The deadlift is the king of the strength exercises and one of my favorite tools in increasing strength, size, and sports performance. Few things in life feel better than locking out a heavy ass deadlift. Whether you pull conventional, sumo, hybrid, or with a hex bar your lift is only as strong as your weakest link. Here are a few ways to diagnose your weak point, target that weak spot for training, and demolish your past PR.
The Problem: You’re weak or slow off the floor.
The Fix: Pulls from a deficit.
Fair warning, this deadlift variation requires VERY good flexibility as you will be setting the barbell at a lower starting point than usual. If you cannot maintain a stable lower back and good technique in this position than you should work on that prior to attempting deficit deads.
To perform deficit deadlifts stand on a 1-3 inch piece of wood or plate and perform your deadlifts as you would when flat on the floor. Focus on getting as tight as possible pre lift and work on speed off the floor.
The Problem: You’re weak or slow on the lockout.
The Fix: Rack pulls.
This is a great exercise for those who may lack the flexibility to perform deadlifts off the floor with a tight & neutral spine. Set up a squat rack or lifting blocks so the barbell is just at knee height. Load up that barbell and finish out the top half of the deadlift. This will likely be much stronger than your deadlift from the floor so it’s a great way to overload the lockout portion of the lift.
The Problem: You’re not engaging your lats, bro!
The Fix: Snatch Grip Deadlifts
The snatch is one of the olympic lifts and is performed with a very wide grip. To find your snatch grip, grab an empty barbell and place it just over your head with bent elbows. When the barbell can lightly touch the top of your head and your elbows are at 90 degrees then you have found your snatch grip. Much like the deficit deadlift this move requires good flexibility in the thoracic spine and upper body.
Once you’ve found that grip you are going to perform a deadlift just like you would expect with this wide grip. The lats will have to be super active for you to complete the lift successfully with this wider grip. This is a great way to train the lats to contract as hard as possible in the deadlift. If flexibility is an issue, try doing this exercise like a rack pull, off of pins or blocks so you are still engaging the lats and working the movement but doing so in a safer manner.
The Problem: You don’t produce force or create tension in the start
The Fix: Fix your start position!
Ever wonder why the deadlift is called a deadlift? Because you are starting from a dead stop, zero momentum, and zero movement. If we can generate a large amount of force and create tension within the body prior to even pulling the barbell off of the floor the lift will become much stronger and much safer. Here are a few things I do with every rep and have my clients and athletes do with each deadlift set up of every workout.
Try doing this in this order to create the strongest chain possible from your hands to your heels. Approach the bar with your deadlift stance and grip the bar as hard as you can. Pull the barbell with the arms as hard as you can, try to bend the barbell up towards you. You are not attempting to lift the bar here, just getting some tension into the upper back. Kick the hips up to produce some strength and tension in the hamstring. As you pull the hips back down towards the floor drive the heels in as hard as you can and begin your ascent with the barbell.
Thanks for reading, now go pick up something heavy.