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  • Writer's pictureNate Johnson

Common Mistakes With the Deadlift

Rounded Back on Setup:

A very common mistake is the back rounding during the setup. This can be a cueing issue, a mobility issue, or both. The cue I give to clients here is “keep your chest up” or “arch your back.” This often fixes the problem. If it doesn’t fix the issue, you might be tight in the hamstrings. Stretch your hamstrings for 30 seconds per leg. Now try getting back in position.

If this doesn’t work, move back to the RDL. Stretch their hamstrings daily until mobility improves enough to move back to the Deadlift.

Arms Over the Knees:

When deadlifting, the arms need to be outside the knees. (Or in the case of the Sumo Deadlift, you would take a stance even wider than a squat and have your arms inside the knees.) In either instance, the hands should be close to the knees but never directly in front because the arms would prevent the knees from moving properly and the bar would be too far away from your shins.

Starting With the Bar Too Far From the Shins:

If you start the deadlift with the bar too far from your shins, 2 things will happen.

First, the bar will immediately move closer to the body (where it’s supposed to be) so starting with the bar too far away is simply inefficient.

Second, and more importantly, starting with the bar too far from your shins is dangerous. When the bar is over the mid-foot like it’s supposed to be, and the rest of the setup is correct, this is an excellent exercise that can even prevent back injuries. But the low back is put under a lot of unnecessary stress when the barbell is too far from the shins. This is a simple fix. Step closer to the bar. Boom. Done.

Leaning Back to Finish the Lift:

Often times clients will, once the bar is above the knees, lean way back to finish the lift. This results in them NOT finishing in a plank position. Their thighs are locked out, but rather than their core being engaged and tight at the top of the lift, they are putting a ton of pressure on the lower back. Just remember to shove your hips to the bar (like a hip thrust) once the bar passes the knees. You will be safer AND stronger when you do this.

Initiating the Lowering Portion of the Lift With a Squat:

The Deadlift is NOT a Squat. If you initiate the lowering portion with a squat, the knees instantly get in the way of the barbell and it completely compromises your form. This is No Bueno!

Just remember to shove your hips back like an RDL (Romanian Deadlift.) (And if you don't know how/have the strength to do this, you need to go back to the RDL until you get stronger.)

Not Committing to the Pull:

The Deadlift is heavy. That’s true whether you’re capable of deadlifting 95 pounds or 495 pounds, because the Deadlift is the most weight you will lift in the gym. And it’s WAY more weight than you lift in your day to day lives.

I like to make sure clients aren’t feeling it in their lower back. I like to make sure they’re staying tight and feeling it in the hamstrings. But I don’t care how it FEELS because it will FEEL heavy.


If it’s not heavy. It’s not a Deadlift 😉

Just get a big breath, stay tight, mentally commit to the lift, and PULL! You can do it!

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