The biggest Deadlift mistake is neglecting to check how to Deadlift with proper form. There’s more to Deadlifts than just pulling weight off the floor. Many people injure themselves Deadlifting because they lift with bad form. If you Deadlift the way they Deadlift without checking if that’s actually the correct way to Deadlift, you risk doing it wrong too. This is how lower back pain and herniated discs happen.
There’s nothing wrong with being a newbie at Deadlifts. Proper form takes practice and includes making mistakes. What is wrong is Deadlifting for months, or worse, years, and still making newbie mistakes as if it’s your first time doing Deadlifts. It’s almost impossible to increase your Deadlift without hurting yourself if you use bad form and the wrong equipment. Bad Deadlift form also hurts your gains on StrongLifts 5×5.
Here are the 13 most common Deadlift mistakes and what to do about them to avoid injuries, plateaus and looking like a newbie.
1. Deadlifting Top-Down
Deadlifts aren’t Squats. You don’t walk the weight out of the rack, lower it and Deadlift it back up. You start each Deadlift rep with the weight on the floor. You then DEADlift this DEAD weight from that DEAD stop until your knees and hips are locked. This is the proper way to Deadlift.
Deadlifts aren’t the same as Romanian Deadlifts. On the Romanian Deadlift you start at the top and lower the weight with stiff legs. This stresses your posterior chain muscles more. But it limits how heavy you can lift because you can’t use your knees. The Deadlift use more muscles which increases how much you can pull. More weight is more strength is more muscle. Deadlift from the floor on StrongLifts 5×5.
2. Not Touching The Floor
Deadlifts aren’t Yates Row. You don’t keep the bar in the air between reps. You lower it until the plates touch the floor. This gives your lower back rest between reps. It also gives you a second to set your lower back neutral before you Deadlift your next rep. You’re less likely to Deadlift with a rounded lower back, squeezes your spinal discs and hurt your back because you have better Deadlift form.
You don’t have to keep tension to build muscle. If you want more tension, increase the weight on the bar. You’ll have plenty of muscle tension when you Deadlift four plates for five reps. Besides, if the weight doesn’t touch the floor, your back will be under constant tension. It will get tired before the rest of your body. Rest the bar on the floor between reps and add weight. More weight is more strength is more muscle.
If your gym forbids touching the floor on Deadlifts because it damages the floor, talk to the manager. Explain you can hurt your back if you Deadlift without the weight touching the floor. Ask them to buy rubber mats or build a platform to protect the floor. If they say Deadlifts make too much noise, point out this is a gym, not a library. If they don’t get it, switch to a real gym or build your home gym.
3. Bouncing Your Deadlifts
Bouncing your Deadlifts on the floor between reps builds fake strength. The rebound off the floor lifts the bar to your mid-shin. Not you. You’re not doing five reps. You’re doing one rep and four half reps. That’s why your one rep max Deadlift can turn out to be hardly more than your 5 rep max. Bouncing keeps the muscles which lift the bar from the floor to your mid-shin weak. You get more reps but become weak from the floor.
Bouncing also increases the risk of lower back injury. It makes it harder to keep your lower back neutral and use your legs. Most people will round their lower back when they bounce. They’ll neglect to drop their hips but pull with straighter legs and high hips. All of this stresses your lower back and can hurt it. Some people can maintain good form when they bounce, but most can’t. Instead of getting strong, they get injured.
The safest way to Deadlift is by pulling each rep from a DEAD stop. Wait a second on the floor between reps before pulling the next rep. Use this pause to setup properly. Bar over mid-foot, shins against bar, shoulder-blades over bar. Raise your chest to set your lower back neutral. Deadlift every rep from a dead stop and you’ll build real strength from the floor without hurting your lower back.
4. Squatting Your Deadlifts
Deadlifts aren’t Squats. If you Deadlift with low hips like on Squats, the bar will hit your shins on the way up. Low hips put your shins forward. It puts them in the way of the bar path, that’s why you hit them. Keep your legs back by raising your hips. The bar will no longer hit your shins and knees because it has room to travel up in a vertical line. If you do it right, your Deadlift setup will like a Half Squat. Not a parallel Squat.
Some personal trainers will tell you to Deadlift with low hips to put your torso upright. They say this to avoid shear force when Deadlifting with a more horizontal back. This advice is wrong. If your trunk muscles can’t keep your spine neutral during heavy Deadlifts, your back will round. Your spinal discs won’t slide. Plus the bloody shins prove Deadlifting with low hips and an upright torso doesn’t work.
The proper way to setup for Deadlifts is bar over mid-foot, shoulder-blades over bar. Proper hip position depends on the length of your limbs. But they’ll be where they should be if you setup with the bar over your mid-foot and shoulder-blades over bar. World champion Deadlifters like Andy Bolton, Benedikt Magnusson and Mike Tuchscherer all setup this way. None of them Squat their Deadlifts because it doesn’t work.
5. Leaning Back At The Top
Some competitive powerlifters lean back at the top of Deadlifts. They pull their shoulders past their hips to show the side judges they locked out the weight. But this squeezes the discs in your lower back. It can result in injuries like herniated discs. Safer is to keep your lower back neutral. Stand up with the weight until your hips and knees are locked. Your shoulders will be above your hips. Stop there. Don’t lean back.
