There is nothing like having a deadlift fly off the floor, being inches away from hitting a PB, just for you to miss the lockout.
The good news is that with these tips, you will be able to train in a way that will help strengthen the top half of your deadlift.
1.FIX YOUR STARTING POSITION
The starting position is the most important part of the deadlift. Unlike the squat and bench press, there is no eccentric part of the deadlift. We don’t have the opportunity to build tension on the way down so our starting position has to be spot on.
In our starting position, we want to have a neutral back and pelvis. In this position, breaking the floor might be challenging but the rest of the lift will be a breeze.
One way we can create a neutral back and pelvis is having our hips in the right position.
For example, if our hips are too high, our shoulders will be in front of the bar. In this position, the low and mid back take more of the load. With this, your back will be too fatigued to drive your hips through and getting your shoulders back.
Here are some tips for finding the right starting position:
Shoulders over the bar
One way to know that you are in the right position at the bottom of the deadlift is to look at the position of your shoulders to the bar.
In both sumo and conventional our shoulders should be in line with the bar when looking directly side on. If you are a sumo lifter, your shins should also be vertical.
Bar in relation to your foot
In order to get shoulders in the right position, we want to make sure the bar is in the right spot in relation to our feet.
A good rule of thumb is to start with the bar over mid foot. As you reach to grab the bar, your shins will touch the bar and it will bring your hips and shoulders into the right position.
If the bar is too far away from you, your hips will be too low and you will have to overcorrect, leaving your back too fatigued to lock out.
If the bar is too close, hips will be too high, in which we’ve already discussed why this makes lockout more challenging.
Pull the slack out
Once you’ve grabbed the bar, pull up on the bar to build tension in your shoulders, glutes and hamstrings.
If you skip this step, it will be easier for the bar to pull you out of position and pull you forward.
2.FIX THE TIMING OF YOUR LOCKOUT
For most people, hips and knees should lock out at the same time. This is true for both sumo and conventional pullers.
If your knees lock too early, you risk the bar pulling you forward.
If your hips lock too early, you risk hitching. Hitching is when the bar rests on the quads after the bar passes the knees. Usually at this point, your shoulders are too far behind the bar for knees to lock out. This means red lights if you are a competitive powerlifter.
Once again, many times this can be fixed by also improving starting position. For example, if you start too close to the bar, your shins may be more vertical. This can lead to knees locking out before you can lock out your hips.
3.BUILD A STRONGER BACK FOR LOCKOUT
Even though the main focus in improving deadlift lockout is improving your starting position, sometimes we just need to get stronger.
Mainly, a stronger lower back.
Traditionally, lockout strength has been improved with heavy block pulls. The idea behind this is that if you load the part of the lift you usually fail in, it will get stronger.
This issue with block or rack pulls is that you are not performing the same movement as your normal deadlift. Your hips and back are in a completely different position.
What you are doing though is strengthening the lower back.
Heavy block or rack pulls can be quite demanding. This may cause unnecessary fatigue during a training session.
Some better accessories to add in to strengthen your lower back would be good mornings, bent over rows, pendlay rows, or some light SSB squats.
4.TAKE ADVANTAGE OF LEVERAGES
Leverages refers to how you are built. This includes how tall you are, how long or short your arms, legs, and torso are.
Some leverages are more advantageous. For example, having longer arms for deadlifts as the bar has less far to travel.
You can’t control your natural leverages but you can make the most of what you’ve got with some basic guidelines.
For conventional deadlift, your feet should be about shoulder width or slightly wider than shoulder width.
Since your hands need to be on the outside of your knees, if your conventional stance is too wide, your grip will need to be wider. This increases the range of motion that the bar needs to travel.
As stated previously, the wider your grip is, the farther the bar needs to travel. This can make lockout more challenging.
This is true for both sumo and conventional stances.
To find your grip width, start by pinning your hands down to your side. This is where you should grab the bar.
As discussed previously, getting hips in a good position will help with your lockout.
If hips are too low, the range of motion will increase, making lockout more challenging. Our pelvis is usually in a tucked position when hips are too low. This can be strong off the floor but often lifters will get stuck mid thigh and be unable to lockout.
If hips are too high, the weight of the bar will pull you too far forward, fatiguing your back and making it difficult to drive the hips through.
Our hips should be in a position so that we have a neutral back and pelvic position.
By now, you’ve probably noticed a recurring theme. Everything comes back to optimising starting position.
A good starting position creates a strong lockout.
5.PAUSE DEADLIFTS FOR BETTER POSITION
The last tip for building a stronger lockout is a variation that improves position off the floor.
Once again, lockout strength comes from a strong starting position.
Pause deadlifts are a great way to work on this. For this specific variation, we want the pause to be just off the floor.
Pause deadlifts create a stronger starting position in a few different ways.
The first is that they slow down your setup. Since there is no eccentric in the deadlift like there is for squats and bench press, people tend to speed up their deadlift setup. Pausing creates patience and slows things down. This is especially true for sumo pullers where being a little bit out of position can be punishing.
Second, pausing just off the floor also breaks the deadlift down into the two components of leg drive and hip extension. In the first part of the movement we think about pushing the floor away. Once the bar is just past our knees, we can drive the hips through.
Third, pause deadlifts increase foot pressure awareness. If your weight is too far forward, or too far back, you will feel it. Pausing forces you to find mid foot pressure.
By pausing just off the floor, we force ourselves to be more efficient in our starting position, creating a stronger lockout.
Improving your deadlift lockout requires both technique and strength adaptations.
Mastering your starting position will be key to a stronger lockout. As you work on technique in your starting position, you can add in good mornings, pendlay rows, and SSB squats to help strengthen your lower back.
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