Bouncing your Deadlifts makes the weight easier to pull. But the rebound off the floor takes work away from your Deadlift muscles. You get more reps but you build fake strength. You can also injure your lower back because the bounce can throw you off position and cause bad form.
The proper way to Deadlift is to pause at the bottom. Wait a second between reps. Pull DEAD weight from a DEAD stop. Pausing your Deadlifts is safer for your lower back because you can setup with proper form. Your muscles work more and you build real strength from the floor.
Benefits of Bouncing Your Deadlifts
To bounce your Deadlifts, drop the bar on the floor while holding it in your hands. Don’t wait at the bottom but quickly reverse the movement. The rebound of the plates off the floor will bring the bar up to your knees if you Deadlift with bumper plates. You can’t bounce the first rep because the bar always starts on the floor. Bouncing only works from your second rep onwards. The three main reasons to bounce Deadlifts are:
- More reps
- More lockout overload
- More time under tension
Bouncing makes the weight easier to Deadlift. It takes work away from your muscles which otherwise lift the bar from the floor to your knees. The bar can rebound up to your knees if you use rubber bumper plates. This turns your Deadlifts into half Deadlifts. Most of the work becomes pulling the bar from your knees to lockout. You get more reps because you waste less effort at the bottom of the movement.
Crossfitters often bounce their Deadlifts. The Diane workout consists of 100kg/225lb Deadlifts and handstand pushups for 21/15/9 reps as fast as you can. Bouncing helps you Deadlift more reps faster because you don’t waste time at the bottom. It also helps you Deadlift more reps by saving effort. Your muscles work less to get the bar moving off the floor. The rebound takes care of lifting the weight to your knees.
Powerlifters may also do bouncing Deadlifts to overload the lockout which tends to be the sticky point. Here is world champion Benedikt Magnuson bouncing his Deadlifts. I’m guessing this is assistance work for his Deadlift (more on this below). Note that he Deadlifts with iron plates. These limit the rebound effect you get with rubber bumper plates Crossfiters use. His lower back also stays neutral despite bouncing heavy weights.
Another reason Powerlifters may bounce is to increase time under tension. Heavy attempts can be super slow and last up to ten seconds. Pausing at the bottom of Deadlifts never exposes you to more than two seconds of tensions. This can make it hard to grind through longer max attempts. Bouncing your Deadlifts on sets of five gives you practice tensing your body longer. But this is only useful for advanced lifters.
Bodybuilders may also bounce their Deadlifts to keep constant tension on the muscles. Ronnie Coleman famously Deadlifted 800lb for two reps by bouncing his way up. You can Deadlift more reps and your muscles will “burn” more if you don’t pause. But there’s a trade-off. The rebound takes work away from your muscles in the bottom. Forcing all your muscles to Deadlift the weight is more effective for overall muscle building.
Drawbacks of Bouncing Your Deadlifts
Most Deadlifters bounce to cheat. They don’t bounce to overload the lockout or increase time under tension. They bounce to Deadlift the weight up more easily. But if you increase your Deadlift by switching from pausing at the bottom to bouncing, did you get stronger? No. You just switched to an easier technique. This is like going from Squatting parallel to doing half Squats. It’s cheating that creates two problems…
- Fake strength
- Lower back Injury
Bouncing your Deadlifts makes you think you’re strong when you’re not. You’ll know it when you max out. You can’t bounce on a one rep max. You must pull it from a dead stop. If you’ve always bounced your sets of five, you’ve done half reps 80% of the time. You’ll be weak off the floor because you’ve barely practiced it. Your 1RM Deadlift may be barely more than your best 5 rep max you were bouncing. Lots of show, no go.
You can injure your lower back if you bounce Deadlift. Most people can’t maintain proper form when they bounce. The big mistakes are rounding your lower back and pulling with high hips. This squeezes your spinal discs and stresses them more. You can also relax the muscles around your spine on the way down and tense them too late on the way up. Bouncing increases the risk of lower back injuries like herniated discs.
There are benefits to bouncing. Elite powerlifters can bounce to overload the lockout or increase time under tension. Crossfitters must bounce on Diane to get more reps in less time. But master the basics first. Increase your Deadlift to 180kg/400lb. When you can pull that with a neutral lower back, add bounce Deadlift assistance work if you want. I don’t do it. I pull every rep from a dead stop to build strength from the floor.
Keep in mind many gyms will not allow you to bounce the weight. Dropping the bar hard will damage the floor, plates and bar. You need bumper plates to make it work. Most commercial gyms don’t have a platform or bumper plates. They’re already making a big deal about Deadlifts making too much noise, trying to transform the gym into a library. Don’t ruin the fun for everybody by bouncing your Deadlifts.
Bouncing vs Pausing Your Deadlifts
Pausing between reps is the proper way to Deadlift. Pull each rep from a dead stop by waiting a second between reps. The weight must be still before you Deadlift your next rep. You want to pull DEAD weight from a DEAD stop, hence DEADlifts. Pausing between reps is safer for your lower back because you have time to setup with proper form. It’s better for strength because your muscles lift the weight, not the rebound.
Pausing between reps is not a Paused Deadlift. The Paused Deadlift is an exercise World Champion Mike Tuchscherer taught me. With this exercise you Deadlift the weight off the floor, pause two-three seconds while it’s in the air and then continue. I’ve done Paused Deadlifts quite a bit, they’re hard. Paused Deadlifts increase TUT at your sticky point. They’re an advanced exercise and not the same as pausing between reps.
Pausing your Deadlifts means waiting a second at the bottom before pulling your next rep. Get tight during that pause. No need to regrip or stand up. Stay down with yours hands on the bar. Put your back neutral by raising your chest and squeezing your lats. Squeeze the bar hard so it can’t move in your hands – this will increase grip strength. Take a big breath and pull by pushing the floor away from the floor.
Pausing at the bottom is safer for your lower back. You have time to setup with proper form before your next rep. And you can get tighter to keep proper form during the rep. Bouncing forces you to stay tight on the way down, or get tight after the rebound. This is hard, that’s why most backs round when bouncing. Pausing allows you to pull on the bar to get tight. This increases muscle contraction and protects your spine.
The weight will be harder to Deadlift if you switch from bouncing to pausing at the bottom. This is normal. Your muscles must work harder to break the weight off the floor and lift it. It’s tempting to bounce your Deadlifts again to make it easier. But it’s short-term thinking. Lower the weight if you have to. Pausing between reps so your muscles get stronger at the bottom. You’ll have a bigger carry-over to your absolute max Deadlifts.