7 Deadlifting Mistakes to Avoid
Believe it or not, there's more to the deadlift than simply keeping your back strong and picking up the barbell. If you want to make the most gains, you need to become efficient in the movement and really dial in your technique. We're all well aware of the perils of lifting with a rounded back, but here are seven common pitfalls to avoid:
1. Bad Timing
Timing is important for most of your strength work, but it can be overlooked when deadlifting. An efficient deadlift means raising your hips at the same time as your chest.
Raising your hips first will diminish the power you get from the hip drive, and send your shoulders forward - making the lift harder (and more dangerous) than it should be. If you're having trouble with this, make sure you're setting up correctly, keep the bar close to you, and focus on sending your weight back onto your heels.
2. Using Your Arms
Although the deadlift is considered a full body movement, it primarily relies upon your lower body strength - with your legs, glutes and your back doing most of the work. Your arms are there to hold the bar, not lift it.
Addressing this one is simple: never lift with bent arms. If you do, you risk injury to your elbows and biceps, as well as a weaker overall lift.
3. Incorrect Starting Position
An incorrect starting position is the top reason for poor form and inefficiencies in the deadlift, and the hip position seems to be the biggest problem.
If you start with your hips too low, the movement will be more akin to a squat than a deadlift. This will impede your ability to lift the bar vertically, as your shins will be in the way.
On the flip side, if you start with your hips too high, your shoulders won't be in the right place, and it will be harder for you to keep a neutral spine to prevent rounding your back.
The ideal set-up will be slightly different for everyone, as it depends upon the length of your levers, body proportions, and flexibility. It's best to ask for your coach's advice if you're not sure - and don't be afraid to spend some time on this step! It's important for maximising strength and preventing injury, so you'll want to get it right.
4. Ignoring Grip Strength
If you're relying on lifting straps to help you deadlift, you're not doing yourself any favours. Grip is an essential component of the deadlift - if you can't hold it, you can't pick it up!
If you feel your grip is letting you down, dedicate some time to improving it.
5. Attempting to Disguise Poor Form With a Belt
A weightlifting belt should be a tool to help you lift more weight, where appropriate. It shouldn't be used to cover up poor form, or protect your lower back from injuries.
A belt will not protect you from injury if your technique isn't up to scratch. In fact, lifting with a belt can be more dangerous, as you're likely to attempt a bigger lift.
Using a belt is a skill in its own right, so make sure you're familiar this first.
6. Checking Form in the Mirror
Your head should be neutral throughout the movement, in line with your spine. When you check your form in the mirror, you'll either look up or to the side - both of which will compromise your form, and risk injury to your neck.
On top of that, you're also more likely to lower your hips. This means you'll encounter the same problems we discussed earlier.
If you want to see your form, get your friend or a coach to film you and watch it when you're done lifting.
7. Bouncing Between Lifts
It doesn't matter whether you're deadlifting for strength or during a WOD, you should never bounce your reps off the floor.
This will affect your strength in the long-term, as you're only building strength required to take the lift from the middle of your shin. When you get to the heavier lifts, you're more likely to find it hard to move the bar off the floor.
As well as cheating reps, during a WOD you'll increase the risk of injury to your lower back.