3 Simple Tips for the Deadlift


At a recent in service I was giving for a local PT Studio I came to the realisation that sometimes what I think is common knowledge for personal trainers is NOT. Now before you think that I am about to get all high and mighty I will be the first to admit that there are many people out there that are much smarter than me. But one thing that I continuously hear when I’m speaking to other trainers is that I make things easy to understand.

Now I’m not sure if that’s because it’s an actual gift that I was given, or if I’m just not smart enough to make it anything other than simple. Either way I’ll take it as a compliment and try to give you some quick, simply fixes for improving your clients deadlift.

Tip #1
Figure out which style suits your client.

Over the years I’ve learned that one style does not fit all when it comes to deadlifting. Some of your clients will have no problem doing conventional deadlifts yet struggle with sumo deadlifts, while others will be the exact opposite.

Baring that your client isn’t going to be competing in powerlifting I think there is a simple way to chose the best style for your client to use. It’s the one that they don’t look awkward doing. It’s as simple as that.

If your client struggles to get in the right starting position or can’t keep an arch in their lower back with one of these variations, give them the one that looks natural. I could go into all the reasons why, but you don’t have time to listen to my ramblings (I’m impressed that you’ve actually got this far in my article).

Get your client to try a couple conventional deadlifts and a couple of sumo’s. Whichever one looks more natural is their new style.

Tip #2
Create Tension

The biggest reason I see people in the gym fail at deadlifts (because of course my clients would never do this) is their inability or lack of knowledge, to create as much tension in the body before the lift.

(speaking of deadlift fail….I just couldn’t leave this video out)

You may be wondering what I mean by this and it’s pretty simple.

1) Squeeze the bar hard

2) Try to bend the bar (causing tightness in the lats)

3) Get as much tension in the hamstrings without rounding your low back

These are the three main keys that I believe will help you clients in their deadlift. As the weight gets heavier, it’s these energy leaks or lack of tightness, which will cause their form to go to crap. If you can teach them to create as much tightness in their lats and hamstrings as possible you’ll probably start to see much better form without having to say anything else to them.

Tip #3
Focus on the Horizontal

You’ll be amazed at how many people think of the deadlift as a vertical pull, but in reality if you think of it as more of a horizontal hip drive, you’ll be amazed at the ease of a once heavy weight.

An analogy first used by Mark Rippetoe was thinking of your hips as a bow and arrow. And this kind of ties in to Tip #2. If you build the tension in the hamstrings by pushing your hips back, it’s like pulling back on the bow. The further back you pull the bow (create tension in the hamstrings) the more force it will exert once you let you (drive your hips).

Try this the next time you deadlift. Create the tension in the hamstrings, and then instead of thinking of pulling the bar off the floor, instead think of driving the hips forward.

If the lift doesn’t feel a lot lighter, you’re doing something wrong.

So those are my three quick tips for helping improve your client’s deadlifting. Hopefully this helps you with your clients, but like always make sure you try these things out first so that you can better coach your clients. If you’ve got some quick tips that you like to use I’d love to hear them below.