People tend to have polarized feelings about deadlifts. Either they love them or they hate them. If you love deadlifts, this is usually for one of three reasons.
You already pull heavy weight. You are considered “strong” or “really good at that” so you enjoy doing it more. Yay dopamine!
Maybe you are favorably built for deadlifts with relatively shorter legs, a relatively longer torso, and long arms. (Ape index off the charts!) You seem to set a PR every time you walk into the gym.
It’s also possible you grew up on a farm and have been lugging hay bales and drinking raw milk your whole life. Lifting heavy sh*% is a walk in the park for you.
But if you don’t fall into one of those categories, there is still hope. Let’s explore the top three tips to maximize your deadlifts!
Ditch the Mixed Grip
One of the best ways to start improving your deadlift is to ditch the mixed grip.
Many people worry that grip will be a limiting factor at their maximal percentage lifts, but you can easily overcome this by implementing a hook grip.
This takes some getting used to since you’ve probably never lifted a bar of this weight with a hook grip, and the pressure can seem unreal. Try taping your thumbs the first few sessions to take some of the edge off. The benefits of a double overhand grip is better position on the bar, less torque on the hips and spine, and decreased strain on the bicep.
Build up this strength in your training sessions and if you really need to resort to a mixed grip for a competition or one rep max attempt, then you will be better for waiting.
Dial in Your Setup Position
One of the biggest issues you may be facing with deadlifts is the setup. That first pull off the ground never feels quite right. To overcome this, practice rolling the bar into position. This may feel more comfortable and your body will naturally find the right position without you fidgeting around.
If you are new to lifting, or know that your mobility is lacking, then you may find it beneficial to practice pulling off of blocks. The higher start position will make it easier for you to engage your posterior chain.
Another good option here is to work from the top down with lighter loads. Take the loaded bar from a rack or higher blocks and start standing tall with hips fully extended. Keep your back and core tight and start pushing your hips toward the wall behind you as the bar descends down your thighs. Keep the bar in contact with your legs and the weight in the middle of your foot and heels. Practice lowering down in a slow control fashion taking 4-5 seconds to lower for each rep.
If you have a hard time finding the right position then you should take some one on one time to work with a coach who can provide the right cues to get you properly set up.
Train Deadlift Variations
Another way to build confidence in your deadlift is to explore different deadlift variations.
Sumo deadlifts, single arm, single leg, trap bar, dumbbells, kettlebells, atlas stones, d-balls and tire flips will all help you. Getting stronger is going to help, even if it is non-specific. There’s no shortage of heavy stuff to pick up off the ground! These variations will train your grip, stabilizers, and strengthen many smaller muscles of the glutes and hamstrings that may not get fully recruited in your normal deadlift style.
There you go! The top three tips to maximize your deadlifts. Now go find a coach and pull some big numbers!