If you are reading this, you probably agree that deadlifts are awesome. Picking up a heavy-ass object, and putting it down again is so simple, yet so primal, so satisfying and so much fun! I don’t know anyone who doesn’t enjoy deadlifts.There are all sorts of deadlifts – for use by differet people, with different goals, at different times. This guide gets to grips with what you need to know to get your deads bang-on and get the most from your training,In other words, we’re going to beastify your deadlift.*image*Set-upStanceRight so there’s a barbell on the ground and you need to pick it up. How should you approach this task?As a rule of thumb, the best ‘stance width’ is roughly how you would set-up fo a vertical jump. In this postion your body produces a lot of vertical force. In a deadlift you produce vertical force to shift the barbell from the ground to hip height.Try this: shake your body out, loosen up. Forget deadlifts, shut your eyes and get ready to jump as high as you can. Just before you bend your legs and jump, stop and take a look at your feet. You should find that your feet are directly below your hips.That’s your deadlift stance-width. In time, you my end up finding that a bit wider or narrower is better for you, but this is a good starting point.Sumo-stanceSome of you may have heard of, or you may already be practising, sumo deadlifts. So-called because of the resemblance to a sumo-wrestler’s stance. Sumo-wrestlers are absolute beasts, and I really like this variation.With the sumo deadlift the stance is significantly wider. It comes down to personal choice. Some people prefer the sumo stance because the spine is more upright, so there is less shearing force on the lumbar spine.With the sumo deadlift, the key is to have vertical shins. This means they make a 90 degree angle with the floor at the start of the lift.*insert drawing*Hand positionOkay so you are now standing in front of the barbell. Well it isn’t going to pick itself up! It’s time to grab hold of it!There are two key aspects to consider here: a) hand width – how far apart are your handsb) grip – the technique for holding onto the barbellHand WidthHand width is easy – bend down and grab the bar in a natural way without over thinking it. You should end up in a position which is as narrow as possible without forcing your knees to collapse inwards, and without creating friction between your arms and thighs during the pull. Be careful – if you grip too wide, you’ll be creating more work for yourself.Aim for your arms to slide across your thighs as you lift. If there is uncomfortable rubbing between your arms and thighs, you’re a little too narrow.*image*Grip StyleThere are four main grip styles to considerOverhandMixedHook gripStrapsOverhand grip is the natural grip you use when you grabthe bar without thinking. This is fine for starting out, but as your lifts get heavier your grip will fall behind the strength of the pulling muscles.Mixed grip is a better option because the bar can’t open up your hands. As gravity pulls it down, it rolls to open one hand, but at the same time it rolls towards the palm of the other hand.*image*With the mixed grip, do not grab the bar too ‘deep’ into the palms, it will end up rolling down into your fingers. Instead, grab the barbell so that it sits approximately in-line wth the base of your fingers. Experienced lifters should have a good set of calluses at the base of the fingers which can help you line it up.I am not a fan of the hook grip for deads. It is uncomfortable and I don’t this it suits or benefits me particularly. However, some people may prefer it so here we go:In the hook grip, you use an overhand grip, except you ‘pin’ your thumb against the bar with your fingers, rather than having your thumb on top of your fingers. In theory, this allows you to lift heavier loads. Some lifters prefer the fact that both hands are in the same orientation, so the risk of imbalances is eliminated.However, the hook grip is extremely uncomfortable, and frankly pretty painful! You can get used to it, but it’s not for me. Give it a try and see what you think.*image*Lifting StrapsLifting straps essentially stop the bar rolling down your fingers in a conventional grip and allow you to apply more torque and tension to the bar. I love lifting straps and I’ve covered them in more detail here *link further down book*Set Up RoutineReal beasts always put form before ego and lift properly. If you can’t lift it with proper form – don’t lift it. Work on your technique using a lighter weight.To get into a safe and correct position to perform the deadlft, we need to follow a set-up routine. This is essentially a repetive pattern which we perform before every lift, priming our body for the movement and getting us into position to execute the lift safely.There are several ways to do this, and the two most popular are presnted here. None is better than the other, and it is enterly a matter of personal preference. Play around with it.Routine 