6 Common Deadlift Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Common Deadlift Mistakes

The deadlift should be the most popular exercise in the gyms, it works more muscles than any other exercise and as such will help increase strength, hypertrophy, fat-loss, and hormones such as Testosterone and Growth Hormone [1].

The reason that it isn’t the most popular exercise, is down to the reputation it has. Many gym goers consider the deadlift dangerous, or complicated.

Whilst both of these beliefs have a basis in fact, they can easily be overcome.

This article will go over how to perform a deadlift correctly, and how to avoid the most commonly made deadlift mistakes.

How to Deadlift

Before going into common mistakes it is important that you know how to perform a perfect deadlift.

Place a bar on a stable surface and attach the preferred amount of weight. Walk up to the bar and place your feet so that the middle of your foot is directly under the bar (this is where the laces are tied on a regular shoe).

Your feet should be slightly narrower than shoulder width apart and your toes should be ever so slightly turned out. Keeping your feet in place, slowly bend your knees until your shins are touching the barbell.

Next you want to place your hands outside of your knees and grab the bar in either an overhand grip or mixed grip (one hand overhand, one hand underhand).

At the moment your position should be feet under the bar, hands on the bar, with shins pressing against it. Your back will be hunched over the bar, which is the next thing that we need to sort out.

What you need to do is pull your shoulders back and push your chest out, this will straighten your back and prevent it from rounding.

Now breath in and fill your lungs, this will create a block which is important in big lifts as it can help protect the spine. Begin to lift the bar by straightening your legs until the bar has passed your knees and then drive your hips forward until the bar is resting at hip level. As you do this slowly breathe out.

To return the bar to the floor you need to push your glutes back which will bend your knees and lower the bar to knee height. From here you can lower the bar to the floor remembering to keep your chest pushed out and your shoulders back throughout. Once the bar touches the floor you have completed your first rep.

Common Deadlift Mistakes

Now that you have a good idea about how to perform the deadlift properly you can learn what the most common deadlift mistakes are.

1. Lifting on an unstable surface

In a perfect world everyone would be deadlifting off specific lifting platforms, but this is incredibly unlikely.

Most people will have to content themselves with a bit of space in a packed gym, or the floor of their home gym.

One of the problems with this is that the floor might not be suitable. If the floor is uneven the bar can roll slightly away from you before a rep. This can cause a lot of issues with your form and ruin your rhythm.

Make sure at the very least that the floor you are using is stable and even, if you can’t get this then deadlifting from the floor is going to be a problem. Deadlifting from a rack or performing Romanian deadlifts (with a lighter weight) are suitable alternatives.

2. Bouncing the Weight

It’s hard to call bouncing a mistake, because the word mistake implies that the person responsible is unaware of it. Bouncing may be better described as cheating.

Bouncing is the act of lowering the barbell forcefully to the floor so that it bounces slightly off the ground, the momentum making it easier to perform a second rep.

What you should be doing instead is lowering the bar to the ground, pausing, and then re-lifting it.

This is a lot more difficult and you should adjust the weight accordingly, the benefit of doing this is that 1) it’s how deadlifts are supposed to be performed and 2) it is a lot safer to lift using this technique.

3. Not Breathing Correctly

A lot of people feel dizzy after deadlifting and the number 1 cause of this is forgetting to breathe correctly.

It’s an easy mistake to make as you have so much to concentrate on that breathing is no longer an automatic process. Holding your breath during the initial part of the lift is even beneficial as it creates a ‘block‘ and pushes your chest out.

But you’re supposed to let the breath out smoothly as you raise the bar up. Forgetting to do so will send your blood pressure through the roof and will cause dizziness and possibly even fainting after the set.

4. Posture

Always keep your chest pushed out and your shoulders back, if you’re struggling to manage this then you are most likely lifting too heavy a weight or your posture is too bad for deadlifts to be a realistic exercise choice.

Instead try adding exercises such as Face Pulls and rear delt flyes to improve your posture, whilst trying rack pulls – which lower the range of motion making posture easier.

5. Picking the Incorrect Weight

Most people either lift way too heavy or way too light.

The people lifting too heavy will injure themselves as too heavy a weight leads to bad posture. The people lifting too light are wasting their time as the deadlift is a powerful movement designed to be performed at near maximal weight.

A rep range of between 4 and 6 should be sufficient.

6. Not Assessing your Form

If you never get anyone to check your form then you may be performing the exercise incorrectly for years.

Next time you’re in the gym and you see one of the regulars performing an exercise with awful form, remind yourself that they too think that they are training correctly.

Is your chest pushed out? Are you bouncing the weight? Are your feet in the correct position? If you can’t answer these questions for certain then you could very well be making mistakes without realising it.

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[1] Shaner, A., Vingren, J., Hatfield, D., Budnar, R., Duplanty, A., Hill, D. 2014. The Acute Hormonal response to free weight and machine weight resistance exercise. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 28(4): 1032-40

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