Focus on the Form: How to do a Proper Deadlift

November 20th, 2018

The deadlift is one of the most effective movements in the sports and fitness world. When done correctly, this lift can drastically improve your total body strength and power (especially in your posterior chain and core) and stimulate your central nervous system. It can be a fantastic addition to the fitness routine of virtually anyone — from a competitive athlete to a senior — and comes with plenty of modifications and variations to accommodate different abilities.

Despite how simple this movement is however, the deadlift can lead to injury if not performed correctly. Our physical therapy team is committed to helping all our patients understand and learn safe movement so as to avoid preventable injuries during exercise. If you’ve ever been intimidated by the deadlift or lifting weights in general, or if you’d like to learn about how to keep your body safer and more pain-free during exercise, we encourage you to come by our office. You’ll get the chance to work intimately with a physical therapist who can assess your movement and help you learn to perform a profer deadlift.

Deadlift for Your Health: Top Tips for Better Deadlift Form From Our Physical Therapy Team

At its most basic, the deadlift is simply picking something up from the floor. Usually, the lift is performed with a barbell, although other tools can be used. Our form tips can be applied to virtually any variation, but for convenience’s sake, we’ll talk about the conventional deadlift form using a standard barbell.

  • Stand with your feet about a hips width apart (jump once — the place your feet land should be about right) and point your toes forward. To make sure you’re standing the right distance from the bar, look down at your feet: The barbell should pass over your feet about where the ties in your shoelaces are.
  • Reach down and grab onto the barbell with palms facing down. Your hands should be slightly outside your legs. Lift your hips slightly so that your shins are perpendicular to the ground and your shoulders are slightly ahead of the barbell. In this position, your back should be flat with your chest up and your abs tight. A straight spine is key!
  • Before lifting the bar, activate your lats to improve spine stability. To do so, lift your chest, depress your shoulders, and try to “break the bar” with your hands by pulling down and back on them.
  • Tuck your chin and place your gaze a few feet in front of you. This helps you avoid placing excessive strain on the neck.
  • Time to lift: The key is to raise your hips and shoulders at the same time until the barbell gets past your knees — then simply straighten your hips and squeeze your buttocks until you’re standing all the way up (no need to shrug or lean back). The barbell should be close to your shins and physically against your thighs. It may help to think about “pushing” your legs into the ground rather than “pulling” the weight up, since this will help you engage your leg muscles better.
  • After you’ve come to a complete stand, you can either drop the barbell to the floor or slowly lower it. If you do lower it to the ground, start by pushing your hips back (as if you’re shutting a car door behind you); then bend your knees once the barbell gets past your knees.

If you’re completely new to deadlifts, our physical therapy team strongly encourages you to chat with a personal trainer, physical therapist or other fitness professional who can see and correct your form in real time.

Interested in learning how to safely get more activity in your life? Call or come by our clinic today to chat with a physical therapist.