Don’t be that guy who butchers the deadlift while everyone else in the gym watches in horror. Pull more weight using better form with record-setting powerlifter and natural bodybuilder Layne Norton!
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For the first half of my lifting career, I avoided deadlifts. (I was guilty of doing the same with squats.) Why? They were hard, and I just really didn’t want to do them. Sound familiar?
Then I decided that my back needed to be brought up to the same level as the rest of my body. I consistently started incorporating deadlifts, and that made all the difference. When I did my first series of natural pro shows in 2010, the judges couldn’t believe the changes I’d made to my back size and density. Now five years later, my back’s gotten even bigger, and my deadlift has gotten even better.
When I began deadlifting consistently, I did more than just pick up heavy bars, though; I researched proper form and how to execute the lift. I also learned from some of the best people I know, including Ben Esgro, Dr. Mike Zourdos, and USAPL World Team head coach Matt Gary. Compiling all of that information led me to where I am today, and I’ll use those same lessons to teach you how to deadlift safely and efficiently using both the conventional and sumo stance.
| How to Deadlift (conventional) |
1. Plant Your Feet: How wide you plant your feet in a conventional deadlift is going to vary based on your unique body. But in general, it’s best to stand in the position where you can generate the most power. That is typically the width where you would be able to jump the highest in a standing vertical leap.
2. Get Set Up: Hinge at the hips to lower yourself and grip the barbell. Your hand position should be just outside of your shins. If you grip too wide, you’ll have to pull the bar farther than necessary, and you can put excessive stress in places you don’t want it. So keep your arms as close to your shins as you can.
Optimal starting position will be with your shins at 90 degrees to the ground and your shoulder blades over the bar. This will ensure that you pull the bar in a straight line and generate maximum force.
Before you begin the movement, take in a deep breath and brace your abdominal wall. This is going to protect your spine and enable you to generate more force.
3. Engage Your Lats: Before you start the movement, you also want to pull the slack out of the bar by engaging your lats. Many people jerk the barbell off the ground violently, but this is incorrect and unsafe. Doing this is likely to put whip into the bar, cause your lower back to round, and prevent you from keeping a straight bar path.
4. Pull: Initiate the pulling movement by thinking about trying to bend the bar toward you. That will further engage your lats. You should feel really, really tight and tense from head to toe at this point.
To get the weight moving, think about pushing the floor away. It’s actually quite similar to how you perform a leg press, if that helps you imagine it. You’ve got your thighs close to your abdominal wall, and you’re pressing the weight away from you. But instead of the leg sled, you’re pressing the ground away from you, using your glutes and hamstrings (the muscle on the back of your thigh).
5. Squeeze Your Glutes: As soon as the weight leaves the ground, think about squeezing your glutes and driving your hips forward, not moving the weight up. This will enable you to keep a straight bar path and lock out more effectively.
6. Look Out: As you lock out, stand erect, but don’t hyperextend your lower back. Just stand straight up and solidify your lower back.
7. Lower: Once you’re locked out, don’t just drop the weight, but don’t lower it too slowly, either. Many people injure their lower backs by trying to lower the barbell too slowly, which puts a lot of torque on the spine. The easiest way to lower the bar is to unlock your glutes and let your hips drive back. Then, while still holding the bar, let it lower to the ground in a controlled fall along the same path it came up.
Don’t fear the deadlift. Master it with my complete guide!
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