Proper form for deadlifts

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Proper form for deadlifts

Postby J » Thu Apr 29, 2004 3:45 am

I've decided I want to start doing deadlifts again. I quit long ago because I just couldn't stop from slightly rounding my lower back in order to get all the way down and grab the bar.

In the past what happened is that as a result of rounding my back (very slightly) I eventually reached a point where I started developing this lower back muscle that started pulling my vertebrae (sp?) out of alignment. I started finding that my back would always feel very stiff and if I arched my back and pushed really hard against my lower vertebra I could "crack" them back into alignment. But as I moved to heavier and heavier weights I couldn't "crack" things back into alignment and eventually I started having real back problems. So I finally just quit deadlifting.

So, just read Pavel's Power to the People and decided I want to give deadlifts a try again. This time I've switched to the (rather silly looking) wide legged stance. And I started out with very light weights trying VERY hard to make absolutely certain my form was correct.

And after two workouts of just a measly 150 for 3 and 200 for 3, my lower back is feeling stiff and I want to "crack" the vertebrae back into place.

So what the hell! Are some body types just literally incapable of doing a deadlift in the proper fashion? I literally cannot get down to the bar and keep a slight arch in my lower back.

Seriously how does anyone do it? (It's a very, very rare thing to see anybody ever doing deadlifts at most gyms.) It's seem that all you have to basically do, is keep your back slightly arched while bringing your knees up into your chest! Oh and pay no attention to your thighs which are crushing your midsection in order to do this.

Possibly my arms are just too short relative to my shins....?

Any words of wisdom on this?
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Deadlifts

Postby VeganEssentials » Thu Apr 29, 2004 4:19 am

Yes, a tricky thing for some people to get going quite heavy and not throw their back into lots of trouble. Some people can still-leg their deadlifts with pure lower back drive (I'm much like that) and never have a problem, others can do sumo style with a wide stance and an almost vertical torso using mostly legs to drive and still have issues. Body mechanics (limb length and such) can definitely play a lot of this, and as you're just getting back into deadlifting again I'd strongly suggest easing in slowly even at the risk of self-loathing over using lower weights, especially if you've had back probelms in the past from this exercise. Other things I'd suggest are some lightweight Good Mornings, weighted hyperextensions, and finally, a surprise from me, the machine hater - use a lower back extension machine once each week, done heavy and for high reps. I found that some of my best progress was made when I'd do one day of deadlifting exclusively and 3-4 days later I'd do deadlift assistance work with the abovementioned exercises, and this helped me get past the point where I used to have a sore lower back for days after I'd do DLs. Oh yeah, before I forget - heavy quarter deadlifts and half deadlifts in a power rack will also be a great aid in progressing your lifting and building the core support while keeping safe.

Another point that I strongly stress that some people don't follow is, after every deadlift rep, set the weight down fully, re-set your legs, back and hips and start fresh. This is a MAJOR way to avoid problems with injury, and one thing to note is, after your first rep, no subsequent rep will have the same quality form, period, if you don't set the bar down momentarily to re-set your positioning. Think about it, with a squat you're getting momentary time to re-position at both the top and bottom of each rep, giving a chance for your body to adjust and regain stability, but when you go down and prepare to pull your 2nd deadlift rep, you'll find that the bar is further out from your shins, adding more stress on the lower back and more work on your spine. This is what got me away from feeling sore for days afterward and now I can pull my max or go for new PRs with frequency and never have a problem.

Finally, one last thing - how wide are your feet? If you look at a lot of pictures of powerlifters, their feet are close togther, definitely less than shoulder width. I used to think that this made the initial pull harder as it seemed that there'd be more height to pull with your back, but in all honesty it has made the lift much easier for me. I space my feet around 14" apart, keep the bar around 1" from my shins, drop my hips as low as I can (which really isn't all that low) and pull away. Sometimes even the smallest of details can make a world of difference.

Hope that maybe something in here helps a bit!

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Postby J » Thu Apr 29, 2004 4:53 am

OK thanks. I'll definitely take what you've said into consideration.

I do remember I used to do good mornings when I first started out, but when my back originally started bothering me, I quit them because they seemed potentially more harmful than even deadlifts. In retrospect I may have been going too heavy on them.
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Good mornings

Postby VeganEssentials » Thu Apr 29, 2004 5:41 am

I've done some damage to my back from good mornings as well when going heavy (aboe 200 lbs.) Now I just use 135 for a few sets and go light, rarely if ever going above 185 for fear of doing damage again. I have no idea how some people do massive amounts with this move, but for what I've experienced it worked well for me on a lighter scale than heavier. Definitely one to be careful with!

