How to Improve your Deadlift

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There isn’t much argument in the baseball community that the deadlift needs to be an essential piece of your strength program. It is a great exercise to improve lower half strength, force production, improve hip hinge mechanics, and is great for strengthening the rectus abdominis! You simply can not deadlift a lot of weight without having a strong core. There are different variations including conventional, sumo, and trap bar. In this post I will be discussing the conventional barbell deadlift. I will discuss the set up, cues, and how to improve your numbers.

The Feet

A common mistake I see athletes make as they approach the bar is having their feet too far apart. For the conventional deadlift you want your hands to be outside your feet. To do this effectively, have your feet slightly closer than shoulder width with toes slightly pointed out. Everyone will be a little different, but for me I like to line up my shins with the smooth part of the bar to the left and right of the center. 

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The Hands

The hand position is pretty straight forward. Have your hands a comfortable distance outside of your legs. I like to use the over under hand method. It is really up to you which hand is over and which is under. Typically the dominant hand will be the one that does the over hand grip.

Approaching the Bar

Now that we know how we want our feet and hands set up, let’s talk about the approach and the process of preparing to lift the bar. Walk up to the bar with shins touching the bar or slightly away from it. Take a deep breath and hold the air to engage the core. Think about expanding your abs. From here you will grab the bar and sit your hips back and down, looking at the ground 3-5 feet in front of you. You might be asking why do I want to look at the ground 3-5 feet in front of me? Don’t I want to look straight up? The reason is to keep a neutral spine. A common technique for this is to think about making a double chin. This will put your spine in a better position as oppose to looking straight up.

** Picture courtesy of Strong Lifts-  https://stronglifts.com/deadlift/#gref

** Picture courtesy of Strong Lifts- https://stronglifts.com/deadlift/#gref

The Lift

At this point we have are set up, we’ve approached the bar, now we’re ready to lift the weight off the ground. As I said earlier we want to keep our spine in a neutral position. We don’t want to arch our back as we lift and we don’t want to round it. The ability to maintain this position is going to come down to how strong can we keep our core. People don’t automatically think about the deadlift being a core exercise, but it is one one the best things you can do for it! While keeping a neutral spine and sitting your hips back and down, pull the slack out of the bar. What this means is to pull the bar slightly up without the weight coming off the ground to take out the loose barbell movement. 

Once you have done this, push your feet into the ground as hard as you can. As you begin to lift the weight off the ground, bring the hips forward at the top. There is no need to hyperextend at the to the top, just be sure to lock the glutes at the top.

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Conclusion

It is without question that the deadlift should be a staple in any program considering all of the benefits it has. There are numerous ways to progress this lift with different form variations, use of bands, speed deadlifts, etc. For the novice, a consistent progression of adding weight to the bar each week is the best way to go. Don’t worry about doing anything fancy until you have good base level of strength for this exercise. For the beginner, focus on nailing down the form. Like anything, when something is done incorrectly it can have negative consequences. Start light with good form and gradually work your way up.

Thank you for reading and if you have any questions or comments feel free to email me at info@gaynorstrength-pitching.com


- Jared