Prepping for Deadlifts

Here’s a quick tip to get you started back on the right track:

If you are having trouble with the mechanics of the strict deadlift, you can use this movement to help ingrain the proper pattern.  The key to a successful deadlift is a correct hip hinge.  This means you will flex (bend) at the ball-and-socket joint of your hip, and NOT through the joints of your lower back.

One way to practice a hip hinge is to begin by standing straight, with the balls of your feet elevated on a 2×4 or object of similar height.  This will initially help keep your shins closer to vertical during the movement.  Put the edges of your hands into the creases where your legs meets your pelvis.  Think about pinching your hands between your leg and your hip and then push your pelvis back to do so.  Keep your lower back straight (chest upright) and allow your knees to unlock naturally.  There is no need to actively bend your knees.  When you’ve reached a point where you feel a stretch in your hamstrings (back of your thighs), come back up by squeezing your butt together.  Try to get a little farther each time.

This image is close, though your neck should be in a solid neutral and weight should be on the middle of your foot if you can keep it there.

It can also be helpful to perform this movement a few inches from a wall, with your back to the wall, and using the wall as a target for your gluteus maximus (your rear end) to touch.  Each time you touch, come back up and move a little bit farther from the wall to try again.  This emphasizes the motion of reaching back as opposed to sitting or bending down.  Always keep your lower back neutral or slightly arched, even though this might initially be tough for your hamstrings to handle.  It will improve with repetition.  If you are having trouble with balance, adding some weight to the front of your body will make a difference.  Try holding a weight plate against your chest.  Perform this movement prior to deadlifting or on its own to improve your flexibility.  More experienced lifters will recognize that this is also the movement for a “good morning” exercise and a Russian kettlebell swing.

Get to hinging!