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Postby JP » Thu Apr 29, 2004 8:17 am

i think GM's are a great movement and because of the inherent fear one has with them you make damn sure you have an exlellent form when using them! I think low reps and heavy weights are good because of that reason. When going light and high reps one tends not to have the same fear and respect for the barbell and then all things start going wrong.

This is just a personal feeling though.

One thing seems to split mind when doing deads is to keep everything tight, especially abs, to tighten and protect the lower back area. Also, if you use a lifting belt, it's probably a good time to stop it now so the lower back will get stronger and used to pull the weight on it's own.

Damn, i miss deadlifting - there's no heavy deadlifting at all in my current routine, only speed deads with about half the max weight. I'll go all out in about 4 weeks time though...
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Learning

Postby Oak » Thu Apr 29, 2004 9:58 am

I have been trying to get my deadlift technque sorted out also.

No-one does them in my gym either apart from me, i've had some of the trainers show me some stuff but they don't really do then either.

1 rep at a time
That's great advice about just doing one rep at a time. It feels better for me even though i was told not to.

Position of back
When i deadlift i use my legs to drive and then i use my back. I have a feeling like my shoulders are getting pulled by a gorrilla.
Is it necessary to lean a bit back when you have the weight up? Or is this just powerlifting, or have i picked it up wrong?
What is the key to keeping the arch in the back? Is it making sure that the shoulders stay back?

Breathing
So what about breathing, i tend to breath in before i go to take the weight then i grab it, tighten up the abs, try and keep the lower arch (as if i can do that!) then lift. On the way down i let my breath out in small breaths.

Powerlift dead
Does anyone know if when deadlifting it is permisable just to pick the weight up any way you want or do you have to use a special technique.

Back assistance
So it's recommended that good mornings and hyperextentions are good, what about varient types of deadlift. Sumo, close legs etc.
I have to admit that i am a bit thick :lol: I'd given up the hyperextentions because there were no bigger plates that 20kg but i never thought of using 2 plates :oops:

Abs assistance
Is there any way to measure how strong your abs should be for doing big lifts. Should you be able to hold a plank for a certain amount of time. Or be able to crunch half the wieght that you are going to be deadlifting.
I think this would be quite a useful equation thing for injury prevention.

Oak :D
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Postby GenTDuke » Thu Apr 29, 2004 10:10 pm

I have Lumbar pain to but DL is essential to reducing this pain long term, GM i a great exercise but I am only starting them now after traning my back for 6 months.

The best thing I can suggest is in between reps or sets do some frog kicks and bring your knees as far into your chest as pos, this will put your vertabrae back in place so you wont suffer pain while exercising and then post work out rock your knees into your chest again, the only pain you will experience is serious DOMS in the morning.
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Postby J » Fri Apr 30, 2004 12:19 am

I think the number one thing I need to do is increase my flexibility.

GenTDuke
Pulling my knees into my chest might be good for stretching but I don't think it's going to help me keep my back arched while DLing. And if the back isn't arched then nothing's going to stop it from getting messed up. (By the way, it isn't a matter of pain when DLing, I never feel pain when DLing, there's no way I'd be doing any exercise if I felt pain while doing it.)

Oak
I don't know why some people lean really far back. I don't think there's any reason for it. I think it could even potentially be dangerous as the back needs to be locked during the entire movement and you might lose that with leaning really far back.

Just for DLs I definitely hold my breath on the way up. I've read that helps ensure you keep proper form and it certainly does.

Powerlift dead
Does anyone know if when deadlifting it is permisable just to pick the weight up any way you want or do you have to use a special technique


I'm not sure I know what you mean. If you mean how some people have their hands facing opposite directions, that's done so it's easier to hold on to the bar. Personally I never did it because I never had a problem with grip. (Only gets to be a problem with high rep stuff, but I'm only doing 3 reps per set because I don't want any lower body mass.)

Abs assistance
Is there any way to measure how strong your abs should be for doing big lifts. Should you be able to hold a plank for a certain amount of time. Or be able to crunch half the wieght that you are going to be deadlifting.
I think this would be quite a useful equation thing for injury prevention.


That's a good question. Anyone have an answer? I used to do sit-ups with a 45lb plate behind my head but quit because I didn't want to have a 40inch waist at low bodyfat. Maybe I shouldn't have quit.....
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Re: Learning

Postby funfetus » Fri Apr 30, 2004 2:01 am

[quote="Oak"]
Powerlift dead
Does anyone know if when deadlifting it is permisable just to pick the weight up any way you want or do you have to use a special technique.


As I understand it, the only requirement is that you hold the bar at lockout for the required time -- how you get there is up to you. Of course, certain approaches are safer/more effective than others.
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Re: Learning

Postby JP » Fri Apr 30, 2004 6:40 am

[quote="Oak"]
Position of back
When i deadlift i use my legs to drive and then i use my back. I have a feeling like my shoulders are getting pulled by a gorrilla.
Is it necessary to lean a bit back when you have the weight up? Or is this just powerlifting, or have i picked it up wrong?

