Thanks for tuning in to the second installment in my lifting 101 series. (If you missed part I click here.) In this post, I will be talking about the basics of how to do a proper (conventional) deadlift in order to avoid injury and achieve maximum performance.

Before I begin, however, I want to talk briefly about the importance of the deadlift.

Unlike other exercises, the deadlift is, perhaps, the most applicable exercise to everyday life. From ancient times to modern, whether you’re young or old, humans have always had to bend down and pick things up and the deadlift is the perfect exercise to build strength for it. The deadlift works your whole body in a single movement as it tests how well your anterior and posterior chains of muscles, from head to toe, can work together to perform the exercise. It is especially effective at working your calves, hamstrings, and glutes, core (lumbopelvic complex) and thoracic spine, in addition to your forearms (1). The deadlift is the epitome of what a functional compound movement is and should be a part of any strength training program.  So, enough talk. Let’s get started!

Step 1: The Set-up (addressing the bar)

Address the bar on the ground by centering your body with the barbell, feet roughly shoulder width apart and pointed forwards. Try and have your feet slightly under the barbell, so when you bend down and grip the bar you have a better center of mass, in addition to avoiding unnecessary tension release to adjust your feet.

Step 2: The Starting (bottom) Position 

Once you’ve addressed the bar you want to grip it with proper hand and body position. Do this by griping the bar with an alternating grip (one palm facing inward and one outward) or with a hook grip (both palms facing you with thumbs tucked in under your fingers). Next, make sure your spine is in a neutral position (back straight and chin tucked in) at a 45 to 90 degree angle, hips retracted, forcing the legs as close to parallel with the ground as possible, shins should be touching the bar, torso vertical, and with shoulder joints over the bar (1).

Hook Grip

Important: It is vital that your arms be locked out with no bend in them. This is ideal to prevent injury (i.e. bicep tear) and to ensure you have the best biomechanics for the lift itself.

Step 3: The Lift
Normal starting deadlift position

When proper starting position has been reached it is time to lift that damn weight up off the floor! Do this by taking a deep breath, creating maximum intra-abdominal pressure in your core. Tense your whole body simultaneously while griping the bar as tight as possible. Keeping a neutral spine, press your feet into the floor as if you’re trying to separate the ground while pulling back on the bar with your upper body and core braced. Concurrently extend your knees with the bar scrapping against your shins (pull the weight back on your heels not your toes!) and continue the movement until you reach a vertical position with shoulders retracted (imagine that you’re pointing them to the floor) and knees fully locked.

Important: Do not round your upper or lower back, lean forward, have knees cave-in, bend arms, or have uneven grip symmetry during your deadlift. Also, when at the top position, do not shrug the wait or have an excessive lean. All these mistakes will eventually lead to injury and/or cause improper neuromuscular recruitment patterns when performing the movement.

If you’ve followed all these steps, congrats. You’ve just done a bad-ass deadlift!

Thanks for reading, please comment down below, and I’ll talk to ya next time!


1: Manocchia, Pat (2012). Anatomy of Strength Training : The Five Essential Exercises. Retrieved from

More sources:

Elliott Hulse (the science of deadlifting)

Deadlifting With T-Rex Arms

Old School Trainer

How to Stop Deadlifts From Ripping Your Hands Apart

(Photo Credit)

Photo 1

Photo 2

Photo 3



3 thoughts on “Lifting 101: The Deadlift

  1. Great post! It pains me to see so many people doing the deadlift wrong and possibly hurting their backs. I struggle with the position you show here and will often modify it with the bar that you step into. It probably targets the muscles differently but with knee pain, it’s a lot easier for me.

    1. Thanks!!

      A lot of people do struggle with the deadlift and what I most often see is that most want to rush the exercise and lift a lot of weight as soon as possible. This causes them to round their backs and have horrible positioning. This eventually leads to faulty CNS recruitment patterns and an unbalanced body asking for injury.

      What you’re doing with the trap bar deadlift is smart since your center of mass is under your feet and not in front of you. This helps alleviate your knee pain. The trap bar is a great tool to build up the movement pattern of the deadlift as well as strengthen the muscles required for the conventional deadlift, such as glutes and hamstrings.

      Thanks for commenting and I’m glad you like the post!!

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