Fix Your Deadlift

For good reason, the Deadlift is beloved by coaches everywhere. It is an excellent way to develop pure, total body strength as well as reinforce good posture and proper mechanics that relate to many other movements. Unfortunately, though, it is also a movement where strength can trump form – it’s too easy to do it the wrong way. You can execute a heavy rep with egregiously poor technique and we see this far too often with high school athletes who want to move big weight. The result can range from inefficiency to a legitimate risk of injury.

While the deadlift appears to be a relatively simple lift, proper execution often proves far more difficult. Here, we identify just a few of the major coaching points that we use when teaching to any of our athletes. We are constantly looking to perfect technique in order to maximize gains, while simultaneously minimizing risk.

  1. Perfect the Set-Up Position: Often, athletes have failed the lift before they’ve even begun. Improper set up for the deadlift can result in a host of technical errors during execution. One of the most common issues we see is incorrect hip and shoulder positioning. Some athletes set up with super low hip level, much like a squat – others do the opposite, treating it more like an RDL. We want to find the middle ground. With the bar just in front of vertical shins, the athlete’s hips should be above the knee (from a profile view), the shoulders above the hips (and in front of the bar) and gaze towards the ground (neck in a neutral alignment – no “eyes to the sky” here!). Correct alignment will help ensure athletes’ maintain proper back position and allow them to generate the most force into the ground.
  2. Teach it as a “Push”: While the deadlift is most often referred to as a pulling movement, we actually prefer to associate it with a “push” when teaching new athletes. Hearing “Pull” often leads to movement deficits – hip & shoulder disassociation during the initial ascent phase, loss of lumbar curve, etc. To combat these issues, we instead tell the athlete to focus on pushing the ground away with their legs. This helps to keep the hips and shoulders rising at the same time with a tight core.
  3. Work the Return: Even athletes with impeccable deadlift form off of the floor often have a tough time with the eccentric portion of the deadlift, or the “return”. When working consecutive reps within a given set, this half of the movement becomes vital to proper execution. Essentially we want to mirror the concentric half of the lift in reverse. First the athletes should push the hips back and “look out over the cliff” until the bar reaches the knee. Only then should the athlete re-bend the knee. Early knee bend is a fault we see frequently, and leads to both inefficiency moving weight and potential injury.



Snow Day? Workout Anyway.

Snowstorm ruining your week of training? A day off from school and away from the gym doesn’t have to be unproductive. Even being stuck in the house, we can put together a simple yet effective workout for our athletes. There are a myriad of possibilities, including the use of weighted objects like backpacks, rolled towels as abmats, and all sorts of other creative things. For now, though, here is a sample workout you can use during your next snow day!

Warm Up & Mobility

Don’t neglect a proper warm-up and mobility progression. You can get a lot out of simply moving and working your range of motion during your “off day”, much like we do during active recovery sessions. This progression should be CONTINUOUS and each piece should be done for the full amount of time specified. This will take roughly 10 minutes. 

  • 1 Minute of Jumping Jacks
  • 1 Minute of Alternating Spiderman and Reach
  • 1 Minute Jumping Jacks
  • 1 Minute of Alternating Samson Stretch (lunge with arms locked reaching overhead),
  • 30 seconds Alt Knee Hugs in place
  • 30 seconds Alt Quad Stretch & Reach in place
  • 30 seconds Good Mornings
  • 30 second Pigeon Pose each leg
  • 30 seconds Wall-Calf Stretch each leg
  • 30 second Slow air squats
  • 30 seconds twisted cross stretch each side,
  • 1 minute child’s pose.



10 Hand-Release Push Ups
20 Sit Ups
30 Lunge Steps
60 Jumping Jacks

During a 20 minute clock, get as many rounds as possible of the above progression. During Hand-Release push ups, the chest must rest on the ground and hands come off of floor at the bottom of every rep. Perform the Sit Ups butterfly style, and make sure the shoulder blades touch floor and hands touch toes on each rep. Lunge Steps are done in place, alternating legs and standing tall in between lunges (15 each leg). Jumping jacks should be done with full range of motion and without stopping.

We are looking for a good pace throughout the full 20 minutes. You shouldn’t move super slow, but don’t blow it up in the first round or two either. We’re hoping to hit between 5 and 7 rounds.

As always, scale the push ups if need be, full range of motion reps matter more than the prescribed workout. If hand release is too hard, perform regular push ups. If 10 regular push ups is challenging, scale with height (refer to our instructional video on the push up here).

Follow up with a good full body stretch or foam roll if possible to cool down.

Lastly, any workout you prescribe should take into account the rest of the week’s training. Prescribe movements and loading according to what’s happened recently, and what is coming next!