Compound movements like deadlifts, squats, and bench press are the hardest to perform and so hence many people end up doing them incorrectly. If there was a one-cent fine for every time someone made a deadlift mistake, gym owners around the world would have been millionaires.
Even the bro scientists at your gym might have no idea about the right way of performing a deadlift. A deadlift can quite literally make or break you. So before you go back into the gym, make sure you’re not making these six deadlift mistakes:
1. Going too Heavy
Do yourself a favour, drop your ego at the door before you enter the weight room. Many people jump into deadlifts with more plates than they can possibly handle. Chances of this happening increase fourfold if there is a cute girl in the gym.
If you’re a beginner, your first focus should be to learn the correct way of performing an exercise. As Kai Greene says, “focus on your form and the weights will come.” You shouldn’t be putting yourself at risk of an injury by going too heavy, too early.
This isn’t limited only to beginners. Even if you’re an advanced bodybuilder, slowly make your way up to heavier weights. Don’t start off your workouts with heavy weights. Make sure you’re properly warming up your lower back and hamstrings before you get into the heavier sets.
2. Squatting Your Deadlifts
Look around and you’ll see so many people making this mistake. You shouldn’t be starting your deadlifts in a squatting position since there is more than one problem with this method. First, you might rub off your shins with the barbell while on your way up. Secondly, if you don’t extend your knees in time, you might bump into them with the barbell.
There are many people who think to squat the bar up is the correct way of doing deadlifts. This can be an even bigger problem if this person happens to be a trainer at your gym, or even worse, your personal trainer.
Deadlifts aren’t supposed to work your glutes, which will happen if you squat your deadlifts. Deadlifts are performed to train your back. To get in the right starting position, keep the bar above your mid-foot, and your shoulders right above the bar — without squatting.
3. Bouncing the Barbell
We’re sure at some point or the other, you’ve seen people bouncing the bar off the floor while doing deadlifts. Just to be clear, you don’t look like a badass when you do this. You look like a little prick who can’t handle his weights.
You’re cheating when you bounce the bar off the floor. The bounce off the floor brings the bar almost to your mid-shins, so technically you aren’t lifting the weights. You’re actually half-repping and leaving money on the table by excluding certain muscles out of the lift.
People generally bounce the bar to get more reps, but the purpose of deadlifts isn’t to get more reps. Deadlifts are great for gaining strength and muscle which can be done with heavier weights and lower reps. Also, bouncing the barbell puts you at a risk of injury as you aren’t keeping your lower back neutral.
4. Not Performing Full Range of Motion
It’s called deadlift for a reason. You’re supposed to end the rep where you began. At the end of the repetition, the bar should be lying dead on the floor and you should have to bring it back into motion from zero.
Some people perform deadlifts in the upper half, they never put the bar back on the ground. Lifting the weights off the ground in every rep recruits all the muscles which should be used in the exercise. It also helps in overall strength, muscle, and conditioning gains.
If you aren’t able to lift the weight back up after putting it on the floor, it’s a clear indication of having more weight on the bar than you can handle. Refer back to the first point, get your ego in check, and perform the exercise the way it should be.
However, this rack-pull is a viable option if you’re injured and can’t hit full range of motion. It’s also ideal for if you’re trying to work specifically on your lockout.
It’s very important to learn the proper form to avoid making deadlift mistakes. At no point during the exercise should your back arch. Your back should be straight and your neck should be in line with your back. Don’t look up or down while performing the movement.
Imagine you’re holding a stick between your shoulder blades. The back of your head should be touching this stick at all times. To perfect this movement, ask your training partner to hold a broomstick for the first few sets until you get a hold of the form. This will eliminate any neck recruitment.
Another mistake many people make is, they lean back at the top of the movement. This can hyperextend your lower back and squeeze the discs, which can cause injuries like herniated discs. All you need to do at the top is to stand tall and lock your hips and knees. You should neither be hyperextending your lower back, nor shrugging at the top of the movement.
6. Not Wearing Proper Gear
The quality of your deadlifts can increase significantly once you start using proper training equipment. Use of lifting straps and a weightlifting belt is a must. Straps eliminate the need to focus on holding the bar. This allows you to lift heavier weights and complete more reps without the fear of dropping the bar mid-set.
Once you’re strapped in, you can take your focus off your grip and put it on contracting your back, establishing a better mind-muscle connection in the process.
Wearing a weightlifting belt generates a tremendous amount of thoracic pressure. While wearing a belt, fill up your gut with air and push against the belt to stabilise your core and generate thoracic pressure. Doing this will help you lift more weight without risking a back injury.