The Deadlift in 5 Steps

The Starting Strength Model assumes, as you should too, that gravity works in a direction that is perfectly vertical.  When you’re trying to pick up a heavy weight (probably the heaviest weight you are physically able to) in your hands and stand up with it, any effort that’s exerted in any direction other than directly opposite the force of gravity is wasted effort.

The deadlift is a simple lift.  You pick it up and you put it back down.  We should strive to create a consistent, easily reproducible setup that will allow us to maintain a vertical bar path. Thereby, ensuring that we pay due respect to the simple fact that heavy things want to move straight down.  You’re asking yourself, but what about my long femurs, long trunk, short arms……? Shouldn’t MY setup be different than some “ideal deadlifters”?   NO, the setup will be the same, but the resulting start position will look different for people with different anthropometries.  Individual lifters will have different hip heights, back angles, and knee angles, but the landmarks of a correct start position will remain consistent regardless of anthropometry.

The bar will start over the mid-foot, since that’s the balance point of the lifter-barbell system. The shoulders will be slightly in front of the bar creating about a 7 degree angle from the shoulder to the bar.  This will be true of all sufficiently heavy pulls, so we’re just going to start you there, since the goal is to get strong efficiently.

In 5 steps, here’s how to deadlift:

  1. Set your shins 1 inch from the bar.  Putting the bar at 1 inch from the bar puts it directly over the midfoot.
  2. Without bending your knees, reach down and grip the bar just outside your shins.  DO NOT MOVE THE BAR.
  3. Bend your knees and drop your shins until they touch the bar.  Where your butt is at this point is where it will remain throughout the rest of the setup and beginning of the pull.  Again: DO NOT MOVE THE BAR.
  4. Squeeze your chest up by pointing it at the wall in front of you.  This starts a wave of extension throughout the back that will result in a flat back.  If you find yourself on your toes at this point, rock back to shift your weight back to the midfoot.
  5. Drag the bar up your legs, keeping the bar in contact with your legs throughout the lift.

Watch here for visuals on how to do this: