Part 1: The Deadlift

Welcome to the first installment of the Big 4 lift series. This series will comprise of  four major lifts that when done properly, are extremely efficient at building strength, power, confidence, and an impressive physique. The big four are the deadlift, squat, overhead press, and the bench press. These extremely beneficial exercises can be performed anywhere a barbell is present. These exercises are the backbone of many great workout programs, such as Jim Wendler’s extremely successful 5/3/1 Program. The first installment of this series will cover the deadlift because as an exercise they are not only extremely functional, they absolutely annihilate the posterior chain while also building the quadriceps and a vice like grip.

There are numerous variations for the deadlift including, the conventional deadlift, sumo deadlift, romainian deadlift, podium deadlift, and trap bar deadlift.  These variations can all be performed with a variety of grips including the snatch grip, overhand grip, and mixed grip.

In this article I am going to cover the conventional deadlift, with an emphasis on the use of an overhand grip except in near-maximal instances.

Below are a list of tips and coaching cues to help master your deadlift.

The Set Up:

  • Go shoeless if your training facility allows it, but if not Chuck Taylors work fine if you’re on a budget.  Adidas also has a great line of lifting shoes! The reason for this is that the modern tennis / cross trainer shoes are too soft and squishy, you want to have your feet firm in the ground so you can efficiently drive your heels through the earth.
  • To find your ideal stance perform a vertical jump and notice where your feet are located, this should be your deadlift stance, or very near to it. When I perform conventional deadlifts I prefer to have my feet slightly closer than shoulder width.
  • Once your stance width is set stand with the bar directly over the tops of your feet, not necessarily against your shins, although bloody shins on deadlift day are a worthy battle scar.
  • With a slightly less than shoulder width stance hinge at the hips, pushing them backwards while  dropping the arms straight down just outside of the knees. You should feel tension throughout the hamstrings in this stance.
  • This set up is extremely important, if the hips are too high you will torch the lower back.  If the set up is too low you are performing more of a squat than a deadlift.
  • Keep the Chest tall, and tighten up the upper back, stay tight and tall!
  • Keep your chin tucked as if trying to produce a double chin, looking straight forward.
  • Grip the bar with an overhead grip or hook grip, try to avoid the mixed grip too often as bicep tears are a real possibility with heavy mixed grip pulls.
  • For the visual learners in the crowd here is a great blog post by Tony Gentilcore of Cressey Performance regarding the set up of the deadlift. How to set up to Deadlift Properly

Eccentric Phase:

  • Drive the heels forcefully into the ground and lift the bar keeping it close to the shins.
  • Maintain a flat back with the arms locked out, no slack in the bar!
  • As the bar reaches the height of the knees squeeze your glutes and push the hips forward.
  • Continue extending the hips and knees until fully standing.

Concentric Phase:

  • Allow the knees and hips to flex while maintaining a flat back.
  • Typically, I don’t have athletes lower the weight slowly all the way to the ground as a slow eccentric phase of the deadlift can wreak havoc on the nervous system.

Miscellaneous Tips:

  • Whenever approaching a barbell pick it up in the fashion that you would perform a deadlift, it is of the utmost importance to practice and perfect your set up.
  • Lift each rep, even in warm ups as a maximum attempt.  I break reps and sets as if each set was a grouping of singles.  Don’t bounce the weight into your following rep, reset your grip and perfect your form.
  • Work to perfect your breathing, holding your air and exhaling only when needed on reps.  This will help to maintain pressure and rigidity of the body, creating a more stable environment.  (Obviously breathe if you feel ready to pass out.  Also refrain from the above mentioned Valsalva maneuver if you suffer from heart/blood pressure ailments)

The deadlift is arguably the king of all exercises as it will build impressive, functional strength as well as an aweseome physique. Check out this video to see a huge DL5kk(2105lb) Raw Total!

Please leave your comments below!


Eric Bach, CSCS


Baechle, Thomas, and Roger Earle. Essentials of Strength and Conditioning. 3rd. Champaign: Human Kinetics, 2008. 359. Print.

Gentilcore, Tony. “How to Set-Up to Deadlift Properly.” Tony Copter Labs, 02/12/2011. Web. 14 Feb 2012. <;.

Iron Team Moon Beacon Films. 955kg (2105lb) RAW total. 2011. n.p. Web. 14 Feb 2012.

Copyright 2011 by Eric R Bach.  All rights reserved.  This material may not be duplicated or distributed without written consent from the author.

About Eric Bach Performance

Eric Bach is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), Precision Nutrition Level 1 (PN1) with a degree in Kinesiology Concentrated in Human Performance and Emphasizing Sports Performance from the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. A former collegiate Strength Coach Eric now resides in Denver, Colorado. Eric coaches clients at Forza Fitness and Performance Center and trains everyone from weekend warriors and post rehabilitation patients to professional athletes. Eric developed his passion for fitness through a competitive sports career which included competitive Olympic lifting, Football, Track and Field, and Powerlifting. Eric is a self proclaimed fitness nerd who enjoys reading, eating, deadlifting, and living a healthy and fullfilling life while helping others dominant their lives in and out of the gym. Eric can be contacted at for all consultations and questions

6 responses »

  1. […] such as Jim Wendlers’ extremely successful 5/3/1 Program. So far, the deadlift has been covered here , and the bench press […]

  2. […] lower body unilateral exercises and variations, deadlifts, Lunges, Squats (any variation), step ups, stability ball curls, sprinting (yes, yes), banded […]

  3. […] with the help of ProAXIS Denver and Cherry Creek Sport and Spine Health and hope be back pulling big deadlifts very shortly. 2.)Deadlift 550 This past year I pulled 500, which was a major milestone in terms […]

  4. […] If you’re performing deadlifts, squats, good mornings, or other stressful exercises on the low back ditch barbell bent over rows. […]

  5. […] strength, power, confidence, and an impressive physique.  So far, the deadlift has been covered here , the bench press here, the overhead press here.The fourth installment of this series will cover […]

  6. […] to the third, and final installment of the Big 4 series.  So far, the deadlift has been covered here , and the bench press here.This series is comprised of four major barbell lifts, the bench, […]

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