‘The deadlift is unrivalled in its simplicity and impact while unique in its capacity for increasing head-to-toe strength.’ – Greg Glassman
There are loads of articles drilling into each part of the deadlift. You can geek out on your foot placement, grip, hip height, bar path… But despite reading many of these great resources, I still really struggle with my deadlift! In this blog I want to share some challenges I have faced and some cues and drills I have tried. I hope that some of it may be helpful for you as well!
Learn how to engage your hamstrings
The deadlift is not just a squat with the bar starting on the floor. Your hips should be much higher in your set up. Not only will this allow you to pull the bar up in a straight line without taking great big lumps out of your shins, but it will also allow you to fully engage your posterior chain (read: big strong muscles running up the back of your legs, butt and back). Don’t rely on just your quads to stand the bar up as you won’t shift as much weight and you will fatigue quickly.
Two things I have found really useful here are:
- Work on your hip hinge. You can do this using a wall, a band or even the shed-load of good mornings we have been doing recently. Focus on finding that point where your hamstrings light up and remember the feeling. When you come to your deadlift set up feel for the same sensation before you start your lift.
- Apply tension to the bar before lifting. Even if you have an absolutely ninja set up, ripping the bar straight from the floor will throw something out of whack - maybe your hips will rise too soon, maybe your arms will bend, maybe you will get really creative and do something totally unexpected, but regardless of what it is, it won’t be good! Once you are in your set up, drive through the ground until you feel that bar is just ready to rise off the ground. The tension in the bar will ensure both the bar and you are primed and ready to lift.
Think of pushing the floor away from you
I don’t fully understand the science behind this, but Intern Beth shouted this at me a few months back and it worked! I instantly felt a better connection with the ground, my upper back didn’t round and my hips didn’t shoot up in the air.
I remember hearing an interview with Mike Tyson where he said he aimed to punch the back of his opponent’s skull. The principle is the same, aim to deliver the power through the bottom of the floor and your lifts will become safer and stronger.
Watch out for technique degrading at high volume or load
In most WODs, the first thing you are going to do is a deadlift. OK this isn’t strictly true, but to lift a barbell off the floor, your first movement is going to be a variation of a deadlift, or a first pull in the snatch or clean. Regardless of if the WOD calls for a high volume and a light load, or a lower volume of heavy loads, it pays to spend time to sort out your set up in every single rep.
We have all been there, mid-WOD adrenaline rush, music blaring, potentially a cheeky look to your left to see someone sneaking a few reps ahead of you. You drop the hammer. You’re ripping through your deadlifts double-time, bouncing the bar off the floor as hard as you can. This weight feels super light and you could probably just lift it by rounding out your back and forgetting about your legs altogether. However, the next morning you can’t get out of bed or face the Box for the next 3 days.
On a more serious note, treating every rep individually and aiming for consistently good technique will ensure you maintain your deadlift form throughout an entire workout, and make it back into the box again tomorrow. Focusing on each rep doesn’t mean you have to move slowly, but move efficiently with purpose. Become familiar and comfortable getting into your set up, and obsess over the execution of every rep.
Useful links, get swotting up:
CrossFit – The Deadlift (Coach's note: Please disregard the photos in this article...)
Strong Lifts – Deadlifts aren’t Squats
Juggernaut Strength – Squats and Deadlifts for Crossfit
Thanks Salt! Time for us to start practicing on our deadlifts!
WORKOUT OF THE DAY
A) Conditioning: Threshold Method
5 rounds for time of:
10 Box Jump (24/20 in)
10 Deadlifts @ 75% 1RM
- Rest 3 minutes between rounds -