Powerlifters pull the most weight so i guess they are the best ones to look up for correct technique. Leaning back is good if that makes you to pull the most weight. If you drive through your heels you naturally lean back slightly, but mentally i find it hard to do because of this inherent fear of falling back!

[quote]
What is the key to keeping the arch in the back? Is it making sure that the shoulders stay back?

i don't think you need to keep the shoulder back. Would you have the strength to hold your shoulders back on maximum weights?

[quote]
Breathing
So what about breathing, i tend to breath in before i go to take the weight then i grab it, tighten up the abs, try and keep the lower arch (as if i can do that!) then lift. On the way down i let my breath out in small breaths.


i breath out as i lift.

[quote]
Powerlift dead
Does anyone know if when deadlifting it is permisable just to pick the weight up any way you want or do you have to use a special technique.


like funfetus said, just get it up :) deadlifting is the simples of the three lifts, so not that many rules. You can't stop it on your thighs and stuff like that, and the lockout has to be full and you lower the weight when the judge is happy and gives you the signal.

There's a lot of debat about sumo vs regular deads and it just seems like it suits some people better than others. I don't like sumo - i think the biggest problem is hip flexibility for me...

[quote]
Back assistance
So it's recommended that good mornings and hyperextentions are good, what about varient types of deadlift. Sumo, close legs etc.
I have to admit that i am a bit thick :lol: I'd given up the hyperextentions because there were no bigger plates that 20kg but i never thought of using 2 plates :oops:


To each his own really. The biggest deadlifters squat first and foremost. Good mornings and glute-ham raises seem to be the most popular assistance movements and old school powerlifters do a lot of hyperextensions as well. Then half/quarter deadlifts as well for the grip.

[quote]
Abs assistance
Is there any way to measure how strong your abs should be for doing big lifts. Should you be able to hold a plank for a certain amount of time. Or be able to crunch half the wieght that you are going to be deadlifting.
I think this would be quite a useful equation thing for injury prevention.


never heard of any, but the abs work isometrically as a balancing muscle much like with squatting, so crunching strength might not be the best indicator. I guess they are even more important in squatting than with deads.
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first time back

Postby wannalift » Sat May 15, 2004 6:46 pm

Hi all,
I did my first sets of deadlifts in 2+ months today. I'm staying with higher reps for now on out. I went real lite today doing 135x12, 135x12, 145x10. It felt real great and neither my knee or back gave me any pain. I can't wait to post about doing my first set of squats again, but i'm going to give myself a little more time before that. Even then, my parallel squatting days might be over for good. Cheers.
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Postby Renecarol25 » Sat May 15, 2004 7:18 pm

I read that article that Joni posted for me.. very interesting. I have increased quite a bit since then.. I think from 145 to 160 and still rising. Though some of that was probably just starting this lift too..
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Re: first time back

Postby JP » Sun May 16, 2004 6:48 pm

[quote="daviddenton"]Even then, my parallel squatting days might be over for good.


hey, hey, wait a minute! Mate, don't give up yet - if you can sit down on the toilet, you can squat! Though people often have better form sitting down on toilet than squatting, feet nice a wide, bum going back seeking the seat, the whole movement being hip dominant and back being straight. :D

Did you have knee problems or was it your lower back that gave in? Pete seems to have found a way to squat without knee problems nowdays, and everyone seems to have their own "remedy" for it, that is their own groove and form in which they don't get any knee problems. Personally the best thing i did was going really, really wide with my squats. At the moment it is as wide as i can inside the rack with toes pointing fairly forwards with only slight angle.

Anyways, wise to keep the weights low after problems (something i never learn!). Speedy recovery!
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Postby wannalift » Mon May 17, 2004 3:32 am

hahaha, i knew that would get your attention. yeah, my problem is that my knee starts to tighten up just above parallel. i also had a sore back that happened right before i injured my knee. i need to experiment with a wider stance. pete's post about squatting form was helpful. i've been icing it lately and it feels like its starting to heal. problem is that i live in the states so i obviously don't have health care :) so i don't know for sure. pete, if you're out there, what was your secret to a pain-free squat.
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Postby Frostfire » Mon May 17, 2004 4:39 am

[quote="daviddenton"]i also had a sore back that happened right before i injured my knee.


Hi, I don't know about you, but if I have one injury (or a sore back. . .) I tend to favor different joints and/or move a little differently. Maybe that could have caused you to injure your knee? Maybe you were unconsciously protecting your back and took the extra load in your knees. Okay, I don't know for sure, that might just be me :). Take care!
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