How To Deadlift for Strength and Powerlifting

Apr 28, 2023

The deadlift is one of the most fundamental exercises in strength training, and for good reason.  One of the 3 movements used with powerlifting and a great compound exercise for most gym goers. However, it's also an exercise that many people struggle with, either because they don't know how to do it correctly or because they lack the strength and techqniue to perform it safely. We focus on 3 Big Rocks of deadlift technique when teaching new lifters how to safely and efficiently execute the deadlift: The stack, tension and pushing with the legs.

Big Rock 1: The stack

The stack refers to the ribcage being stacked directly over the pelvis. This position improves bracing and intra-abdominal pressure, which is critical when deadlifting, as it helps to lock in position and lift greater absolute loads. By stacking the rib cage and pelvis the diaphragm is better positioned to push down into the abdominal cavity down and create intra-abdominal pressure. This increased intra-abdominal pressure makes for a more rigid trunk and heavier loads to be lifted.

In order to learn how to stack the rib cage and pelvis for deadlift we would recommend using a 90/90 Hip Lift and Plank w/ Full Exhale.

Big Rock 2: Tension

Being able to build and maintain tension throughout the deadlift is vital for lifting maximal loads. The goal is to produce force with your leg and back muscles and then transfer that force into the barbell. Newton's third law states that each and every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Therefore, in order to lift the bar, you need to put force into the ground, which will transfer back into your body and into the bar. The stiffer and tighter your body can be, the easier it will be for the ground reaction force to transfer through your body, back down your arms, and into the bar.

To build tension, we suggest three key things:

1) Bracing your trunk. Once you learn to stack your rib cage and pelvis, using this position to brace is the next step. Exhale to set position of the stack, then slowly inhale to create intra-abdominal pressure. Once pressure is built you can brace your abs down to build tension in the trunk.

2) Long arms and locked elbows. If we bend the elbows force is needed to create this motion, this force isn't successful transferred into the bar - keep your elbows locked and your arms long. Thinking about "crushing lemons"  behind your armpits helps to build lat tension, too. By doing this, you can build and maintain tension throughout the deadlift, allowing you to lift heavier weights in a better position.

3) Feel the quads push into the ground. the muscles in the legs, specifically the quads, glutes and hamstrings, play a vital role in providing the initial drive and power to lift the weight off the ground. By creating tension in the quads, you are better able to initiate the lift with the strong muscles in the legs. Once the arms are long, generate tension in the quads by pushing the floor away from you - similar feeling to that of being on a leg press.

Big Rock 3: Push the floor away, don't pull with your back and arms

The final big rock is pushing the floor away with your legs, not pulling on the bar with your arms. This ensures that you are using your legs, which are the strongest muscles in your body, to lift the weight. If you have positioned and braced in a solid stack, and built tension correctly, pushing with the legs is a continuation of building tension in the quads.

Push the floor away with your legs, don't lift the barbell with your arms and back. Believe me, your legs are significantly stronger than your arms and back.

Powerlifting and strength training require a great deal of technique and dedication. By focusing on the big rocks of the deadlift, including the stacks or ribcage pelvic position, tension, and pushing the floor away with your legs, you can improve your technique and overall performance. These three critical elements will allow you to lift heavier weights in a better position, which is essential for powerlifting and strength training success.

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