Is the deadlift the king of all lifts?
I’ll leave the debate for you all, but the deadlift is my strongest lift. When you are asking your low back, glutes, and hamstrings to move large amounts of weight, all while your spine is loaded, it can be a recipe for great success or total disaster. The setup position is incredibly important to make sure the right musculature is engaged.
Today, we dive into how to safely initiate the deadlift and maximize the movement.
Stance is widely debated among powerlifters. Some deadlift with a ‘conventional’ or narrow stance while others prefer a ‘sumo’ or wider stance. However, there is some nuance to the movement that isn’t often discussed.
Personally, I am stronger with a sumo stance compared with a narrow stance. However, I think the sumo stance engages my quads more than my hamstrings (I am quad-dominant). The narrow stance may be more transferable to exercises like the clean, snatch, or other athletic movements. I do feel that both stances offer a tremendous way to develop strength in your posterior chain.
For the conventional deadlift, I coach my athletes to take a stance where they would jump from. This automatically aligns the feet with the highest possible power production. The barbell should be over mid-foot in the setup for a conventional deadlift. When coaching the sumo deadlift, I prefer to find a setup stance where the feet are turned out at around a 45 degree angle with the shins very close to the bar.
The grip for the deadlift should serve a specific purpose. The double-overhand grip will likely not be your strongest option. However, it is a great way to train grip strength. The alternate grip (one hand up and one hand down) is very strong but can put lifters at risk of rupturing a bicep tendon (rare, but still a consideration). The hookgrip can be painful on the thumbs but is a safe option that allows some people to pull huge amounts of weight.
The main thing with the grip is that you want to pull the bar safely and securely while minimizing the friction of your arms against the rest of your body. This means you should find a grip width that enables for a smooth pull without a lot of rubbing.
Once the stance and grip are set, the next focal point should be your leverage. The main takeaway for creating strong leverage is that the shoulders should be above the hips and the hips should be above the knees. I like to have my shoulders a bit in front of the barbell as well. This creates the strongest lever system for me to maximize muscular activation and move the most amount of weight safely. As always, it is important to brace your core and keep a neutral spine throughout the movement.
There are so many strong deadlifters out there. I see some that have impeccable form and I see others who are just brutally strong. I always encourage my athletes to focus on form before weight and to ruthlessly execute the fundamentals.
Are you a deadlift fiend? Perhaps you’ve never deadlifted before? Let us know your experience and if you have any pro tips in a comment below and until next time.. Stay moving!