5 Reasons Your Deadlift Sucks

(Avoid these five common deadlift pitfalls to maximize strength and minimize the risk of injury)

By Josh Bryant

800-pound deadlifts helped Ronnie Coleman, the greatest bodybuilder to ever walk the face of the earth, build the best back of all-time and, in the process, win the crown of Mr. Olympia eight times.

Bill Kazmaier, the strongest man in recorded history says, “Strong back equals strong man.”  No better way to build a strong back than the deadlift.

Fabled strength coach Mark Rippetoe says, “The deadlift is more functional in that it’s very hard to imagine a more useful application of strength than picking heavy **** up off the ground.”

Bottom line is whether your goal is aesthetic or to be the last man standing in a melee at the corner bar, deadlifts can help you.

Unfortunately, many folks performing the greatest strength training exercise in existence are doing it wrong; let’s take a look at five reasons your deadlifts suck and what you can do to pull yourself out of that rut.

Butt Too Low

The deadlift is not a squat!  Do not attempt to start in a full squat position, your hips should be higher, closer to a half squat position, with your shoulder blades over the barbell at the start. If you start too low, the barbell will end up too far in front of your body (not good for your back) and put you in a much weaker position.

Feet too Wide

Unless you weigh 500 pounds and can barely get down to the bar to deadlift, odds are you don’t need your feet six inches wider than shoulder width.  A good starting point is the stance you would use to do a standing vertical jump; generally, this is shoulder width or closer, for many, it is hip width. 

Curling the Weight

I have yet to meet the person that can curl more than they can deadlift!  I have yet to see a person at any of the hundreds of powerlifting meets I have coached and participated in have a back injury that required surgery from a heavy deadlift gone wrong. I have seen a dozen or so bicep tears!  Think of your arms as hooks that hold on to the weight; any bending to attempt to help the deadlift with your biceps is inefficient and greatly exacerbates the chance of injury.

Wearing Gloves

Not only do gloves rob you of callous formation, they actually make the bar thicker (harder to grip).  Most importantly, you can’t “feel” the bar. Knowing where the barbell is in relation to your body is huge for a deadlift.  Mark Rippetoe said it best, “If you must wear gloves while lifting, make sure they match your purse.”

Improper Warm-Up

Science has conclusively shown static stretching can inhibit strength and power pre workout.  A dynamic warm-up is the way to go, but make the lion’s share of the dynamic warm up, deadlifting with lighter weights.   Nothing warms you up for heavy deadlifts like lighter deadlifts.  

 Peak your big three with Josh’s Tactical Powerlifting Program HERE