The Definitive Deadlift Guide - Part 1

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At Physique Performance Specialists the Deadlift is the KING of all exercises…

To us, it is the chief indicator of our clients overall strength and muscle mass gains.
If your deadlift numbers are going up, you’re gaining muscle and if you are gaining muscle, your ability to burn fat and get leaner dramatically increases.

The Deadlift targets specifically the posterior chain (your glutes, hamstrings, lower back and upper back) which for 90% of the sedentary population is almost a non-existent muscle group which has adverse effects on the posture and functionality, thus putting them at greater risk of injury.


A great reward always comes with a great risk…

If the Deadlift is not performed properly, it can cop a lot of blame for lower back injuries in the gym.

Lower back injuries are technique and weakness of the posterior chain related. Ironically, if Deadlift is performed correctly, it can be the best therapy for someone who suffers from lower-back pain, because it strengthens the weaker muscle groups like your glutes and abdominals that your lower back compensates for.

So, what makes an efficient Deadlift?

Today we will give X tips on how to improve your deadlift so that you can build more muscle in the gym and strengthen your posterior chain while reducing the chances of injuring your lower back.

Deadly Deadlift Tip #1...
Shorten the distance from A -> B: Check your foot & grip width.

With any major compound lift at PPS, we aim to teach our clients to shorten the distance from A -> B as much as possible which will allow them to shift more weight and reduce the risk of injury.
Shortening of the conventional Deadlift starts with how your feet and hands are placed.

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A common mistake a lot of people make when Deadlifting is having their feet outside their shoulder width in an ‘A’ frame. This means that you are gripping the bar wider than your shoulders which makes the movement longer and less efficient while also significantly increasing the load on your lower back and restricting glute activation.

The solution!

We teach our clients to place their feet closer together in the stance that they would feel most comfortable doing for a really high vertical jump or box jump (usually hip-with).

This ensures two things:

  1. The position allows you to place your grip right at your side or closer to your body, enhancing Lat activation and shortening the movement while reducing the stress on the lower back.

  2. It allows you to ‘Push’ or ‘Jump’ through the floor as you initiate the movement to improve bar speed off the floor and your ability to lockout with your glutes.

Feet close not wide….
Hands at your side…
Jump through the floor…

Shorter movement = More weight & less pain.

Deadly Deadlift Tip #2...
Keep the bar as close as possible to your body: Don’t squat your Deadlift

This is the probably the most common deadlift mistake we see in the gym and the absolute number 1 cause of lower back pain when deadlifting…

Do not squat your Deadlift…

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A squat involves knee flexion (bending your knees) which is more of a quad dominant style of movement. However in the deadlift, we want to encourage the use of hamstrings a lot more and this requires you to keep your shins vertical and focusing on pushing your hips back, not down while keeping the bar as close as possible to your body.

This allows us to achieve two things:

  1. This manoeuvre put the hamstrings under greater tension by creating as much length in them as possible which will take the stress off your lower back and allow your glutes to fire more effectively.

  2. This tactic allows you to pull the bar against your shins and keep it as close as possible to your center of gravity. The further the bar travels away from your body, the heavier it becomes and the greater the stress will be on your lower back as you fight to pull the weight back to safety.

These points are very important, thus, the summary below…

Deadlift not Squat….
Shins vertical not bent…
Sitting back not down…

Lower-back happy > Crippling pain.

Deadly Deadlift Tip #3...
Engage your Lats:  Break the bar and get TIGHT

Now that you have your feet & grip set up nicely and your shins are vertical with a nice hip position, there’s one more thing you need to do…

Engage your Lats (your wings) and tighten everything up to glue it all together.


It’s very common to come across a lot of novice deadlifters who allow their elbows to bend when pulling and they ‘Yank’ the bar off the floor. This is a big no-no as it places the load directly on your lower back, while it also means your grip will be a lot weaker because your forearms and wrist are doing all the work on their own and the bent elbow becomes a weak link in the chain.

At PPS we address this problem, we teach our clients that their arms are purely just hooks or levers holding the bar. We teach them to focus, pulling their shoulders down and trying to ‘break the bar’ over their legs, which pulls their elbows towards their body and greatly increases Lat (mid-upper back) activation and tightness.

This technique allows us to achieve two things:

  1. Engaging your Lats is going to reinforce your grip and prevent the bar slipping out of your hands or dragging you forward.

  2. More importantly, your Lats tie into your glutes and if you get your Lats firing, they are going to wake up your sleep butt and take the load off your lower back. The manoeuvre can also give your core some support and coupled together with proper breathing techniques, you will get TIGHT and have a really solid pain free pull.

Key take-home points here…
Elbows stiff and not soft...
Shoulders pulled down to your butt…

Snap that bar in half before pulling.

So, as you can see when it comes to deadlifting, there’s a little more to it than just picking a bar up off the floor and putting it down.
The Deadlift can be your best friend in the gym and is a pivotal movement for those who want to increase their strength, functionality and body composition. But if you are guilty of making any of the previously mentioned mistakes, you more likely not a huge fan of Deadlifting and blame the movement for your lower back pain.

With a few small tweaks, deadlifting can soon become your best friend and even help to relieve lower back pain while you make gains in the gym.

Focus on shortening the movement, keeping the bar as close as you can to your body, ‘breaking the bar’ and staying TIGHT….

You’ll thank us for it and your lower back will too.

In part 2 of the Definitive Deadlift guide, we will look at a few more tips and tricks we have up our sleeve here at PPS to help take your Deadlift to the next level.

We regularly hold seminars and lifting workshops within our private facilities (non-members welcome). Click the button below to get in touch and learn more...

We regularly hold seminars and lifting workshops within our private facilities (non-members welcome). Click the button below to get in touch and learn more...

If you are struggling with your Deadlift and want us to assess your form to fix it up for you, get in touch and TAKE ACTION by clicking the button ‘book in for a consultation and movement assessment’ at either our PRIVATE facilities: