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Improve Your Deadlift

Nick Ferrari provides some tips on how to improve your deadlift.

Center The Bar

When it comes to any big lift, you need to set it up correctly.  Not setting up correctly can lead to failure and injury.  For a deadlift, the bar will need to be in the middle of the foot. 

If you want to succeed with the biggest deadlift, you need to keep the bar close to your body.  The bar should also travel the shortest possible distance.  If the bar deviates from the centre line, less weight will be lifted.  To keep the line and achieve the lift you want, the barbel needs to go through the centre of the foot on set up.

A common mistake that people make is to place the bar between the forefoot instead of the middle of the entire foot.  The bar must bisect the arches of your feet and no other areas.  When the bar is set correctly, you will feel that your shins are very close to the bar.  There should be only an inch or two away before you bend to grab the bar.

Look At Your Grip

Your grip will determine your strength which is why it needs to be as secure as possible.  If you have an unsure grip, your body will not make use of the maximum muscle mass required for a successful lift. 

If you are not holding the weight correctly, your brain will believe that you probably should not be attempting to lift it.  In these situations, you will not be able to lift correctly if you are not locked onto the bar. 

Fortunately, there is a quick way to assess if your grip is the problem, but you will need to use lifting straps.  It would help if you tried using the straps on a weight that you have been unable to lift otherwise.  If you find this easy, the problem is your grip and not your total strength.  It is important to remember that one weak link will stop all your progress, and in this case, the weak link is your grip.

Have A Big Squat

If you ask anyone who has been lifting for years, they will tell you that improvements to your deadlift will not improve your squat.  However, if you improve your squat, you will be able to improve your deadlift.  This is why you need to take the time to build up your squat.  When you do this, you are more likely to achieve those major lifts that you want.

Squats need a lot of stability and strength through all the major joints.  This is one of the reasons why it has such a significant impact on your lift performance.  When you squat big, you will strengthen the back, hamstrings, and glutes. A proper squat is essential to avoid lower back pain after a deadlift.

To have a big squat, you need to be stable and solid throughout your body.  This raw strength will translate into a proper deadlift.  If you add 20kg to your squat, you will generally see an improvement in your deadlift

Pin The Bar

Your deadlift should not have a hitch up your thighs, but you do need to keep the bar as close to you as possible.  This usually means you have constant contact with your legs as the bar moves.  If you are keeping the bar close to your body, you will also find the odd shin making contact as well.

If the bar is slightly forward and does not have any contact with your body, you will feel increased strain in the lower back.  When you are working with maximal weights, this extra strain can cause you to miss the lift.  If you are doing reps, this strain will also cause your back to round, and this will stress the spine.

Use Some Chains

The hardest point of a deadlift is when the weight is just leaving the ground, and it should get easier when you reach the top.  If you have reached a plateau in strength, using some chains on the bar will help. 

The chains will make the bar lighter when you start the lift.  As the bar is lifted, it will become heavier and harder to lift.  This process is known as accommodating resistance

If you are going to use chains for your deadlift, they need to be different from the ones used for a squat.  Squats are more extended movements with the bar being higher off the ground.  Chains for squats can be longer and not as munched.  With a deadlift, you need to have shorter chains.  This is why you will often see large bunches of chains for deadlifting.

Deadlift Less

The more you do squats, the more you benefit.  This is not true when you are working on your deadlifts.  You must have the right frequency for lifts to ensure you progress at the rate you want to. 

The frequency required will vary from one person to another, which is why you need to experiment.  Some people make a lot of progress with ten days between deadlift workouts while other people see better results with 5-day intervals.  Regardless of the frequency, you are likely to deadlift less often than you work on other lifts.

To assess your needs, you should leave five days between your deadlift workouts.  In your next workout, you need to pay attention to how you feel and the movement of the weight.  You need to consider if you have increased the weight or if you feel stronger or if the bar is lifting faster.  If the answer is no, you should wait longer between this workout and the next.

You will be able to tell when you have hit the right frequency because the weights will feel like they are flying.  It is extremely noticeable when you have the proper recovery time between your deadlifts. 

Get Low To The Floor

If you are wearing running shoes or any other soft-soled trainers, you need to take them off.  They are adding weight to your deadlift.  It is better to go barefoot for three significant reasons.

The first is that you are reducing the distance of the lift and how far you need to move the weight.  Trainers can add 2 to 3 centimetres of height.  While this might not seem like much, it will make a big difference when you deadlift.

The second reason is that the trainers are absorbing some of your force.  The soles of trainers are soft to absorb the force generated when running or completing similar activities.  This means that they are absorbing the drive behind your deadlift.  Think about jumping into the air from the sand.  You will not jump very high because the soft sand reduces your power and the same is happening with your trainers.

The last reason is stability.  If you shift your weight from one area of your foot to another, the soft sole will sink, leaving you off balance.  When you are unbalanced, you will not be able to lift as much weight.

These are the reasons why you will often see people deadlift barefoot. If they are wearing trainers, they will have very low and flat soles.

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • FERRARI, N. (2019) Tips To Improve Your Deadlift [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Nick Ferrari has written extensively on dieting in his time and has spent a lifetime dieting on and off. He is a big advocate of keto and has researched and used it extensively.