Biggest Deadlifting Mistakes
By: Robert Rejek
With the inception of Crossfit, thousands of individuals every day are picking up a barbell for the first time. They get bigger, stronger, and leaner, but they also get more injuries. This isn’t some terrible voodoo curse placed upon the equipment --it comes from improper technique. As the weights get heavier and the sweat comes down, breakdowns in form become increasingly easy to make and tougher to notice. Tough as it might be to admit, the only person to blame in this situation is ourselves. Here are the two easy-to-overlook mistakes in technique that will undoubtedly wreck your PRs and keep you injured, along with how to fix them.
We’ve all seen it before. Someone in the gym is prepping for a big deadlift, they huff, puff, and stomp around, grab the bar, and wrench it up violently to lockout. This mistake came about from overly eager trainees who watched a few too many Youtube PR videos. Despite what the majority of the fitness community believes, the deadlift isn’t a violent exercise: you’re not supposed to kick and scream to high heaven with every rep.In actuality the deadlift is an incredibly calculated lift with many moving parts to complete, and lifters benefit from a calm, collected disposition in their execution.
By bending the elbows, athletes are intentionally making it tougher to bring the weight through the first phase of the lift, so goodbye potential PR. Worse yet, ripping the bar up haphazardly puts extreme stress on the Transversospinalis and other back muscles in a short period of time. Considering the fact that most don’t specifically train their lower backs, this is a quick way of pulling a muscle or slipping a disk.
Take your time. Even in a Crossfit workout, you have enough time to set yourself up if you start to move too far forward or back. Just giving yourself a single breath to refocus could mean the difference between winning a competition or burning out too quickly. Also, let the slack completely out of the bar before the weights come off the floor. By doing so, the bar will move less through the air, and an athlete is able to constantly keep tension in their muscles before the weights come up. This leads to improved stability, making the lift much safer.
Using the Switch Grip Too Often
This problem is deceptive. Using a switch grip (one hand palms out, the other palms towards you) allows one to heave the weight up easier in a deadlift. It’s really easy to make it an everyday occurrence, justifying one’s actions by the possibility of moving more weight. Just like using gloves or not properly warming up, the side effects won’t show themselves within a workout or two. Several months down the line, athletes will notice they have plateaued in their deadlift when they use a standard grip. The bar just falls out of their hands. This is because the switch grip prevents one from developing grip strength in equilibrium with their deadlift strength.
“But Bobby, I can just always use the switch grip all the time, and my problems will be solved, right?” No! The switch grip can cause serious muscle tears due to muscular imbalances. Think about it: you’re moving several hundred pounds off the floor, over and over again. One of your major stabilizing muscles for the switch grip is your bicep, since the palm facing out forces bicep activation. That tiny muscle is partially helping to move a comparatively massive amount of weight, and at a certain point, they’re going to snap.
Only use the switch grip for low rep PRs, and avoid using it during most training sessions. If strength is the goal, feel free to use the switch grip during the final one or two sets of a given workout, because that way the bicep muscles are no longer exposed to excessive training volume or intensity. Also, switch which hands face forward when using the switch grip. If you do a set with a switch grip, change the grip on the next set to further reduce the likelihood of injury.
It’s easy to demonize the deadlift as a dangerous exercise, or to avoid it for its intimidation factor. In truth, it’s arguably the most functional movements around and most trainees should be using it. Take your time, give the barbell the respect it deserves, and results will come.