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All About The Deadlift

by Meaghan posted September 23, 2015

Today’s post comes from a very special guest contributor: FPTI Instructor and Focus Starting Strength Coach, Brent Carter.

OK. Let’s talk about the deadlift for a minute and get a few things straight. First, deadlifts are NOT bad for your back. Only BAD deadlifts are bad for your back. Good deadlifts are actually GOOD for your back. As we have discussed on this site several times, the muscles that comprise the “core” (as much as I hate that term) – including the abdominals, the internal and external obliques, and the spinal erectors – are best trained in the specific fashion for which they were designed to be used. And namely, due to their long, thin muscle bellies, these muscles are best equipped to resist movement rather than create it. Well, guess what: That is precisely how they are trained in all of the main barbell lifts (squat, bench press and deadlift), especially the deadlift.

Harris deadlift

Guess what else: Whether you know it or not, you have been deadlifting your entire life. Ever picked something heavy off of the ground? Moved a big stack of papers? Picked up the end of a couch? Of course you have. And training to get stronger in the deadlift exercise makes all of the aforementioned tasks easier and safer. The best part is, increasing strength in the deadlift is actually quite simple when you break down the technique and follow the Starting Strength model.

Here are the 6 steps involved in performing the deadlift:

1. Put full-size plates on the bar and set it on the ground. Approach the bar and set your stance: Feet about hip width apart and toes turned out about 20-30 degrees. The bar should be directly over the middle of your foot, which will place the bar about an inch to an inch-and-a-half away from your shins.

2. Keeping your knees relatively straight, bend over and grab the bar just outside the shins with an overhand grip and straight arms. DO NOT MOVE THE BAR.

3. Bend your knees until your shins just barely touch the bar. Again, DO NOT MOVE THE BAR.

4. Shove your knees out until they touch your arms. Then, lift your chest up and squeeze your back into a flat position. Be careful not to drop your hips too low; they should remain higher than your knees (unlike with the squat).

5. Take a big breath and drag the bar up your legs. Keep the bar in contact with your legs the WHOLE TIME; after it passes your knees, it should still drag along your thighs. Stand tall by lifting your chest up and locking your hips and knees out at the same time.

6. Put the bar back down in reverse order (hips move back first, then the knees bend).

That’s it! That’s all there is to it. No need to complicate things.

Just a word on “feeling it in your back,” though: Yes, you are going to “feel it in your back,” and no, this is not necessarily a bad thing. The back muscles are working hard to keep the spine from rounding, so you’ll feel the effects of muscular work just like you would feel your abs in a plank. In fact, the only way you wouldn’t feel anything in your back is if you’ve recently had an epidural and, in that case, you probably shouldn’t be deadlifting anyway… If it’s not a sharp pain or a pain that shoots down your leg, you’re probably fine. (If you do feel sharp or shooting pains in your back or legs, you should go see a doctor.)

Bottom line: Stop being a pansy and pick some weight off the floor! Your back will thank you later.


And there you go. If you could use some additional coaching in the deadlift (or any of the barbell lifts), come join our new Starting Strength Barbell Class on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7am! Space is limited to five lifters only, though, so register now before it’s too late!

Here is a glimpse of what you’ll get:


If you’re interested or want more info, fill out THIS FORM.

Hope to see you there soon!

Filed under: exercise instruction, strength training, workout tips

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