6 Most Common Deadlift Mistakes

  • By Scott Mooney
    By Scott Mooney Six Star Ambassador

Deadlifting seems to be the most basic lift out of all of them. It’s as simple as grab the weight and pick it up – or is it? There are a lot of mistakes made when attempting the deadlift. These mistakes could be making the lift more difficult, or even worse, making it dangerous. Don’t let people tell you that deadlifting is dangerous. If done properly, it is one of the best muscle building exercises out there. Every person should have some form of deadlifting in their program, beginners to experts. So let’s look over some common mistakes to avoid when attempting the deadlift!

1. Setting up too far from the bar

This one happens all too often. Setting up too far from the bar throws off your balance, puts a lot of stress on the low back and makes the lift way more difficult. If the weight is heavy enough, as soon as you begin your pull, the bar will roll towards you first. This is a ton of wasted energy. The bar should be right about mid-foot before the lift. Some people say to bring it to your shins, which isn’t necessarily true. The bar can be too close also. The bar should be right against you shins at the start of the lift, but that’s because as you lean over to grab the bar, your knees will bend and your shins will be up against the bar. As soon as you start pulling, the bar should come right off the ground. No rolling backwards or forwards. (Videotaping yourself is a great way to spot flaws in form.)

2. Trying to “rip” the weight off the floor

This is very common with the “ego” lifter. They don’t start the lift tight. Their elbows are bent, and then they try to yank the weight up as hard as they can. This almost always ends in a rounded lumbar spine and is a recipe for injury.

You should start with arms straight, back straight, and everything should be tight the moment you begin the lift. If you stay tight and sit your hips back while grabbing the bar, you can almost feel the weight about to lift off the ground (when using lighter weight). Lifting with intensity is great, but don’t sacrifice form and risk hurting yourself.

Deadlift - Too heavy

3. Rounding the lumbar spine

If you start your setup with a rounded back, the lift is going to be ugly. Always start tight. A common cue is “lock your lats.” Basically, flex your lats hard before your lift. Needless to say, if at any point in your lift you feel your lower back round, it’s time to let the weight down. Don’t fight through a lift that’s only going to get yourself hurt. Do a weight you can handle properly and do assistance work to build up your low-back strength. Belts are a great asset in the deadlift to help support the lumbar spine, but it will not save you if you’re not doing it right in the first place.

4. Trying to “squat” the weight up

Remember this is a deadlift not a squat. Some people start with their hips way too high, so to correct it, they do the opposite and start with their hips too low.

If you’re squatting the weight, the bar won’t travel in a straight line. It will have to get around your knees, and it’s no way to lift any substantial weight. It also just looks funny. Think pull, not squat.

Deadlift - Hips too low

5. Your stance is all wrong

I see this all the time also. People think that a wider stance is stronger, so they start with their feet just outside shoulder-width, which happens to be the same place they place their hands. Then their arms get in the way of their knees, and it just throws everything off. You can deadlift conventional or sumo (both provide different benefits and some are stronger in one than the other), but don’t try and do something in between. Knees are either inside the arms or outside.

6. Hyperextending at the top

This one might not affect your all-out max, but it’s certainly unnecessary and can cause injury. When you’re standing fully upright, the lift is completed. There’s no need to extend way far back, like you’re about to fall over. If you’re doing a bunch of reps, this is another complete waste of energy. Pull until you are standing upright, then bend at the hips and lower the weight.