The Big Five: Deadlifts part 2

The Olympics have been underway for some time now, and we have been watching the US excel. We’re two medals away from China  for the most medals, Phelps is now the most decorated Olympian of all time and the women’s gymnastics team did a fantastic job and crushed the competition. No one else stood a chance.  Bolt, Blake and Gatlin ran sub 9.9 seconds in the 100 m sprint, with Bolt breaking his Olympic record.  And we even got to see some acts of courage, as even China’s Liu Xiang injured himself on his first hurdle in his prelims only to find himself hopping on one leg in pain to kiss the rings on the hurdles. 

Here in the second part of the dead-lift edition of the big five lifts; I will discuss the different dead-lift variations and why to use them. As well as the common flaws most people make in every dead-lift variation they do.



This is personally my favorite dead-lift variation. Its very similar to the conventional dead-lift, except we have a much wider leg stance (much further than shoulder width) and we also have a very narrow grip.

Why Sumo?

I Sumo for a couple of reasons.

The first being I am relatively tall, and have a long torso.  Since the Sumo dead-lift has a wider stance, this dead-lift has a shorter path to travel then its counter-part, conventional dead-lifts.

Sumo dead-lifts allow your torso to be more upright, allowing more power to come from the hips while reducing the stresses on the spine.  For me this is great news as I have had a herniated disk in my past.  So the less stress I can place on my disks the better off I am.  It is all about risks vs rewards in training.  If the reward isn’t high enough to risk it, then why would you?

The Technique

Everything holds the same as the conventional dead-lift; the only difference is your hand and foot position.  I will do a short recap of the technique.  If you want the more detailed version, click here.

  • The feet should be placed much further than shoulder width apart, with the toes pointed slightly outward (about 5 degrees).
  • When grabbing the bar, your hands should be inside your knees, grabbing the bar roughly six inches apart from each other.
  • Get your chest out, hips back.
  • Knees point over your toes.
  • Spread the floor with your feet as you come up with the bar, this allows you to keep the tripod of your foot
  • And think about pulling back as you go up.  Pulling back allows you to keep the glutes and hamstring loaded.
  • At the top get real tall, keeping the back, glutes and core as tight as possible (similar to doing a plank).

2.  Trap-bar Dead-lift

The trap-bar dead-lift is, shall I say, the easiest of all the dead-lifts. And by no means is dead-lifting with the trap bar easy, but from a biomechanical standpoint there is much less sheer forces at the spine. Because the handles are to your sides, rather than in front of you, you can stay vertical placing your lower back at less risk of snapping.

I use this version consistently, once again due to my lower back and for having a longer torso.

The technique is the same as above, the only difference here, as mentioned earlier, is that your hands are at your sides.

I usually rotate my dead-lift variation every four weeks.  So I may do trap-bar dead-lift for four weeks, then sumo dead-lift for four weeks, and may add some other variations such as straight-legged dead-lifts and band or chain dead-lifts.


1.  Rounding the Shoulders – When dead-lifting a lot of people don’t keep their chests out.  They tend to fold their upper bodies forward like a lawn chair exposing there spinal column to increased amounts of torque.  Do dead-lifts with repetitive spinal flexion and you will need to pick up your disks off the floor.  There needs to be a great emphasis on thoracic spine extension as you drive your hips forward.

How to Fix it –   Train your upper back and lats hard, as well as work on increasing your thoracic mobility and hip mobility to ensure that you can easily get into the bottom position of the dead-lift.

2.  Knees travel too far forward – Many people have ankle mobility issues, and this lack of dorsi-flexion will have your knees pointing way past your toes.  Why does this happen, if your ankles don’t have any more room to move into dorsi-flexion, your knees will have to start moving forward and your shoulders will be forced to drop in order to make up for the lack of ROM.

How to fix it:  Work on ankle mobility and flexiblility.

3.  Feet are not lined up correctly – This is the most over looked technical cue ever.  Many people do not pay attention to where they stand.  Do not trust your proprioception in the beginning.  When you set up for a dead-lift your feet should be next to each other and shoulder width apart.  You don’t know how many times I see someone get ready to dead-lift and one foot is about one foot behind the other one.

How to Fix it:  Pay attention to where your feet are before you get ready to do the lift.  Don’t look down after rep two to fix it.  Take the one second to get the feet right, and this will help you lock in the technique the rest of the way.

Was this post helpful, enlightening, the purest, greatest thing you ever read? Do you dead-lift? If so, what variations do your prefer? Let me know; leave a comment below!

One response to “The Big Five: Deadlifts part 2

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