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Instantly Improve Your Deadlift With These Easy Fixes!

Posted by Scott_Herman - June 5th, 2017

Back pain is something almost every lifter will go through once in their life. But there are always ways to reduce your risk for any serious injuries, by being smart about your training. The tips in this article are not only going to help you avoid back pain, but they will also help increase your strength, and you can apply them to your training right away!

Tip #1: Incorporate The Deficit Deadlift Into Your Program

The number one reason why, in my experience, people have lower back pain when they deadlift, is because they develop a really bad habit very early in their training program, which sees their hips shoot up first, and then they lift the barbell. Once this happens, it puts all of the load of the barbell onto the lower back.

Many of you may be able to get into the proper starting position for a deadlift with your chest up fine, but because you have poor mind-muscle connection, you shoot up with your hips first before pulling the bar. After that, there is no option but for your lower back to take over the lift. When you do this with heavy weight, having that weight transfer from your legs to your lower back isn’t going to end well.

So how do you fix this? That’s where the deficit deadlift comes into play. What I love about the deficit deadlift, and why it helps so much, is because if you are having a hard time focusing on engaging your lower body, the deficit deadlift forces you to get so low to grab the barbell, you have to instinctively activate more glutes and hamstrings to pick the barbell up off the ground. You’ll automatically feel more activation by just sitting in the bottom position, not to mention the engagement you will feel when you actually pull the bar off the ground.

Incorporating the deficit deadlift into your routine is also very simple. All you have to do is swap it out week-to-week with your one of your regular deadlift days. If you’re deadlifting two to three times a week, try doing deficit deadlifts on one or two of those days instead. This exercise IS NOT meant to be a max effort exercise (not right away at least), so stick to around 4-5 sets of 8-10 reps for your deficit deadlifts.

*NOTE: If you don’t have access to a platform which puts you further away from the barbell, simply use smaller plates (such as  25lb plates instead of  45lb plates) to simulate the same thing.

Tip #2: Breathe In Through Your NOSE, NOT YOUR MOUTH

Believe it or not, how you take in a breath before you start this exercise can make a huge difference to how much weight you’re able to lift, and how much internal pressure you have in your body. When you’re doing any lift in general, you should be breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. But some exercises where you really feel the difference, at least in my opinion, are squats and deadlifts.

When doing a deadlift, you have to get super low in order to be in position to grab the barbell. If you take a huge breath in through your mouth before going down to grab the bar, all of that air will tend to sit in the bottom of your gut. As you’re trying to bend down and get as low as you can to the barbell, if you have a huge air bubble in the bottom of your gut, it’s not only going to make it hard to get into the proper position, but also if you are wearing a weightlifting belt, it can tend to feel like an excessive amount of pressure in that area. This could make you feel like you are going to pass out, especially if you’re going for a max lift.

If you breathe in through your nose, instead of all that air coming in and sitting in your gut, it actually gets a bit more evenly distributed. You should feel your chest coming up when you take in that breath, then when you go down to perform your deadlift, you’ll notice you have a much easier time getting a bit lower and tighter to pull the barbell up off the ground.

The next time you do a deadlift, try breathing in through your mouth before completing a few reps, and then try breathing in through your nose before completing a few reps. You’ll instantly be able to tell the difference with or without a weightlifting belt on.

Tip #3: Visualize Pushing The Earth Down, Not Pulling The Barbell

Even if you fix your hips shooting up, and your breathing, if you’re still not 100% focusing on performing this movement by pushing through your legs, you’ll still get a bit more back activation throughout the movement, and you’re not going to be able to put your full power into this lift.

Something I like to do when I’m increasing my weight and approaching a PR, is I’ll get myself set up, and get into the position I’m going to be in when I’ll lift the bar. Then what I like to do when I max out, is I will literally stand at the bar and really mentally focus, put images in my head, of my feet pushing the ground down, in order to lift the barbell off the floor. In my head, I’m literally holding the bar in place, and my legs are pushing the ground away.

Now this might sound silly to you, but if you still feel like this is an exercise where you’re pulling it more with your upper body than pushing it with your legs, it might actually be harder for you to perform the lift. Instead, take about 30 seconds before you lift – you can call it meditation, you can call it whatever you want – but if you stand there and focus on the lift being a push movement through your legs, you’re going to see big increases in your numbers. It might be how much weight you can do for eight reps, or it might be a PR in general, but it will help.

You really have to get inside your own head, especially if you’re having a hard time lifting heavy weight, and focus on this movement being one where you’re super bad-ass, and you’re pushing the earth down with your feet.


The goal of this article was to give you three quick tips that you can take with you to the gym, to improve your deadlift right away, so I hope that’s what it achieved! Now this article didn’t talk too much about mobility, but that is SUPER important as well, so take a look at the related articles down below if mobility is an issue for you. Now go and do some serious earth pushing!!!

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