1 – Hammies FirstSet the feet with the bar 2-3 cm from the shins.Push your hips back, keeping them high as your bend down and grab the bar. Feel the tension in your hamtrings!Lift your chest and flatten your back.Breath into the stomach and brace the coreFocus your eyes in one spot and pull, pushing your feet into the ground and extending the knees and hips.In this position the hips are higher and the exercise is more hip dominant.Routine 2 – Back FirstSet the feet with the bar 2-3 cm from the shins.Extend the spine, lift the chest and breath into the stomach.Hinge the hips back and bend at the knees until you can grab the barbellBrace the core, focus on one spot and pull.In this position the hips are lower and the exercise is more quad dominant.The LiftStaying TightIt is vital to stay ‘tight’ so that your form is maintained throughout the lift. Think about the barbell being full of tension, and you are pulling that tension into your body.If you lifting without staying tight, you may pull the bar in a jerky movement, which can cause you to lose form, the back to round and increase the risk of injury. You’ll also not be able to lift as much. Beasts keep it smooth ;)Begin by gripping the bar as hard as you can, harder than you think you need to. The process of irradiation will kick in here. This is…. Feel the tension through your body. In your shoulders which are back and down. In your lats which are engaged, in your core which is braced and in your hamstrings which are active.BreathingFor the deadlift, it is important to take a deep breath into the stomach, not the chest. This helps you to brace the core and the spine, making the movement safer. Hold that breath and braced core throughout the exercise. If you need to take a breath, do it at the top or bottom of the lift, never during the lift itself.The LatsXxxxxPicking it up!The numer one, most important thing when it comes to actually performing a deadlift is not to overthink it.Yes, pay attention to your body and ensure you set up correctly, but with time this will become second nature.Think about what your body is doing, not the barbell. If you get your body right, the barbell will travel where you want it to. If you think about the bar, your set-up gets messed up, form goes out the window and the risk of injury increases.Assuming you have set up correctly, and have tension through your body you are ready to pull.Drive up, pushing the floor away from you. Keeping the chest high will help maintain a stiff spine whilst keeping the shouders back and down will help engage the lats.Extend your knees and hips while keeping your core braced and back straight. Be aggressive, grip hard and lift forcefully. Lock OutAt the top of the lift your hips, spine and knees need to be in a staight line. I find it helpful to engage the glutes hard at this point (imagine trying to grip a coin between your bum cheeks). BUT do not hyperextend the hips and low back to an extreme. It’s unnessessary and is just asking for injury!Think “hips forward, spine neutral” at the top of the lift. This helps you to engage the glutes, without overdoing the extension with the lower back.Putting it down!So you’ve picked it up! Awesome…now it’s time to put it down again…The exercise is not over! You need to lower the bar with the same control and attention to form as the lifting phase.Sometimes, especially after a particularly heavy rep, it’s fine to drop the bar. But generally it is better to lower the barbell under control because otherwise you’re missing out on lots of benefits. You’ve done all the work to lift it, so why miss out!?The lowering phase promotes more muscle hyoertrophy (growth)Your body will be better primed for the next repTo lower the bar, reverse the lift. Keep the chest up, shift the hips back until the barbell is knee height, and then bend the knees, keeping the force through the feet, pushing away from the floor as you do this in a controlled fashion.Other IssuesRest Between RepsXxxx- see Ben Bruno articleUsing ChalkWhen things start to get really heavy, you may find that it is helpful to put chalk on your hands.Chalk does two things:Soaks up sweat / moisture on your hands to make them less slippery on the barbellIncreases friction between the barbell and your hands, which improves ‘gripability’ of the bar.This improved ability to grip means handling heavier loads is significantly more comfortable and achievable.This leads us nicely into the next issue…Grip StrengthYour hands are ultimately what joins you to the bar, so it obviously follows that a strong grip is vital to achieving heavy deadlifts.There are two main categories of grip strength – supportive grip and crushing grip.Supportive grip is the force your grip can withstand when being pulled open. Imagine making a fist around a spring, and the spring is pushing back against your fingers to force open your grip.Crushing grip is exactly what it says on the tin – imagine crushing a coke can.It’s important to train both of these