How to deadlift: doing the perfect deadlift

This page not about how to deadlift, its about how to do the perfect deadlift - step by step so that you can improve your form, lift more, more safely.

There is no doubt about it, the deadlift is a notorious 'puter-outer' of lower backs. As osteopaths we see it all the time. Actually for years I personally just avoided it because well, it just seemed so, um, daft..? 

I thought why would anyone in their right mind do something so foolish and so risky? In fact, if you learn correct form and how to deadlift properly you have got more chance of hurting your back slipping on a banana skin. 

I repeat - deadlifting is safe! As long as you do it properly..

The ten steps behind how to deadlift with perfect form

Deadlifting is like life, to get it right you have got to build solid foundations.

Here's how to deadlift properly:

  1. Start with your feet shoulder width apart
  2. Look down and see that the bar is over your toe joints
  3. Lean forwards and grab the bar with your hands just outside your feet
  4. Make sure your back is straight - not curved
  5. Begin to lift, making sure the weight is going down through your heels, not your toes
  6. As you lift keep your back straight - you're lifting with your hamstrings and glutes, not your back
  7. As the bar raises make sure it is kelp as close as possible to your body
  8. As you begin to get upright squeeze your glutes and push your hips forwards into the bar
  9. Your arms are straight, as is your back! Your weight is still going through your heels
  10. Slowly begin to return the weight to the floor, keeping your back straight and the bar nice and close to you

And that's it. Its a pretty simple exercise really, but learning how to deadlift safely is a must. Typical mistakes include having your hands to close together, lifting through your back and not your legs, having your weight through your the balls of your feet and not your heels and of course lifting more weight than is safe

Where to put your hands when deadlifting

You want your hands to be just outside your feet when lining up your deadlift. This way when you start to stand up your knees should feet neatly between your elbows and the bar can stay as close to your body as possible.

Keep the bar as close to you as possible

When learning how to deadlift people may get the basics right but his important instruction is often overlooked. Keeping the bar as close as possible to you ensures the weight goes straight down through your heels. It essentially keeps your centre of gravity as central as possible which avoids straining your back.

Keep your back straight at all times

how to deadlift, back straightI get bored of repeating it but keep your back straight!

Curving your back and lifting puts way to much pressure on your lumbar spine disks and general lower back musculature. Imagine you have got a iron rod going straight up through your back throughout the whole deadlifting action.

Push your hips forward and squeeze your glutes

When you get to the top, you should not only feel comfortable, you should feel great. Proper deadlifting form indicates that you keep your core tight, you butt cheeks clenched and you hips very slightly thrust forward.

Keep your core tight and your body upright

Once your up, stay up. Keep your centre of gravity as central as possible, your core tight and your back straight - we can't exaggerate the importance of this enough.

How much weight to deadlift?

Only you can know that but what I can say is that if you get your form right you'll be amazed at how much more you can lift. Improving your deadlifting form will not only make you safer but also stronger!

Before adding weights the recommended advice is to run through the action several times with just the bar. Get someone to watch you, or film yourself, and pick out any of the common mistakes discussed above. Then you can add weights. Start low and build it up, you can't go wrong. 

Deadlifting safety

When people come and see us because they have hurt their back doing a deadlift, there is always a pattern; more often than not they have injured themselves because their back is tired. Crazy right! But its true, deadlifting uses your postural muscles, and your postural muscles not only keep you up right but they protect your back. If you have spent 3 hours squatting and then try a deadlift you are at a much higher chance of hurting yourself.

So do yourself a favour; deadlift at the beginning of your workout.

We hope you found this video about how to deadlift with perfect form, safely and effectively. Check out the OFC youtube channel for more videos like this, or go back to the homepage.