How to Deadlift

A question I hear all the time at the gym is how to deadlift properly. The deadlift is a fantastic exercise that works all the muscles in the back of the body from the hamstrings all the way up to the traps. It’s also great for the grip and the core.


Since we’re all built differently, the ideal deadlift form is going to vary from person to person, but here are the main points to keep in mind as you do it:

  • Set up with the bar close to your shins, knees bent, and hips lower than shoulders when you grasp the bar
  • Keep your arms straight
  • Keep your lower back flat/neutral
  • Tense your abdominal muscles
  • Start the lift by pushing with the legs and finish by extending the hips and back
  • Keep the bar close to your body at all times

Other points:

  • Don’t begin the lift in a deep squat position in hopes of using the legs more. Normally that will cause your hips to shoot up as soon as the bar leaves the floor, wasting energy and potentially straining the lower back.
  • It is OK to have some rounding of the upper back, and many people find that position to be more natural and stronger than a completely flat or neutral back. However, for safety reasons be careful never to round the lower back during a deadlift.
  • If you’re new to deadlifting, start light, work on your form, and add weight gradually.
  • When deadlifting heavy weights, a lifting belt is recommended.  Lift lighter weights beltless for more core involvement.
  • If you have pre-existing back problems, consult your doc first or just avoid deadlifting altogether. Many people have built a great physique without it.

Here is the best short You Tube video I could find on deadlift form. I have no idea who this guy is or why he’s wearing gloves and no shirt, but his advice is good.

The heaviest raw deadlift of all time if you want to see how the best in the world does it:

Another tip while you’re still trying to nail down your form is to have an experienced lifter watch one of your sessions and give you feedback, or you can video yourself, ideally from about a 45 degree side angle.  Sometimes you might feel like you’re hitting the right positions, but the camera doesn’t lie.  We also have personal trainers available at Spring Hill Fitness if you’d like one-on-one assistance – just see our PT page for more info.

Have fun and deadlift away!

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