aspects. Here are the methods I prefer:Grip CrushersThese are essentially two handles connected by a spring hinge of varying levels of stiffness. Practice 2-3 times per week. I prefer Captains of CrushBeast GripsBeast Grips are thick bar adaptors for barbells, dumbells and even cable attachments. Beast Grips work by…Deadlift HoldsSimply hold a deadlift in the top position for 20 seconds. Choose a weight which you cannot hold any longer. Rest for several minutes and repeat for 3-4 sets at the end of a deadlift session. Increase the weight when you can hold the top position of the lift for more than 20 seconds.StrapsPut simply, weight lifting straps assist in holding barbells or dumbbells weight in your hands. They allow you to create more grip, tension and torque on the bar so that you can focus all of your attention on pulling the bar, rather than struggling to hold onto it!Straps wrap around the wrist and the barbell to ‘lock’ you into position.*image*Why use straps?Straps allow you to lift more weightWhen our grip is preventing us from lifting more weight, straps give our grip a ‘break’. While it is important to train the grip, and not to rely on straps all the time, when used correctly straps increase grip on the bar, allowing you to continue to train when normally fatigue or sweat would curtail your session.Straps are designed to allow you to train harder, heavier and longer as your grip strength is no longer the weakest link.Think about it: when lifting heavy, the point of failure is very rarely due to the targeted muscle group. The back, legs and shoulder muscles can withstand a far greater load than our grip strengthStraps allow you to increase training volumeLet’s say you are performing weighted chin-ups. Your back and arms may feel fresh after 4 reps, but your grip has already taken a beating from the rows and deadlifts you just did. Wraps some straps around the bar and blast through an extra few reps of chins! The same goes for hanging leg raises!Straps help you to break through plateausIf you’ve reached a point where you can’t increase weight or reps for several weeks, straps can help you to overcome the plateau.Straps allow you to instantly lift more weight by taking the strain away from your hands and forearms. Thus you can overload the muscles that matter and push through your sticking point.When to use straps?As you learn to lift, and gain strength, your grip will strength will naturally improve. However, there will there come a time when the smaller, weaker muscles of the hands and forearms can’t keep up with the big lifting muscles in the legs, back and shoulders. This is when you need straps.Straps are best for lifts like deadlifts and rows, but can also be used for weighted chin-ups and pull-ups.Here’s some examples of good use of straps:Overloading the muscles on the last set or two of weighted pull-upsFor high volume hanging leg raisesFor dumbbell shrugsFor breaking through a deadlift or row plateau.When not to use strapsIf you use straps for every workout, your lifts will obviously get heavier, but as your strength in the target muscles improves, your grip strength falls even further behind.Use straps consciously and when you need the extra ‘boost’. For example, use them to push through a plateau and reach a new personal best. Then stop using them, drop the weight back down and build up again without straps – then use them again when you reach another plateau.What kind of straps are best?Weight lifting straps are available in a variety of materials, lengths and widths. The most common straps are cotton and leather.Here’s my take:The wider and longer the straps – the better. Wider and longer straps give you more to grip on to, and give more surface area of contact with the bar, allowing a greater potential to create torque and tension.I prefer cotton straps. I find that cotton is more ‘grippy’, better absorbs sweat and does not tend to bend out of shape as much as leather. Beast Gear Heavy Duty Weight Lifting StrapsWe’ve all of this knowledge and distilled it into the development of our own lifting straps.We’ve upgraded traditional straps by injecting the 100% cotton straps with our Gel Grips so you can grip harder and lift heavier. The addition of our extra thick wrist padding means you’ll also be lifting in comfort, without digging into your wrists as so often is the case with other straps. Lifting straps allow you to lift heavier, for more reps, for longer. Nothing replaces a strong grip – but lifting straps assist you to reach your lifting potential. Deploy straps when you need them to get the most out of them, and use them as a specific tool to hit heavy lifts, increase volume and break through plateaus.Give our heavy duty lifting straps a try and appreciate the strength gains that this simple but genius piece of kit will give you.Trap Bar DeadsInsert summary of trap bar deads articleOther Deadlift VariationsRack PullsRack pulls (aka rack deadlifts) are performed either iwith the barbell supprted