Breaking Down the Deadlift

Zach Homol

The deadlift is arguably the greatest test to human strength. When I was a coal miner, we would always place bets to see who could pick up the heaviest objects lying around. What’s more manly than picking up heavy objects 1,000 ft. underground? HA!

The deadlift also seems to be the one movement out of the big 3 (Squat, Bench, Deadlift) that people progress the fastest with. At least in the beginning, until they hit a wall. I’d say most folks who are reading this who weigh between 150-170 lbs are stuck somewhere in the 400 pound deadlift range. The guys reading this who are 180-230 lbs are more than likely stuck somewhere in the 500 pound range. Men 230lbs+, you're probably stuck in the mid 500s to low 600s. I’ve witnessed this TIME & TIME AGAIN!

So now that we’ve maxed out our body with our given frame, what do we do? Gain weight to get stronger? Yes that’s true to an extent, but there are more efficient ways! We can diagnose your weaker components of the movement and apply the proper accessory work to strengthen that area.

How often do you see someone set up to deadlift, pull the bar off the floor, and see their glutes fire straight up from the beginning? With that approach, they are now doing a stiff leg deadlift, leaving the lower back in a very vulnerable position to be injured. So what does it mean if your hips shoot up first? Simply put, your hamstrings are not strong enough to support the weight off the floor. It’s not uncommon to have weak hamstrings seeing how nearly everyone is quad dominant to begin with. No matter how hard you try to hold position it will break until you begin to train your hamstrings to be strong enough to support the weight off the floor. I highly suggest in investing in a Glute Ham Developer (GHD) machine if your local gym doesn’t offer one. I truly believe the GHD is one of, if not the best, pieces of equipment to strengthen your glutes and hamstrings!

 If you don’t plan to invest in a GHD, you have to DOUBLE DOWN on your hamstring curls. I would incorporate more sets each week, even adding more additional days where hamstrings become a focus.

 Another fault in form I see is rounding of the upper back. Yep, I know you’ve seen it. It looks painful! What does it mean if the upper back rounds during the deadlift? Two things here are certain: your core and upper back aren't strong enough to support the weight. Now that we know, let’s apply the proper accessory movements which I’ve listed below:

 - Bent over barbell rows

 - Seated rows

 - Heavy 1 arm dumbbell rows

Be aware, there is a difference between having “Show abs” and having a “strong core” JUST BECAUSE YOU HAVE ABS DOESN’T MEAN YOU HAVE A STRONG CORE!

Utilizing weighted crunches, weighted decline sit ups, and the ab wheel during your weekly training split will help to build a strong core to support more weight.

Think about both of these faults I covered. Once they happen, the lift becomes next to impossible to complete. YOU ARE ONLY AS STRONG AS YOUR WEAKEST LINK!!

 Till next time… GET STRONG, STAY STRONG!

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