A big deadlift is essential for building full-body mass and strength. So today I’m passing on some awesome tips from strongman and body transformation expert, Jim “Smitty” Smith.
Smitty knows how to build some serious muscle and strength. He’s spent an incredible amount of time in the trenches and he’s an expert advisor for Elite Fitness Systems and Men’s Health.
So let’s get this started!
CW: Ok Smitty, before someone puts effort into boosting his deadlift he must first figure out if there’s a problem. How do you access the correct deadlift technique from the start?
Smitty: There are three primary elements to consider when correcting deadlift flaws. First, is the person missing the lockout? Second, are the knees buckling in with sumo deadlifts? Third, is his missing off the floor?
CW: I agree that those are three common problems. How do you fix them?
Smitty: First off, you have to deadlift with good form. If your form is off, it will lead to you missing the lift, typically right off the floor. There are seven things to consider right way.
1. Shins on the bar – you must make sure you’re as close to the bar as possible. This shortens the distance between the center of gravity (COG) of the bar and the COG of the lifter. This is the most advantageous leverage position.
2. Big air – you have to catch a big air in your stomach to increase intra-abdominal pressure. This is an essential step for immediately boosting your strength.
3. Push your abs out – when you push your abs out (after sucking in a lot of air) it will provide you with a natural belt to ensure your lower back and abdominals are braced strong. This technique is further enhanced when you actually wear a belt because you’ll be able to force your abdominals out against the rigid belt.
4. Don’t jerk the weight off the floor – instead, push the floor away after you develop a high level of full-body tension.
5. Push your knees out – as you stand up, push your knees out to the sides to keep them from buckling in.
6. Keep the bar against your body throughout the lift – this, again, maximizes your leverage so you can lift more weight.
7. Lockout with a powerful glute contraction – don’t hyperextend your lower back. Lockout your hips by forcibly contracting your glutes.
CW: Good stuff, let’s move on. Some technique problems are due to a guy (or gal) just being plain weak. Which factors do you consider most important for building strength that carries over to the deadlift?
Smitty: To develop full-body, deadlift strength you must focus not only on your posterior chain, but also your core strength, upper back musculature, and grip. This time, there are four factors that need special attention.
1. Strengthen the posterior chain – Romanian deadlifts, stiff-legged deadlifts, glute-ham raises, reverse hypers, partial range lockouts (rack lockouts), and deadlifting while standing on plates will all lead to huge improvements.
2. Strengthen the core – compound movements, L-sit pull-ups, medicine ball exercises, and the ab wheel are all effective ways to develop the core.
3. Strengthen the upper back – face pulls, pull-ups, seated rows, and bent-over rows work best.
4. Strengthen the grip – the thick bar hold, rack hold, and plate pinch all work great. Also, use an unmixed grip (both palms facing down) for as long as you can while working up your deadlift poundages.
CW: I give that checklist my “thumbs up.” Anything else that’s vitally important?
Smitty: You bet. The last thing I want to tell your readers is this: to pull heavy you must be mentally prepared. When you approach the bar you have to be ready to pull the trigger!
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