on the safety bars of a squat rack or blocks.Elevating the bar like this makes the movement easier, and hence allows you to lift more weight.The height at which the bar is raised depeds on the purpose of the lift. Elevating just a few inches can spare the lower back, whilst preserving the lower portion of the lift, making it not too dissimilar to a deadlift from the floor. On the other hand, pulls from above the knee can be great for practicing the top portion of the movement and improving lockout position.Defecit DeadliftDefecit deads are performed with the bar on the floor, but you, the lifter, standing on an elevating surface such as a block or a bumper plate. This has the effect of increasing the range of motion and can be helpful for those who need to improve the lower portion of the pull. This is an advanced variation.Romanian DeadliftRomanian deadlifts (RDLs) are great for everyone from beginners to advanced lifters. This movement starts from the top of the lift. I.e. holding the bar across the thighs.Get to the top either by deadlifting from the floor or by setting the bar at just below thigh height on blocks or the hooks of a power rack.Keep a straight, extended back and braced core. Bend the knees slighty (just unlocked) and hinge back at the hips, keeping your weight in your heels until you feel the tension in your hamstrings. Then reverse the movement and enage the glutes at the top position.This variation is superb for hamstring strengthening.Stiff-legged deadliftsStiff-legged deadlifts (SDLs) are almost identical to RDLs, except that the movement starts and ends on the floor, and so it’s far more challenging, requires greater mobility and hence is a more advanced variation which carries greater risk.Snatch grip deadliftThe snatch grip deadlift does what it says on the tin – it’s a deadlift performed with a snatch grip.Because your hands are further apart like in the snatch, the range of motion is significantly greater. You have to travel further to the ground to put the bar down, and the bar has to travel further up your thighs before it gets to the lock out position. This makes the snatch grip dead a great variation for improving both the lockout and the pull from the floor.To perform the snatch grip deadlift, either use the hook grip or, a set of lifting straps.Simple Deadlift Progression(make this a seperate blog)Even if you are already deadlifting, working on the techniques below is a great way to get the movement patterns required for deadlifts ingrained and efficient.1. HingesHere’s a great way to learn how to hinge.Stand in about 3 inches in front of a door that is open about halfway. Unlock your knees, and without bending them any further, push your bum back behind you and close the door. All the while keep your chest up and core brace. Once you can do this, repeat but move an extra ½ inch away from the door. Again, once proficient step forrward another ½ inch. Repeat the process and keep going until you can barely touch the door with your bum.2. Kettlebell deadliftsThe next step is the kettlebell deadlift.If you have access to kettlebells, place a kettlebell between your feet (adopt the stance described here) and perform a hinge until your hands can grab the handle. Do not significantly bend the knees – this is a hip dominant exercise. Stand up by pushing your hips forward and engaging your glutes at the top. Remember to keep your chest high.Once you can lift a 20kg kettlebell for 5-10 reps wih good form, you are ready to move on.3. Romanian DeadliftsIf you have no intention of performing standard deadlifts, and want to focus on the trap bar deadlift, skip straight to number 5.Romain deadlifts are quite similar to kettlebell deadlifts, except you start from the top of the lift.Keep a straight, extended back and braced core. Bend the knees slighty (just unlocked) and hinge back at the hips, keeping your weight in your heels until you feel the tension in your hamstrings. Then reverse the movement and enage the glutes at the top position.When you can comfortably perform 5-10 reps with 40-50kg with excellent form, it’s time to start deadlifting from the floor. BUT don’t abandonned RDLs, they should remain a useful exercise in your arsenal!4. Barbell DeadliftsSet up with either of the routines here, and follow the guidelines to peform the deadlift like a beast!5. Trap Bar Deadlifts*insert desc – see Ben Bruno?*SummaryThere you have it. How to deadlift like a beast.As you can see, it’s not quite as simple as picking the barbell up and putting it down again, but by following the steps outlined above you can get your form nailed, and drill these patterns down so that they become second nature.The deadlift is….So, follow this guide and start deadlifting like a beast.And as a thank you for reading, here’s 10% off anything at beastgear.co.uk – just enter code DEADLIFT at the checkout. Why not treat yourself to a set off our advanced lifting straps? ;)Beast. 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