One of the things I struggle with the most is my Deadlift positioning.
The Deadlift is a very interesting lift because it relies so much on your leverages, which in this case, refer to how efficient your biomechanics are when attempting to move the load. Since everyone’s body composition and limb length are different, different people create the most “leverage” in different ways. You hear about people setting 40- to 50-pound PRs in a very short amount of time, not because they got 40- to 50-pounds stronger, but because they simply improved their leverages enough to add that many pounds.
Last year I visited the strongest gym in the world, Westside Barbell, for the first time. That morning, I deadlifted with Cory Gregory and legendary Westside Barbell powerlifter Tony Ramos. Around this time, I was struggling a lot with my conventional Deadlift positioning. Being a conventional Deadlifter often means it can be difficult for me to get my shoulders back into position and get my leverages in line. That day I deadlifted 365 pounds through doubled mini bands (around 200 pounds of extra tension at the top of the movement) and then barely budged 405 off the ground. I watched the video numerous times and realized that my positioning was just terrible.
Right after that lift, Tony pulled me to the side and suggested a warm-up/accessory movement I could add to possibly help me improve my deadlift positioning.
The movement went like this: Place a kettlebell (begin light and gradually progress in weight, but the initial movement should not be difficult) it in front of you in the same position a barbell on the Deadlift would be. Then, bend over to grab the kettlebell, but try to keep all of your weight in your hamstrings and keep your shoulders upright and behind the kettlebell. I love this movement because it is very hard to practice deadlift positioning with 500-plus pounds on the bar.
A lot of people have perfect positioning at around 50 percent of their max effort weight, but the moment they get close to a maximal effort, their positioning is terrible. Their hips fly up too fast because the weight is heavier than their body is used to, and they’re in a world of trouble once that happens. By beginning with the lighter weight of the kettlebell, you can easily control and adjust your positioning.
Once you master the kettlebell, you can add a resistance band to make it even tougher to stay in position. Tuck one end of the band under your feet and place the other end around your neck. This will force your shoulders to stay over top of the bar or kettlebell.
I recommend 3-5 sets of 8-10 reps with this move. Make sure all of your reps are reset reps, meaning you take time to compose and reposition yourself between each rep. This will ensure you’re constantly working toward getting your body in proper position for each lift. If your body is anything like mine, it’s formed a bad habit that will take thousands of reps to fix. However, this movement is a great way to get a feel for how the Deadlift should actually feel when performed correctly.
In my opinion, most people struggle with Deadlift positioning not because they aren’t mobile enough to get into position, but because they aren’t strong enough to hold a weight that heavy with proper form. So in addition to this movement, be sure not to forget your other accessory lower back, upper back, glute, and hamstring work to build up your overall strength as well.
Photo Credit: Marco_Piunti/iStock