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Setting Up For The Deadlift

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Setting Up for the Deadlift

*I promise I offer some new nuggets at the bottom! ūüôā

The deadlift is one of the holiest of holy grails when it comes to testing and building raw functional strength.  The act of simply picking something up off the ground is hardwired into our DNA.  One could argue it might be the most functional exercise in the world.  

As natural of a movement as it is, it still commonly bastardized in weightlifting circles.  These common mistakes usually come from either a lack of knowing better (no coaching) or a lack of caring enough (being a dumbass or a bro that cares more about weight than technique).

3 Step Checklist

1- Set up on the Bar

You want to start from the ground up here.  Set your feet hip width apart, so pretty narrow, with your toes pointing straight ahead.  Next, have your shins basically an inch away from the bar.  I like to just line up so the knot of my shoelaces is directly under the bar so I cannot see it.

2- Get Your Grip WithOUT Dropping Your Hips.

During step 2, imagine the toe touch stretch.  Simply bend at the waist and reach down for the bar.  You want to leave that booty up in the air.  It does not have to be a perfect toe touch either. Knees can be slightly unlocked.  This is important though- when you grab the bar, make sure you do not move it.  The specific distance from the bar to your shins is an important aspect for the next step.

3- Pull Your Butt Down Until Your Shins Tap the Bar (STOP)

So here you are.  At the end of step 2 basically holding onto the barbell with your ass waving in the wind.  For the last major step, simply pull your butt down until you feel your shins tap the bar.  STOP as soon as you feel the bar.  From here make sure; your back is arches, arms are long and locked out, weight is on the heels. Then just stand up.


If you’ve been around for a little while you’ve heard most of the aforementioned set up points at least a time or two.  Here a some extra setup tips for anyone and especially for the experienced lifter.

Create tension in the midline by pushing your gut out against your quads once in the setup position. ¬†This will help you hold the ‚Äėarch‚Äô position much more effectively.

Always lift with speed.  Your intent should be to rip the bar up off the floor as fast as possible once you have yourself in a good setup position. This speed will help you as you get to heavier weights by accelerating the bar through sticking points and telling your CNS to recruit more or larger muscles groups for the subsequent attempts.

Do NOT hyperextend your back at the top.  I see this with relatively new lifters.  The intent is to make sure the weight is locked out completely at the top, but in the process of doing so the athlete will lean back too much which creates hyperextension of the spine.  Think too much of a good thing can become a bad thing.  

Lock your knees out at top.  I struggle to remember this myself.  I think we do this because we often practice the olympic lifts where the knees are supposed to be unlocked at position 1 which is very similar to the lockout of a deadlift.  Also it’s such a small and simple task that it can easily get overlooked.