Best Deadlift Cues to Improve Your Technique

Best Deadlift Cues to Improve Your Technique

The deadlift is one of the best exercises that can be performed to build whole-body strength, increase sports performance, and in rehabbing back injuries. To maximize your deadlift performance, and minimize your risk of injury, focus on these five best deadlift cues!


Deadlift Cue #1 – Engage Your Lats

I explain the importance of the lats in deadlift form by thinking about carrying groceries into your house. You don’t carry the bags out in front of you like you are doing a front raise. You carry them right next to your hips, where you can more efficiently move the load.⁠

Well, with the deadlift, we want to keep the barbell close to our body to be more efficient.⁠

That only occurs if you have a good setup position and engage your lats to keep the bar from drifting away from your body.⁠

To cue engaging the lats, I like to tell an athlete to imagine someone is trying to tickle their armpits and not to let them do it!


Deadlift Cue #2 – Pull the Slack Out of the Bar

Barbells are not perfectly rigid pieces of equipment. The bar has some give and bend that occurs with load. We want to slowly lift the bar off the ground, pulling this “slack” out of the bar before exerting maximal effort.

Failing to do pull out the slack will often result in the athlete getting pulled out of position as they lift the bar. Commonly this will be seen as the shoulders rolling forward and back rounding as soon as the athlete deadlifts.


Deadlift Cue #3 – Avoid the “Stripper Booty” Pull

In the deadlift, we want to see the hips and shoulders rise at the same right off the floor. A common deadlift mistake is that athletes will shoot their hips up too fast, turning their deadlift into almost a straight-leg deadlift. This is often helped by having a training partner put their hands on the athlete’s upper back and having that athlete focusing on pressing into their partner’s hand as they initiate the deadlift.


Deadlift Cue #4 – Drive Your Feet Through the Floor

Another common cause of the hips shooting up as the deadlift is initiated in not getting an aggressive leg drive. We think of the deadlift as a pulling exercise, but it should be started with a strong quad push. Having an athlete think of driving their feet through the floor will increase leg drive.


Deadlift Cue #5 – Close the Car Door with Your Butt

As the athlete begins to descend from the top of the deadlift, we want to perform a hip hinge movement to lower the weight. Some athletes tend to “squat” the weight by being at their knees and hips. Resulting in the barbell will drift out in front of the body, putting them in a poor position for subsequent repetitions.

I instruct athletes to imagine their hands are filled with grocery bags and the car door needs to be shut. The athlete should then focus on pushing their hips back, contacting and closing the car door.


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