One of the most common lifts in a high school athlete’s strength program today is the deadlift, a total body hinge exercise that works everything from your quadriceps to you trapezius muscles.
But the unfortunate reality of this great exercise is that many athletes are doing it incorrectly, or aren’t using the lift to their full advantage.
This is where we come in to help. Thanks to Thea Vock, a Physical Conditioning Coach with IMG Academy, we have the information you need to make every deadlift a successful one.
Q: Why is the deadlift an important workout for athletes today?
A: “The deadlift is something that many people do wrong. There are so many moving parts to the lift and it’s one of the most difficult to teach, especially to a young kid. Deadlifting is pretty much the only movement that will literally work the whole body. It works all the way from the ground up, so you are using your arms, your core, your legs, your hamstrings, and your glutes. It really is one of the best exercises to do for an overall total body workout.”
Q: Can you break down proper deadlift form for us?
A: “The lift involves a hinging movement so it’s much different than a squat where you are moving just straight down and up. Basically, it’s just moving your hips back and then extending them forward in one fluid motion.
To start, you’ll generally want to put your feet right under your hips, making sure your toes are pointing straight ahead or slightly turned out depending on what makes you comfortable. Make sure your hands are right outside of your hips while underneath your shoulders, and then you want to check your back to make sure it is nice and flat with no arch and that your shoulders are locked in. From there, you’ll brace your core and take a deep breath before driving up feet first while moving the bar up straight, keeping it nice and close to your legs all in one fluid motion. As you pass your knees with the bar while coming up, that’s when you’re driving your hips forward with the bar nice and close to your body. Make sure to repeat those steps on the way down so you don’t hurt your back as well.”
Q: Could you give us a few different variations of this exercise?
A: “What we trainers usually like to start with is a kettle bell deadlifts. The form is the same, they will just do the hinging movement with the kettlebell between their legs. Then you have the sumo deadlift where your feet are out wider than your hips, your toes are facing out, and your hands go on the inside of your legs. Another unique variation I like is the hex bar deadlift, this is a hexagonal bar that you will stand in the middle of with your hands on the outside of your hips doing the same hinging motion.”
Q: What are some common mistakes people make while deadlifting?
A: “The biggest and most common mistake would be the rounding of the back. A lot of times, the athlete will begin in a good position, but as soon as they start to lift the weight, they round their back, meaning the weight is probably too heavy for them. Another mistake I see is people locking their knees out and then driving their hips forward. With that we like to see that the bar is staying close to their knees, and as they pass the knees with the bar coming up that their hips are shooting forward. This keeps pressure off the lower back.”
Q: How does an athlete know when it’s the right time to add more weight to the bar?
A: “Starting out, you’ll want to stay pretty light so you can get the form down. What I like to do is ask the athlete how they feel and if they can do the eight reps or whatever they are doing pretty easily. If they can, then I’ll add weight to both sides, usually in 2.5 pound increments. On the other end of things if they are struggling through eight reps I’ll just keep them there, or if their form isn’t looking good then I’ll have them drop some weight.”