Deadlifting More Efficiently

Posted on Posted in Articles, Training

Zach Homol – @ZachHomolPower

I really enjoy sharing my advice on the deadlift which is why I write so many articles a month on the movement. The deadlift has always been my favorite movement to coach on as well as perform. Often individuals are currently stronger than what they are typically showcasing during the movement. This means with slight modifications to the movement and a better understanding of positioning, leverages and breathing/bracing techniques can set an athlete up for a PR, in some cases, immediately. For example, a good friend of mine, Logan, came to me asking about deadlift cues. After 15 minutes of repositioning, and some encouragement, he went on to pull 545lbs.  Before this, his best was 455lbs. Yes, a 90lb PR! Since then he has progressed to pull 775lbs in just 2 years time!

For the remainder of this article I will be sharing a few cues and the reasoning behind each of them. There’s no doubt in my mind that if you follow these steps, and develop each muscle group as needed, you too will progress past your current PR in only a matter of time!

Step 1:  Reverse Engineering the Movement:

To complete the deadlift in sanctioned competition, the athlete must lock out at the knees, hips and have both shoulders behind the bar.

Now that we understand how the completed deadlift should look we can cancel out portions of the movement that aren’t necessary. By doing this, we make the movement MORE EFFICENT!

Q- How can I cancel out portions of the deadlift?

A- By increasing mobility to allow better positioning.

(If you don’t have the mobility to be in the correct position to deadlift efficiently, you can’t possibly think that you will be able to lift to your full potential.)

-Identifying your individual weaknesses, then strengthen the undeveloped muscle groups.

(Knowing what to look for and doing the accessory movements that will aid in strengthening your weaknesses)

-Fully understanding how the completed movement should appear.

(I see a lot of people over exaggerating the lockout, leaning back much farther then what is needed. This is neither efficient or safe.)

Now that we know how the deadlift should look when completed, let’s talk about everything that goes before the movement is completed.


Breathing techniques and staying tight is a very common flaw in novice lifters. Most of us are taught to breath in during the eccentric portion of the movement then breath out as we contract. In the deadlifts case, most were taught to breath out as you pull the bar up. This is a huge mistake! Breathing out as you pull the weight up releases the brace/ tightness that was created to sustain throughout the movement. Breaking it down in the simplest of terms: HOLD AIR IN, BRACE, STAY CORE TIGHT throughout the completion of the lift. I only regather my air when in the locked out position or when I am not under load (Bar is in rack or on floor)

Step 3: Knees/ Shoulders behind the bar.

This is where my methodology begins to differ even more. There a multiple high-level coaches who have their athletes start with their knees over the bar. Now let’s take my theory from the first paragraph, “The completed deadlift ends with the KNEES LOCKED OUT!” Starting with the knees over top of the bar simply ADDS MORE INCHES FOR THE BODY TO TRAVEL TO COMPLETE THE LIFT, hence not being 100% efficient with your body’s range of motion.

-In order to get into this position, and be most effective, the athlete will need good mobility as well as STRONG glutes and hamstrings.

The shoulders should NEVER go in front of the bar. More times than not, if the shoulders are drifting in front of the bar it is caused by lack of mobility and HAMSTRING strength. STRONGER HAMSTRINGS and BETTER MOBILITY!

STEP 4: Hip positioning:

I see this time and time again. Many athletes will start with their hips too low; SQUATTING THE WEIGHT UP. The deadlift is not a SQUAT, it is a deadlift. A LEVERAGE MOVEMENT. By starting too low you aren’t using your body’s natural leverages.

Starting too high, more times than not, this can be easily corrected with a “Coaching Cue” and/or BETTER MOBILITY!


Now that we are set up in the most efficient position to complete the lift, it’s time to actually LIFT THE WEIGHT. When deadlifting, I am NOT thinking of pulling the bar, rather, I am consistently thinking of PUSHING my hips TO THE BAR! Using this cue, the lift is often more challenging from the bottom. Once the weights break the ground, if positioning holds, the top portion of the movement will be easier.

By thinking of PUSHING, and not PULLING, it also helps in holding position. I will write a full article on this, as it is of importance!

Let’s start by taking these cues and putting them into action in our training, little by little, day by day! Note, Rome wasn’t built in a day. One cue maybe be harder for you to achieve than the next and that is okay. Just as a basketball player will take thousands of free throws before ever being under the lights, we too as lifters must PRACTICE!


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