The Most Common Deadlift Mistakes
The deadlift is one of the best strength builders in the weightlifting world — that is, if done correctly. Truth be told, there is very specific technique when it comes to executing this movement, but a few common deadlift mistakes could mean you don’t enjoy all the many benefits it has to offer.
If done the right way, deadlifting is already a total-body (read: compound) exercise on its own, as it makes your abs, legs, back, shoulders, glutes, and arms work together in unison. Deadlifting also helps improve your posture, boost the cardiovascular system, and make the grip stronger, among many other benefits.
Not doing it properly can easily render your deadlifting fruitless. Let’s discuss the basic deadlift, and the most common mistakes we see people making.
Ready, Set, Deadlift!
There are basically three considerations when it comes to this lifting technique: correct starting position (deadlift form), correct lifting execution, and an ideal weight.
Correct deadlift form means putting your feet preferably hip-width apart and directly under the bar. Your knees should bend slightly, just enough to reach and take a firm grip on the bar.
Your upper body should bend forward with your back flat (a neutral spine), your arms should hang straight down under your shoulders, and your gaze should be toward the floor but ahead of you, to avoid cranking the neck up into an uncomfortable position.
Next, correct lifting execution starts with a good grip. Know the difference between overhand, backhand, and mixed grips and use them to your advantage. An overhand grip is usually used when lifting lighter weights, and a mixed grip (a combination of backhand and overhand grips) is preferable when lifting heavier weights.
The bar should be as close to the shins and thighs throughout the lift as possible, and you lift with your hands just outside your legs. Remember, you aren't "pulling" the weight up with your arms as much as you're simply standing up with the weight, core engaged. (Once you're tackling heavier weights, the right weightlifting belt can help keep your core stable.)
The lift is complete when your hips are fully extended — spine straight, not hyper-extended.
Finally, having perfect form and lifting execution would mean nothing if you don’t know how heavy can you lift. To be on the safe side, start at lighter weights to first master technique. You should begin with weights you know you can properly lift and work your way up from there.
While you ideally want to ride the weight down (meaning set it back down in a controlled manner), when the weight is too heavy, drop it! A loud bang and possible damage to the floor is nothing compared to a long-term or permanent injury. Adding more weight as you progress is far easier than enduring the pain of torn muscle tissues and damaged nerves due to lifting too much weight too early on.
Ready for your first deadlift? Not so fast.
Allow us to help you avoid some of the most common deadlift mistakes first. Knowing these things before your first deadlift attempt is crucial.
The 5 Most Common Deadlift Mistakes You Should Avoid
1. Incorrect Warm-up
Before engaging in general fitness routines, warming up with static stretches is a good way to start. Not with deadlifting, though.
Working with the wrong muscle groups prior to a deadlift can possibly cause more harm than good. Doing static stretches before any deadlift session is a courtship with disaster.
Instead, work your muscles by doing dynamic bodyweight warm-ups like squats, bird dogs, and good mornings. This will adequately prep you for your workout.
2. Improper Foot Placement
When doing a deadlift, your stance can determine how much force you'll be able to pull with, and how safely. It also ensures you're engaging your muscles in the right way, and bearing the load safely.
So, what is the proper foot placement?
Every human is different — and our bodies are proportioned so differently — so you need to find the stance that works for you. We still suggest starting with a hip-width stance, though. A stance any wider and your knees are more likely to wobble and cave in, making a deadlift inefficient and possibly unsafe.
On the other hand, going too close with your feet could put more strain on your hips.
3. Underestimating the “Slack”
Many plates have holes advertently made a little bigger than the bar for easier accommodation. That extra space between the plates’ holes and the bar, though, creates a “slack,” especially when the barbell is resting on the floor.
This is actually one of the most common deadlift mistakes taken for granted by lifters. Lifting a dead weight without taking the slack first will result in the absence of what is known as “isometric contraction.”
This contraction is necessary for the erector spinae muscles of the back as well as the lats to allow for the proper lumbar spine extension to successfully complete the deadlift.
Don’t worry, because correcting this mistake is pretty straightforward.
Before lifting, take a moment to lift the bar high enough to come in contact with the weight plates’ upper rim. Hearing the obvious clinking sound of two metals coming in contact with each other will tell you that you are good for a lift-off.
4. Premature Knee Extension
Always bear in mind a deadlift requires coordinated muscle movement every time. Any body part moving prematurely, such as the knees, could have an unwanted result.
Premature knee extension will change the desired back angle. Lacking the correct back angle during a deadlift will eventually put more tension to other muscle groups that may cause injury or pain to the lower back region. It’s one of the most common deadlift mistakes, but if you’re aware of your body, it can be simple to fix.
Take note of this. A perfect deadlift is performed with the knees extending simultaneously with the lifting of the bar from the floor. The bar travels in a straight path upward, and your knees need to be out of the way as the bar passes — not before, not after.
5. Hyperextension of the Lumbar Region
“What concludes a deadlift?” you may ask. The concrete answer to this is the one final motion of the hips called “hip extension.” Hip extension is complete when — assuming the lifter is doing the lift correctly — the bar is literally stopping the hips from making any further forward movement.
There are some lifters, however, who choose to overdo the hip extension by flexing their hips further. This unnecessary movement is called hyperextension, and you end up finishing with a slightly arched back.
Hyperextension of the hips can pose a serious threat to that region, not to mention the dangers it can do to your overall lifting progress. Remember, a deadlift stops neither with an arched back nor with a hyperextended hip. It stops where it should stop — a properly extended hip. Period.
Are you ready for the real deal? Great! Now kiss some of the most common deadlift mistakes goodbye and show them what you’ve got.