Home Blog Fine-Tuning Deadlift Technique

Fine-Tuning Deadlift Technique

Written on September 13, 2013 at 5:50 am, by Eric Cressey

I often do technique critiques for my online consulting clients by having them send me video demonstrations of them performing their exercises.  With that in mind, I recently did one as a favor to a friend, and in the process, came across what I thought was a great example of how some quick adjustments could yield big-time benefits.  Hopefully this serves as a good "teaching moment."  First, here's his report to me:

"I've been lifting around this weight for a while – 120kgs 1×5. Think my best might have been late last year around the 130kg mark, but have had a niggling back injury that's been slowing things down a bit."

Here's his video:

Here was my feedback:

1. I would bring the feet a bit closer together. You always want your elbows outside your knees, but not in front of them…like this:


2. Along those same lines, try to get your hands in tight to the sides of the legs, too. If you were to keep your hands where they are, but bring the feet in to where they should be, the gap between your arms and the sides of your thighs would be too much.  You want them essentially touching.

3. Think of trying to use the weight of the bar to pull yourself into the bottom position and puff the chest up. I should see the logo on your shirt a lot easier from the front position.  You're kind of just dropping into that bottom position, not going down to get it.

4. The double overhand grip is fine, but you don't see a lot of people pulling huge weights with it outside of the super freaks. Unless you're willing to put in the time and effort to master the hook grip, I'd go to alternate grip.


5. Think about putting force into the ground, not just lifting the bar.  This is the big one for you, and it's why the bar wants to drift away from you instead of staying closer to the body, which is a bar path you want.

If I was programming for you, in month 1, I'd do speed deadlifts (10-12 sets of 1) at 60-75% of one-rep max on one lower body day; the heavy focus would be on driving the heels through the floor and being fast at the start.  Then, I'd let you pull heavier with the trap bar on the other day for sets of 2-4 – just to keep strength up while you're grooving the pattern.  The trap bar doesn't allow you to get out in front with the load quite as much.  

If you're looking for some great programming advice, I'd encourage you to look into Dave Dellanave's great manual, Off the Floor: A Manual for Deadlift Domination.  If you're looking for more coaching cues like I outlined above, definitely check out my free video, Mastering Deadlift Technique.  You can get it by subscribing to my free newsletter in the opt-in box below.


12 Responses to “Fine-Tuning Deadlift Technique”

  1. Jared Says:

    Eric – some what related question. What are your ideas about integrating PRI interventions ie. the left stance toe touch which you blogged about recently into strength exercises like the deadlift.
    Perhaps performing some warm up sets in this staggered stance style to further emphasis returning the pelvic position to a more optimal position before loading the movement with a more conventional “feet inline” setup. Thoughts?

  2. Cyrus Says:


    thanks for this. I have really weird legs (eg the bow out from the knee down, but my ankles supinate…). I’m also 6’4. I’d like to know if I should resort to sumo deadlifts? I’ve been doing regular deadlifts, keeping my legs relatively parallel/shoulder width, and am stuck at around 205 lbs.


  3. Stephen Reed Says:

    Excellent training points Eric, small tweaks that make all the difference.How important do you think that lordotic lumbar curve(chest puffed out more)is? compared to just a flat back? I have some clients who really struggle to get that chest out, will use some of these training cues to help improve stuff, cheers

  4. Adam Says:

    Eric, do you think his timing might be a little off as well? It looked to me, though it was hard to tell with the long pants, that his knees were almost fully extended before he started to extend the hips. I think he could generate more force and spare the lower back if he worked on firing the hips and knees more simultaneously. Thoughts?

  5. JBM Says:

    Hi Eric! Thanks for the informative post. I’ll definitively check out the “Off-the-Floor” manual. I read something about a new program you were working on earlier this year. You mentioned the finished product was planned to be released in September. Any updates regarding the new product?

  6. Eric Cressey Says:


    Tough to say. Post a video on Youtube and I’d be happy to have a look, though.

  7. Eric Cressey Says:


    It’ll be out in late October, as it turns out. I’m excited about it, though!

  8. Eric Cressey Says:


    Absolutely. It’s more of a function of not putting enough force into the ground. The knees will extend first when the bar gets out in front.

  9. Eric Cressey Says:


    To be clear, I don’t just want people to arch their backs to get the chest out.  I want them to posteriorly tilt the scapulae and get a bit of external rotation torque out of the upper arms.

  10. Eric Cressey Says:


    The goal for me is to use the warm-ups to get them to neutral.  Then, strength train in neutral and get them to stay there.

  11. Zak Says:


    I always had a question about the idea “Strength is corrective”. Because, in my mind, if you train a bad posture/movement pattern, you reinforce it. I feel like your reply to Jared embraces that strengthening neutral posture will cause it to “stick”. So would it be more accurate to say that strength in a neutral posture is corrective?

  12. Eric Cressey Says:


    Yes, but I think it’s assumed.  We don’t go out of our way to teach people bad technique!

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