Proper technique on Deadlifts is crucial to lift big weights, gain muscle and avoid injuries. Yet there are lifters who have been Deadlifting for 5 years or more and who are still making dumb mistakes, waiting for an injury to happen. Worse, these people pass on bad Deadlift advice to new lifters who don’t know the difference. Kind of like the blind leading the blind. Here are some Deadlift mistakes, including many I made when I began Deadlifting 26 years ago, that you should avoid.
1. Doing Deadlifts Top-Down. By walking the weight back out of the Rack, and doing each rep top-down as it was a Squat or Bench Press. Why do you think it’s called a DEADlift? Because you’re supposed to start from the floor.
2. Not Hitting The Floor on Each Rep. By doing Deadlifts from the safety pins of your Power Rack (these are Rack Pulls) or by not touching the floor on each rep (Romanian Deadlift-style). Either way, this mistake is like not hitting parallel on Squats or not touching your chest on the Bench Press: you’re doing partials. The bar should always touch the floor between reps. Again, it’s called DEADlifts. That being said, don’t be “that” guy. Use the bumper plates for cripes sake…
3. Wearing Gloves. Gloves add inches to the bar which kills your grip strength. Worse, they don’t prevent callus formation anyway. What will: Deadlifting with a correct grip – bar NOT in the middle of your hand, but close to your fingers – and using Liquid chalk or an eco ball.
4. Rolling Your Shoulders. Guaranteed way to wreck your shoulders. Never roll them at the top of your Deadlifts. Just pull the weight from the floor, lock your hips & knees, and keep your shoulders back & down. If you want bigger traps, increase your Deadlift and eat more so you actually gain weight.
5. Starting With Your Hips Too Low. You’ll keep hitting your shins and the bar will end up too much in front of your body (which is more stressful on your lower back and less effective for strength). Again, Deadlifts are NOT Squats – start with your hips higher so your shoulder-blades are directly over the bar.
6. Hitting Your Knees. If you break your knees too early on the way down, you will hit them (which obviously hurts) and the bar will end up too far in front of your body for your next rep. (see #5) Lower the weight by pushing your hips back first and only bend your legs once the bar reaches knee level.
7. Curling The Weight. Starting with flexed elbows and then straightening them right before you pull is useless – there’s no way you’re ever going to curl what you can Deadlift unless your work weight is too light. Keep your elbows locked by squeezing your triceps so you don’t end up ripping your biceps tendon.).
8. Pulling Instead of Pushing. Deadlifts are a pull, but since you have to use your hip muscles it’s better to think of them as a push. So instead of pulling all the weight with your back, push through your heels, force your hips forward once the bar reaches knee level, and squeeze your glutes at the top.
9. Hyperextending Your Back. Repeatedly leaning back at the top is as bad as Deadlifting with a round lower back – you will get a hernia. And unless you’re competing and want to make sure that the judges see you locked the weights, there’s no need to lean back. Just stand tall with locked hips and firm knees, done.
10. Stiff-legging The Weight. Starting with your hips sky-high, the opposite of mistake #5. This, a Stiff-legged Deadlift. Deadlift with your hips lower so your shoulder-blades end up over the bar.
Finally, do not waste your energy worrying about what other people in your gym are doing. If they ask you for advice, give it. If not, mind your own business and lead by example by making sure that you’re Deadlifting with proper technique.