It is a simple movement. In fact, probably the easiest movement that we do in life as well as in the gym.
Though this is true, it doesn’t take long to notice this simple movement being overly complicated in life and during exercise.
We could go through several variations of deadlift compensation (knee-caving side bend, banana back-butt wink, squat-lift), but for the sake of time and emotional toil, we will discuss some key setup and movement focus points.
- Take Tension from the Bar – Grab the bar like you mean it, have some upward pull on the bar so that the arm and shoulder complex feel stabilizing tension, and then continue that tension into the spine and down the hip and hamstrings. Doing so will take tension from the bar and put it into your body for an efficient lift. MAKE THE WEIGHT LIFT ITSELF. Confused? That is what you are doing if you steal tension from the bar and use it to initiate a solid and strong lift.
- Shift Back to Stand up – Most errors that prevent a successful lift, leave tissue vulnerable to damage, or actually cause tissue damage are due to the bar drifting forward. If you slightly shift back on initiation, than you will more efficiently accept the weight of the bar into your physical system. What? It means you can stand up easily as opposed to wrenching the bar off the ground at the expense of the entire spine.
- Respect the Shoulder:Hip Ratio – Don’t be a stripper (hiking the hips first, than following with the shoulders). Accomplishing check points #1 and #2 will ensure the highest likelihood of maintaining a solid back angle, otherwise known as a 1:1 hip to shoulder ratio during the first phase of the lift.
- Stay Tight – Getting the bar moving in critical, but don’t think the game is over after the first 4-6 inches. One slight error forward dramatically increases the bar’s “perceived” weight. We know this through some simple physics and lever arm calculations. The bar always weighs the same. But, if you let the bar drift forward and in front of your mid-foot, it will stay the same “actual weight” but be “perceived” as weighing more as it torques on the spine. Letting the bar drift not only increases the “perceived” weight but it also increases the difficulty to maintain tension and stability (safety). Therefore it is critical to stay tight and focused on moving the bar through the best path possible.
- Don’t Hyper-Extend the Back – Yes, it should go without saying. However we see a lot of people in the office with very sore low backs that either neglect this or forget about it under fatigue. We call it “topping off” the movement with a solid glute/ab contraction that opens the hip and keeps the back solid and neutral. Neglecting to do it will cause major compressive issues to the spine. Doing it too much will cause stress and strain to discs and muscles. Make sure you know what is correct and never neglect to “top off” the movement into stability.
- Reverse, then Repeat – The first rep is always the hardest because it is very difficult to build tension for recoil in the bottom of a lift. However, if we can reverse the pattern of a good upward path, than we can touch-and-go with much more stability and elastic recoil. Unfortunately, the same errors that plague the initial lift doom the descent. Don’t let the bar drift or you will hit the same problems discussed in #4 but with momentum (bad situation).
Hope this helps you utilize the KISS principle when doing a deadlift at home, in the office, or at the gym.
Good Luck and Keep Moving