As we’ve all learned the hard way, there’s more to the deadlift than just pulling weight off the floor. This exercise is a must-have for building strength all over the body and growing huge muscles of steel, so learning how to do it right requires some effort
Unfortunately, most guys are guilty of poor technique and improper form when it comes to deadlifting, which puts them at great risk of injury. Since the deadlift involves such heavy weights, the chances of lower back pain and herniated discs skyrockets, compared to other exercises. And if your form is terrible, it will be impossible to increase your deadlift without reaping serious injury. If you too are guilty of sloppy deadlifting, don’t worry. Nobody was born with perfect form – that takes months of practice and mistakes are bound to happen. But if you remove these 10 deadlifting sins from your repertoire, you will be able to prevent injury and speed up your progress in the shortest time possible.
#1. Squatting Your Deadlifts
First of all, the point of deadlifting isn’t to unrack the weight, lower it and deadlift it back up. The proper way to deadlift is by starting each rep with the weight on the floor, then deadlifting this weight until your hips and knees are locked. So the first rule would be: always deadlift from the floor. Furthermore, if you deadlift with low hips like when squatting, your shins will come forward and the bar will hit them on its way up. So raise your hips and keep your legs back.
The proper hip position depends on the length of your limbs, but a good rule of thumb is to keep them where they would be if you setup with the bar over your mid-foot and shoulder blades over the bar.
#2. Bouncing Your Deadlifts
Bouncing your deadlifts on the floor is considered cheating because it lets you think you’re stronger than you really are. If you deadlift this way, the rebounding of the weight lifts the bar to your mid-shin, not you, and your reps are actually half-reps. And you’re leaving certain muscles out of the lift. And the point of training is not in getting more reps, it’s in building real strength and muscle. On top of that, bouncing increases the risk of lower back injury by making it harder to keep your lower back neutral.
Would you rather get injured instead of strong? Stop bouncing your deadlifts.
#3. Leaning Back At The Top
Leaning back can hyperextend your lower back and squeeze the discs, which can cause injuries like herniated discs. Don’t shrug or lean back at the top – it provides no benefits and it’s safer for your back.
All you need to do at the top is to stand tall and lock your hips and knees, shoulders above hips. Instead of hyperextending the back to lock out the weight, extend the hips and try to finish with your ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles forming a perfectly straight line. That’s it.
#4. Hitting Your Knees On The Way Down
Obviously, this is an unpleasant phenomenon. But the real problem with hitting your knees as you lower the bar is that this prevents you from moving it in a vertical line. The bar will land over your forefoot, which makes your next rep harder and more stressful for your lower back, because the proper setup includes pulling the bar from your mid-foot.
Therefore, avoid hitting your knees by first moving your hips back on the way down. When the bar reaches your knees, bend them to bring the weight to the floor and the bar will land over your mid-foot, ready for the next rep.
#5. Not Touching The Floor
Touching the floor at the end of the rep gives your lower back rest between reps and allows you to set it neutral again before beginning your next rep. That way, you’re less likely to round your lower back and squeeze your spinal discs. If you avoid touching the floor in order to keep muscle tension, don’t bother. Keeping tension all throughout this movement isn’t necessary to build muscle. Instead of that, just increase the weight on the bar and you’ll get more tension. If you don’t lower the bar to touch the floor, the only result will be too much tension in your back.
#6. Beating Up Your Shins
When performing a deadlift, slight shin scraping is inevitable because you must drag the bar over your shins, which is a key part of proper technique.But there’s more to this than making sure to wear long pants or some kind of padding when deadlifting. If your shins bleed every time you deadlift, this should be taken as a clue that you’re doing it wrong – your form is bad and you’re either bouncing or squatting your deadlifts.
Your shins are not supposed to take that kind of beating. Fix your form instead of compensating with pants or tall socks and your shins will stop bleeding. Setup with your shoulder blades over the bar and the bar over your mid-foot, then pull the bar in a vertical line without hitting your shins. If you still get unwanted bruising and scabbing, get a good pair of shin guards.
#7. Checking Your Deadlift Form In The Mirror
This habit can will only bring you neck pain and ruin your form. When you look in the mirror while deadlifting, this causes you to look up, drop your hips and squeeze the spinal discs in your neck. And while we’re at it, looking in the mirror aside of you is even worse for the neck. In fact, regular training in front of a mirror can harm your performance on many levels, including balance and rate of force development. Forget about the mirror. If you want to check your form without risking neck pain, videotape yourself with the help of your phone. This will help you see your stance from every angle possible.
#8. Using A Belt With Bad Deadlift Form
The weightlifting belt actually doesn’t provide any magical lower back support and it certainly doesn’t make your back indestructible. Today more and more people use belts without having a good reason for it. And the problem is that in general, weightlifting belts tend to give people a false sense of security, encouraging them to lift more than they normally would, which is a very bad idea when your form is far from perfect. The belt can’t make up for bad form. Instead, it will dramatically increase your risk of injury because you’re lifting heavier.
In reality, you should only use a belt if you’re a competing weightlifter and you have to lift those 5 extra pounds no matter what. For the rest of us, belts can be beneficial only if we remain strict with our form. So instead of using a belt, focus on acquiring proper form and building strength that way.
#9. Deadlifting In Running Shoes
Running shoes are the worst shoes you can wear when deadlifting. The gel filling in them works great for running because it reduces the impact shock, but when it comes to lifting, these shoes will limit your strength and impair your technique. This is because the squishy soles behave differently on each rep, which makes it harder to lift properly, while the soles absorb the force generated against the floor instead of directing it towards moving the weight, resulting with a strength loss. Furthermore, they bring a higher risk of injury because the soles make you less stable. Good lifting shoes have hard, flat and thin soles, so that your feet are as close to the floor as possible and the bar has to travel less distance, which allows you to deadlift more weight. That’s why deadlifting barefoot works best. But since you can’t deadlift barefoot in most gyms or at competitions, invest in a pair of good lifting shoes or slippers with a hard, rubber sole. Adequate shoes will help you achieve better movement consistency on each rep, which will automatically improve your form.
#10. Deadlifting with Gloves
Don’t use gloves because they add a layer between the bar and your hands, making the bar thicker and harder to hold. So if you lose the gloves, you could squeeze a few reps more. Most people wear them to avoid calluses, but calluses are a natural byproduct of lifting and are one of those things you just have to get over and live with if you wish to see great results. Pretty much every step of the bodybuilding process includes making sacrifices and overcoming discomfort, so calluses are just a small part of that. You must have noticed that gripping the bar hurts when you’re new to lifting because you don’t have calluses yet.
However, if you always lift with gloves, you won’t grow calluses and lifting bare hands will be painful. Instead of looking ridiculous to serious lifters around the gym, suck it up and grow those calluses. To avoid them becoming too big and getting torn by the bar, shave them off every week with a pumice stone and grip the bar low in your hands and use chalk if your gym allows it.
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