Deadlifts are arguably one of the best ways to develop a strong posterior chain, but many times they do more harm than good. The first rule of strength and conditioning is Do No Harm, athletes should not be getting injured in the weight room. I’m going to talk about 4 ways deadlifts go wrong and how to fix them to prevent harm from happening in your weight room.
1. Lazy Set-Up
A cringe-worthy sight is when you see an athlete, or anyone, just bend over with a rounded back and rip the bar off the ground. Usually, the athlete isn’t focusing, it may be on the lighter sets of the deadlifts, and bam a tweak can happen.
Instilling focus on every rep of every set is vital for longevity. I was once told “all players want to hear is that if they do this, it will keep them on the field and getting paid.” Although most athletes walking through the door aren’t NFL players, this can apply to kids looking to receive scholarships, earn the starting position, or any other goal in mind.
I teach a top to bottom set up for deadlifts…
Place feet under hips
Stabilize trunk by big breath, brace core, and squeeze glutes.
Lock shoulders into place by flexing lats.
Begin to fold at the hip and send hamstrings behind you as your shoulders come over your toes.
As you descend your hips down maintain the tension you created at the top.
Once you reach the bar, take the slack out of the bar by pulling slightly up.
And you should be ready to drive the bar off the floor
2. Wide Stance
Some athletes with long legs like to set up in a wide position for their hex/straight bar deadlifts, but valgus of the knees can be the result. The knees caving in can cause an injury or bad motor control pattern forming. Nobody wants to get hurt or create bad habits.
The simple fix is to...
Move the feet under the hips and make sure your arms can move freely beside you during the deadlifts.
3. Forward Shoulder Posture
Especially in adolescents, a common flaw is the scapula protracting as they begin the concentric motion of the deadlift. If this happens, the entire spine will begin to flex, resulting in a poor spinal position. This shifts the load from the hips right to the back, which may result in injury.
Three different ways to fix this are…
Cue: keep lats active, break the bar, and/or show me your armpits (stand in front of them)
Elevate the surface they are pulling from. It prevents them from having to reach their shoulders forward to get to the bar. This can be a game changer for taller athletes or even kids growing into their body. Try a plate or pins - each athlete is different and may need a different elevation to pull from.
Use a hex bar as opposed to a straight bar. Putting their hands in a neutral position on the side of their body allows for better shoulder positioning. Also, they do not have to worry about the bar getting in the way of their knees, which is another reason they may have an issue keeping the load in their hips.
4. Hyperextedned Neck
Yes, keeping your head up may be a cue for some people, but not for everyone. It can result in poor spinal position. This head position also makes it harder to maintain tension in your core. Try breathing with your neck hyperextended opposed to a neutral position. I bet it is easier to breathe doing the latter.
Two cues to fix this are…
Create a double chin.
Gaze at an object that is 5-6 feet in front of you on the floor.
Each athlete is different and may need a variation of these fixes for their deadlifts. Always come back to that individual's needs and you'll figure out the perfect adjustment for them!
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