If you don't pay attention to your Deadlift technique, you can quickly derail all your hard work. Here are 10 tips on how to correct Deadlift mistakes.
1. Pre-Stretching. Static stretching major muscle groups prior to lifting can be detrimental to your lift and can cause injury. Stick to a dynamic warm-up with bodyweight exercises like Squats, Good Mornings and Bird Dogs before deadlifting.
2. Foot Placement. Your feet should be hip-width to shoulder-width apart. A wider stance is not only less functional, it can also compromise the spine by rounding the shoulders. The only exception to this is during a Sumo Deadlift, in which the hand grip is inside the legs.
3. Rounded or Arched Back. Obviously, a flat back or neutral spine is ideal. A kyphotic (rounded forward) or hyperextended (arched back) position can place undue stress and excess pressure on the back, and even cause injury. This also applies to the head position. Keep your spine neutral all the way through the head (do not look up).
4. Shoulders Protracted. Retracting or pulling the shoulder blades back and together helps you maintain a neutral spine. When your shoulders protract (release forward), your spine is compromised and will round much easier.
5. Squatting. The goal of a conventional Deadlift is to perform a hip hinge movement, not a squat variation. Therefore, a chest up, butt down position is not ideal because it does not engage the posterior chain (hamstrings and glutes) for lifting. The knees should be slightly bent, but the movement is still mostly a hip hinge. Aim to form a vertical line perpendicular to the floor from heel to knee (shin) while maintaining a flat back. Keep your weight on your heels. If you do the exercise properly, your chest should be roughly be over your toes, again with a neutral spine.
6. Extending Legs First. As the weight increases, this becomes more common. Lifters drive and extend their legs with the bar moving only slightly or not at all. This leaves the back to perform the rest of the lift. More than likely, it will cause your back to round before you finish the lift. Keep your core tight and make sure the bar rises as your legs and hips extend.
7. Pulling Back First. This is more common with lighter weights. Concentrate on extending your hips up and into the bar instead of "pulling" the weight straight up.
8. Distance From Bar. Your shins may come into contact with the bar, but they should be no farther than one or two inches away at the most. Any farther and you will be reaching forward and be more likely to round your back, lift from your lower back or shift to your toes.
9. Jerking the Bar. I'm sure we've all done this. As the weight gets heavy, you feel like you need an extra oomph. So you dip your chest to the bar, bend your arms and round your back. To prevent this, keep your core tight, focus on driving through your heels and put your hips into the bar.
10. Poor Eccentric (Return) Phase. Lifters have a tendency to bend their knees too soon and squat on the way down. This not only returns you to the wrong position, it forces the bar away from you, putting pressure on your lower back. To avoid having to "reach" the barbell around your knees, hinge your hips backward (maintaining a very slight bend at the knee) until you pass the knees, then continue straight down. Now the barbell's downward path should be almost completely vertical, and you should end up in the same position you started in.
BONUS TIP: Breathing. Always breathe in at the top of the lift and exhale as you perform the lift. Breathing in at the bottom of the lift is OK but not ideal. Usually, even with good form, lifters have a broader chest and open rib cage at the top of the lift, allowing for a deeper breath and tighter core. Remember to exhale on the way up to relieve pressure on your core while still keeping it tight enough to maintain a flat back.