The start position
In performing the deadlift there are two viable grip options. The first involves a normal overhand (pronated) grip, with the second being a mixed overhand (pronated) and underhand (supinated) grip.
This latter grip is sometimes called “offset,” “reverse,” or “alternate” grip. The mixed grip should allow more weight to be used by neutralizing the potential for bar rolling through the physics of reverse torsion.
NSCA guidelines stipulate that feet are placed between hip and shoulder width apart with toes pointed slightly outwards. Elbows should be fully extended and feet flat on the floor with the bar over the first lace of the shoe (approx 3cm from shins). Hips should be higher than knees and lower than shoulders. Natural curvature of the spine should be evident with the chest up and out and scapulae retracted. Traps should be relaxed and stretched and the head up looking forward or up and shoulders over or slightly in front of the bar.
The weight of the bar should then be taken and pre-tensing initiated to stimulate the release of calcium and increase the number and strength of cross bridges formed, causing development of active state. Deep inhalation and bracing should commence to aid in stabilising the spine with the trunk musculature.
Concentric Upward Movement
Consists of a forceful extension of the hip and knees (pushing through the heels) with the back angle to the floor remaining the same. Hips should not rise before the shoulder and this is often referred to as a bum shuffle (increases the strain on the lumbar spine). It is also important to leave the arms locked out, so all the force acting on the bar is through the legs.
The bar should be kept close to the body throughout the movement. At the top of the lift the athlete should push their hips forward and come to a standing position. Finish with a completely upright posture to complete the concentric phase of the lift.
Eccentric Downward Movement
From this point the bar should either be lowered in a controlled manner back to the start position or dropped back down to the platform ready to commence the next repetition. Do this by pushing your hips back and squatting back to your original position, the back should remain flat throughout this eccentric lowering of the bar.
Common Faults with the Deadlift
The most common fault exhibited by athletes when carrying out the deadlift or an associated variation, is to lift with incorrect posture and thereby suffer a great amount of flexion in the lumbar or thoracic regions of the spine.
Possible causes for this eventuality include poor trunk control, particularly in the lower abdominal region as well as around the scapula throughout the eccentric phase of the lift. Poor flexibility in the hamstring muscles can also lead to poor posture when executing a lift.
Failure to maintain good posture causes undue stress to the spinal discs, by pinching the front and leaving a gap at the back, forcing the internal fluids to compress towards the back, and potentially causing herniated discs. In addition, the compression can squeeze the spinal roots of the spinal cord, causing nerve-conditions like lumbago or sciatica.
Continual repetition of “rounded back” deadlifts can also lead to kyphosis of the spine. Kyphosis is usually attributed to slouching. It rarely causes pain, but rounding of the spine can lead to acute injury which in turn will affect training and performance. Most “athletic” sports require good posture and therefore if correct mechanics are exhibited, posture will not be compromised for training purposes or ultimately performance benefit.