8 Conventional Deadlift Tips

by: Josh Bryant

Increase your deadlift with one of Josh’s programs HERE.

Around 10 years ago, at Metroflex Gym in Arlington, Tx, there were some rough-looking cats that loitered around the parking lot. These roughnecks would pass the time by drinking Olde English 40s at the mechanic shop next door to the gym.

The group included a 70-year-old mechanic from Vietnam named Mr. Hip (RIP, brother), a retired Dallas homicide detective that cooked sausage gumbo, a wayward Pentecostal preacher that spoke in tongues, a couple of old heads with face tattoos that were all eighty-sixed from the local Latino Bars, and a cornfed-looking white dude they called “Choctaw County.”

Late one night I came into the gym to deadlift and after exchanging greetings with Mr. Hip’s crew that was looking straight out of a Fellini Film, I was ready for heavy deadlifts!

Hip’s crew decided to join the fun.  They brought their malt liquor in the gym and cheered me onto a deficit deadlift PR.

One of the dudes that looked straight out of “Blood In Blood Out” raised his 40 oz to me in a sign of respect. I didn’t know this guy’s history, but dollars to donuts says he has probably been in knife fights in Juarez’s toughest cantinas. He looked at me with a semi-inebriated, yet aware, gaze and said, “This shit is real carnal.”

Deadlifting is real, a true primoradial experience!

The deadlift has been around in one form or another since the beginning of time.


In primitive times, strength was tested by lifting logs and rocks off the ground, and, in the case of Milo of Croton, a 6thcentury BC wrestling champion, deadlifting bulls.  

For far too long the deadlift was the bearded lady in strength and conditioning sideshows while Bosu ball training was the ringmaster.  THANKFULLY, times have changed.

Here are eight tips that are going to help you build a deadly deadlift.


1. Mindset-The gym is not a country club.  Neither is the ride over. Lay off the cell, put on some tunes and walk in the door ready to slay some heavy pig iron. Consider daily mental imagery training for 15-20 minutes. Relax and envision yourself succeeding. Make visualizations vivid; get senses involved like smells, noises, whatever – the more vivid, the more real. Your perception is reality.

A 1992 study compared two groups over five weeks of strength training.  One group trained with traditional resistance training and the other group trained using vivid mental imagery, imagining themselves performing the training exercises. The group that imagined training made 70 percent of the gains of the group that lifted. 

Yue, G., & Cole, K. (1992). Strength increases from the motor program: comparison of training with maximal voluntary and imagined muscle contractions. Journal of Neurophysiology67(5), 1114-23.

No reason to compartmentalize. Maximizing results requires both.

2. Stance- Great deadlifting starts with the right stance.  To find yours, perform a standing vertical jump. Note the width of your stance at takeoff.  This is your foot stance at the commencement of the lift.  This is not set in stone but a good reference point.

3.Butt Position- Get your butt in the right position. For deadlifting the largest amounts of weight and for the sake of staying injury free, do not pull with straight legs.  The deadlift is not a squat, you can half squat more than you can full squat.  Take advantage of this and descend into a half squat.  With the barbell over the center of your feet, arms in full extension and your shoulder blades over the barbell, pull!

4.Static stretching- Performing static stretching prior to any activity that requires maximal force production or rate of force development is not recommended.  Numerous studies have shown that explosive power and force production decrease post static stretching.  Dynamic stretching is the preferred warm-up protocol to maximize strength and explosive power.  Let’s take a look at how we can use static stretching to produce bigger deadlifts.

When performing a vertical jump, power comes from the posterior chain.  Hip flexors work as an antagonist (meaning they resist your vertical jump ability); if they are in a weakened state you just jump higher, you inhibit their resistance.  Stretch your hip flexors for two sets of 30 seconds on each side and you will jump higher.

The same technique is one of my black book deadlift secrets.  As your glutes lockout a deadlift, they are in opposition to the hip flexors.  Inhibit the opposition with the stretching of your hip flexors.  Try this before your next heavy deadlift workout and you will feel more powerful.

5.Grip- Set a firm grip, limp hands need not apply. This may seem obvious to hold on to the bar.  As you grab the bar tighter, the central nervous system activates, more muscles are involved.  Since our goal is not isolation, the more muscles activated the merrier!

6.Pull in sequence- Make a point of not letting your hips rise faster than your shoulders. If your legs lockout before your shoulders, you are in a biomechanically weak position.  This also subjects your lower back and hamstrings to a much greater chance of injury.

7.Pull explosively- Perform work sets in a compensatory acceleration training (CAT) style.  This means performing repetitions as explosively as possible while maintaining proper technique. 

8.Commit to the pull.  Among traditional barbell lifts, the deadlift is the ultimate test of mental toughness and testicular fortitude. Technique is essential to mastering this exercise, but in no other lifts does aggressiveness and internal rage aid an athlete as much as in the deadlift. Committing to the pull means walking up to the bar and knowing that the lift is complete. You have made a decision that you won’t drop the weight, come hell or high water

Final Words

As a man who coaches a plethora of world-class deadlifters, and is one myself, these are eight tips that will help propel your strength and size to the next level.  The deadlift works more muscles than even the squat.  

Thus, the deadlift is king for overall development.   In regard to the deadlift, powerlifting says, “The meet don’t start til the bar hits the floor.”  Similarly, for serious muscular development back training, you now know that “don’t start til the bar hits the floor.” 

Show up to your next deadlift session Waffle House Ready!