Correcting Deadlift Problems: The Pull

Correcting Deadlift Problems: The Pull

Although it make sense to emulate what worked for the best athletes in the Iron Game, occasionally their techniques are unconventional and as such may not work for the average trainee. Such is the case with powerlifting legend Bob Peoples.

Born in Northern Tennessee on August 2, 1910, Peoples was the first man to deadlift 700 pounds. On March 5, 1949, at the age of 40, People did his best result of 725-1/2 pounds at a bodyweight of 181 pounds. That bodyweight division record held until 1972. What made Peoples’ accomplishments even more remarkable was that he started the lift with a rounded his back and exhaled as he pulled the weight off the floor. This unusual style worked for him, but lifting in this manner places the spine at a high risk of injury.

Using the conventional style in which the spine is held in a neutral position, just before separating the barbell from the platform you should tighten your lats, take a deep breath and hold it. Your abs should be braced tight, as if you were bracing for a punch.

Holding the breath in this manner, which is known as the Valsalva maneuver, increases the intra-abdominal pressure that helps stabilize the spine. You hold your breath only until the bar passes the sticking point of the lift, which is usually about knee level.

The initial lift of the floor should be considered more of a push with the legs rather than a pull with the back – it may help to imagine pushing the floor down rather than trying to pull the bar up. Your bodyweight should be centered on your mid-foot, not your toes. What you don’t want to do is to lift your hips and then try to complete the lift by straightening your spine; rather, at the start of the lift you want to keep the back angle consistent so that the quads are doing most of the work. Also, at no time during the lift do you want to round your back.

As the bar passes the knees the hips should come forward so that the bar is dragged up the thighs the finished position. Throughout this entire movement, from the floor to the finish, your arms need to remain straight and you need to hold the bar close to your body. If you bend your arms the bar has to travel a further distance; if the bar drifts forward it becomes harder to complete the lift and the pressure on the lumbar disks increases. Also, at the finish of the lift don’t shrug your shoulder, but keep them down. To lower the weight, don’t allow the weight to drop straight down. You should instead hold your breath, push the hips back and then bend your legs.

This type of lifting technique is considered the most effective for not only deadlifting the most amount of weight but doing so safely. There are exceptions, but you should start with these basics and only consider trying new techniques under the watchful eye of a knowledgeable coach.


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