joint.

A lot of people will set up for the deadlift by squatting down, rather than sitting back.  The result is a hybrid version of the deadlift and the squat position that splits the difference (and the benefits) of the two exercises.

The vertical torso creates a long lever arm that encourages rounding of the upper back at the midpoint of the lift and the large bend in the knee makes it difficult to produce enough hip torque or hamstring tension to give you any appreciable amount of leverage.

“Butt back” is one the simplest cues to break this upright, hybrid squat-dead position and reestablish the back-and-forth movement of the hinge pattern.

Ribs Down

Most people understand that rounding your back to pick up something heavy from the ground is a bad idea.  Bending forward in a rounded position turns off the muscles that support your spine and increases compression of the intervertebral discs.

Instead, your spine and rib cage should remain in a well-organized and physiological stable position, generally referred to as “neutral” when you deadlift.  The problem, however, is that most people over-interpret neutral as being the opposite of flexed: which is extended.

This “neutral plus a little” position manifests as a hyper-arched, over-extended lower back; anteriorly tilted pelvis; and anteriorly, upwardly-rotated ribs.

This positon may feel safer and more secure than a flexed posture, but it, too, relies on a suboptimal, end-range strategy.  Most of the stability you feel in extension is created through bone-on-bone contact.  As you raise your chest up and crank your spine back, you wedge the facet joints on your vertebrae together.

To offset this hyperextension strategy during a deadlift setup, think “ribs down.”  This small correction shifts the burden away from the spine and back to the muscles.  It also helps to balance tension between the front and backside of your body for improved stability.

Push Through the Floor

Deadlifts are traditionally classified as “pulling” exercises, along the same lines as rows, pull-ups, and any other movement that involves moving a weight toward your midline.  As such, it’s common for people to approach the deadlift with a lot of focus on pulling the weight off the ground.

While this sounds sensible, it has the subtle effect of shifting effort and attention away from the bigger, stronger hips and hamstrings to smaller muscles in your upper back, shoulders, and arms.

To help correct this, think of the deadlift as a push rather than a pull.  By pushing your lower body through the ground, your hips act as a fulcrum that lifts your upper body and the weight.

Also, by switching the emphasis to the foot pushing through the ground—an external focal point—rather than specific muscles creating an action—internal focus—it’s easier to keep your body stable and organized throughout the lift, which means more power.

Conclusion

Understanding how to deadlift with good form provides a model for everyday movement. The next time you reach to pick something off the ground or deadlift as part of your workout, remember these three cues to help keep yourself strong and injury-free.

THREE CUES FOR A BETTER DEADLIFT

Chances are you deadlift dozens of times per day without even realizing it.  Reach over to grab something off the floor, lift up a child, or move a piece of furniture and you’ve deadlifted.

The deadlift is common and crucial to our everyday movements.  Yet, despite the relative frequency with which we employ this pattern, few people understand how to do it effectively.

Here are three cues you can use to improve your deadlift form, protect your back, and maximize force production.

Butt Back (Not Down)

The hallmark of the deadlift is the concentrated hinge action of the hip joint.  Unlike the squat, which requires movement around multiple joints like the hip, knee and ankle, the deadlift is about creating movement around a single, fixed axis point—the hip joint.

A lot of people will set up for the deadlift by squatting down, rather than sitting back.  The result is a hybrid version of the deadlift and the squat position that splits the difference (and the benefits) of the two exercises.

The vertical torso creates a long lever arm that encourages rounding of the upper back at the midpoint of the lift and the large bend in the knee makes it difficult to produce enough hip torque or hamstring tension to give you any appreciable amount of leverage.

“Butt back” is one the simplest cues to break this upright, hybrid squat-dead position and reestablish the back-and-forth movement of the hinge pattern.

Ribs Down

Most people understand that rounding your back to pick up something heavy from the ground is a bad idea.  Bending forward in a rounded position turns off the muscles that support your spine and increases compression of the intervertebral discs.

Instead, your spine and rib cage should remain in a well-organized and physiological stable position, generally referred to as “neutral” when you deadlift.  The problem, however, is that most people over-interpret neutral as being the opposite of flexed: which is extended.

This “neutral plus a little” position manifests as a hyper-arched, over-extended lower back; anteriorly tilted pelvis; and anteriorly, upwardly-rotated ribs.

This positon may feel safer and more secure than a flexed posture, but it, too, relies on a suboptimal, end-range strategy.  Most of the stability you feel in extension is created through bone-on-bone contact.  As you raise your chest up and crank your spine back, you wedge the facet joints on your vertebrae together.

To offset this hyperextension strategy during a deadlift setup, think “ribs down.”  This small correction shifts the burden away from the spine and back to the muscles.  It also helps to balance tension between the front and backside of your body for improved stability.

Push Through the Floor

Deadlifts are traditionally classified as “pulling” exercises, along the same lines as rows, pull-ups, and any other movement that involves moving a weight toward your midline.  As such, it’s common for people to approach the deadlift with a lot of focus on pulling the weight off the ground.

While this sounds sensible, it has the subtle effect of shifting effort and attention away from the bigger, stronger hips and hamstrings to smaller muscles in your upper back, shoulders, and arms.

To help correct this, think of the deadlift as a push rather than a pull.  By pushing your lower body through the ground, your hips act as a fulcrum that lifts your upper body and the weight.

Also, by switching the emphasis to the foot pushing through the ground—an external focal point—rather than specific muscles creating an action—internal focus—it’s easier to keep your body stable and organized throughout the lift, which means more power.

Conclusion

Understanding how to deadlift with good form provides a model for everyday movement. The next time you reach to pick something off the ground or deadlift as part of your workout, remember these three cues to help keep yourself strong and injury-free.

2017-10-23T19:05:46+00:00

About the Author:

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Adam Vogel is the founder of Pure Performance Training. He is a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) through the International Sports Science Association, a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association, a certified Functional Movement Screening Specialist (FMS), and Level 1 (KBC) Kettlebell Instructor.