6. Shrugging At The Top of Deadlifts
Shrugging your shoulders at the top of your Deadlifts is unnecessary. The best way to build bigger traps is to increase your Deadlift. More strength is more muscle. Aim for 180kg/400lb Deadlift minimum. You can achieve that on StrongLifts 5×5 within 12 months. Meanwhile relax your shoulders at the top of your Deadlifts. No shrugging or rolling. Let your shoulders hang and focus on increasing the weight you Deadlift with.
7. Hitting Your Knees On The Way Down
The first problem with hitting your knees on the way down is that it hurts. The second is that it stops you from lowering the bar in a vertical line. The bar must roll over your knees to pass them and will land over your forefoot. Deadlifting your next rep from here is ineffective and stressful for your lower back. You must pull the bar from your mid-foot. But you can only do that if the bar lands properly, without hitting your knees.
Bend your hips first on the way down. This keeps your knees back and out of the way of the bar path. From the top, lower the bar by moving your hips back. Once the bar reaches your knees, bend your knees to bring the weight to the floor. if you do this right, the bar will land over your mid-foot without ever hiting your knees. The bar will be ready for the next rep and you’ll pul each rep in a more effective vertical line.
8. Using A Belt With Bad Deadlift Form
Deadlifting with a belt doesn’t make your lower back invincible. You can Deadlift heavier weights if you wear a belt. But excess lower back rounding or arching squeezes your spinal discs regardless of the belt. If you hurt your back Deadlifting with bad form, the injury can be worse because of the heavier weight you Deadlifted thanks to the belt. Wear a belt to Deadlift heavier weights. Not to make up for bad form or back pain.
9. Checking Your Deadlift Form In The Mirror
Looking in the mirror to check your form can hurt your neck. Deadlifting while looking in the front mirror forces you to look up. This can drop your hips and turn your Deadlifts into a Squat which is bad form. Looking up can also squeeze the spinal discs in your neck. If your neck hurts the next day, it’s from looking up into the mirror when you Deadlift. Looking in the mirror aside of you is even worse for your neck.
Plus, checking your form in the mirror doesn’t work. You can only check your stance and grip if when you face a mirror. You can’t see if your lower back is neutral or how the bar moves. You can if you Deadlift aside of the mirror, but that twists your neck. The best way to check your form is to videotape yourself. Get a gorilla pod so you can attach your phone anywhere. Shoot from the side and front to see every angle.
10. Beating Up Your Shins
If your shins bleed every time you Deadlift, you’re doing it wrong. Slight shin scraping is normal. You should drag the bar over your legs to the top. This is more effective and safer for your back. That’s why you should Deadlift in long pants with your socks pulled up to protect your shins. But unless you bounce or Squat your Deadlifts, the bar shouldn’t hit and scrape your shins until they bleed.
Deadlift with proper form and your shins will stop bleeding. Setup with the bar over your mid-foot. If it touches your shins when you’re standing in front of it, the bar is too close. Move back until it’s over your mid-foot. Grab it and bend your knees until your shins touch the bar. Don’t let it move, keep the bar over your mid-foot. Pull from here and the bar will go in a vertical line up without hitting your shins.
11. Jerking Your Deadlifts
The best way to tear your biceps is by trying to Deadlift the weight with your arms. Don’t start with bent elbows and straighten them right when you pull. Your arms aren’t strong enough to curl what you Deadlift. Let your stronger legs and back muscles lift the weight. Keep your elbows locked. Deadlift under control. Think of slowly pushing the floor away with straight arms instead of jerking the weight quickly off the floor.
12. Deadlifting In Running Shoes
Running shoes are for running, not for Deadlifting. Most running shoes are shock-absorbers with air or gel-filling. Their soles compress to absorb impact forces when you run. This can be helpful for running, but not for Deadlifting. Running shoes will compress when you Deadlift. And they’ll compress differently on every rep. You can’t control or predict where the bar goes. Your form is inconsistent which increases the risk of injury.
Test the difference by taking your running shoes off and Deadlifting a set barefoot. You’ll instantly have better bar control because you removed the compressible sole between your feet and the floor. You’ll have better Deadlift form because the bar moves the same way on each rep. Better form increases the effectiveness of the movement. It increases your Deadlift while decreasing the risk of lower back injury.
The best shoes for Deadlifts have soles that don’t compress under the weight. Hard soles that behave the same way on each rep so you control where the bar goes. Flat soles that put you close to the floor to decrease the distance you pull the bar to lockout. Soles with great traction so your feet don’t slip. I’ve created a quick guide with the two best shoes I’ve used for Deadlifts. If you’d like a copy, share this article below…
13. Deadlifting with Gloves
Gloves lower grip strength for Deadlifts. They add a layer between the bar and your hands. This increases the diameter of the surface you grip. The greater the diameter of the bar, the less thumb overlaps your fingers and the harder to hold the bar. Deadlifting with gloves doesn’t turn Olympic bars into fat ones. But it increases their diameter enough to make heavy weight harder to hold than when you Deadlift barehand.
Gloves also prevent you from building calluses. Calluses are a natural byproduct of Deadlifting, just like building muscle is. Gravity pulls the weight down when you Deadlift. This compresses the skin in your hands. Your skin hardens over time to protect itself. That’s why the bar no longer hurts your hands once you have calluses. If you wear gloves, you’ll barely grow calluses and holding a heavy weight will hurt your palms.
Deadlift barehand. Grip the bar correctly to avoid torn callus. Don’t hold it in the middle of your palms or skin will be trapped under the bar. Hold it lower, close to your fingers. To avoid big callus to form, shave them off every week in the shower using a pumice stone.