Deadlifting From The Ground Up

By Jessica Sally
The deadlift can be extremely simple or extremely complicated. When broken down to the most basic steps, it’s bending over and picking up an object off the floor. Since my long term goal is to be able to pick up every day household objects well into my 90’s, learning how to deadlift safely and efficiently is very important. Learning to deadlift also carries over into Olympic lifting since the first pull of a clean and a snatch is essentially a deadlift.
Setting up properly dramatically increases the odds of successfully and safely completing a lift. A checklist to help get into the proper deadlift starting position includes the following:
*The bar is over the middle of your foot: you may need to get someone else to check this for you. When you look down at your feet, you can’t see your entire foot so judging where the half-way point is can be difficult. Either way, you want the bar extremely close to your shins.
* Your feet are the same width as your jumping stance: to find out what this is, approach the bar and jump vertically a few times. Where your feet naturally start and land is your jumping position. This position will maximize leg drive and power. The distance between your feet should be the same distance as between your knees, giving you a good base to lift from. This prevents your knees from collapsing in as you pull, reducing the strain on your knees.
* Your midline is braced: The Valsalva manoeuvre is often used. Melissa’s article on breathing goes into detail on this.
* Your pelvis is tilted. Then bend down and grab the bar with your hands outside your legs: keeping your butt up will keep the shins vertical and the hamstrings loaded.
* Your knees are bent until your shins touch the bar: if the bar is in the proper position over your feet, you will be able to do this without losing the desired vertical shin position.
* Your arms stay straight throughout the lift. Bring your chest up and squeeze your shoulder blades down and back: The “shoulder blades down and back” cue sets the lats into a good pulling position. It can help to think of putting your shoulder blades in your back pocket. This reduces the tendency to pull with your arms and stops the weight from rounding your shoulders. “Chest up” reduces the tendency to pull with a rounded back and encourages the athlete to lead with their chest.
You are now ready to begin your pull!
No matter how many years you’ve been deadlifting or how automatic your setup is, it never hurts to take a fresh look. Bad habits have a tendency to creep in and it’s good to look at things with a “beginner’s mind.” Test your setup and see where improvements can be made. Perfect practice makes perfect!
Deadlifting is best done in a flat, thin soled, wide base shoe. A shoe with a raised, squishy heel makes it difficult to get into a good position.