4 Deadlift Mistakes That Are Keeping You Weak

There is no greater lift in existence than the deadlift. Not the squat (though it is awesome), not the bench, and not the 12oz curls you do on Friday night. Put simply, the deadlift is reigns supreme in the kingdom of gains. As it should. It’s a killer full body exercise for developing strength, size, and pure pulling power.

It’s also the very definition of “functional” because every single day we’re faced with picking something up off the ground.

Chances are, if you can properly pick up hundreds of pounds off the ground with ease, your risk of injury from some freak banana peel accident while picking up your shoes goes down.

All of that being said people still mess up the deadlift. Which just kills me. The deadlift, when done well, is a beautiful lift. But these deadlift mistakes are doing you no favors, and keeping you weak.

Here are 4 deadlift mistakes you’re making right now.

  • Not packing your lats.


Watch what happens with my back right before the pull. I’m rounded, and then you can clearly see me pack my lats while getting my back into a neutral position.

This is a common mistake from a lot of deadlift newbies that I see, and it’s an understandable error. Packing your lats is a weird cue, and until you’ve actually experienced it, you don’t even know what it is.

The lats are key muscle group for performing a deadlift properly. They’re going to help support a few hundred pounds, so if they’re not ready for that load, you’re just asking for a one way ticket to snap city.

How do you pack your lats?

Packing your lats is essentially flexing your lats. I highly suggest getting practice in my actively flexing your lats throughout your normal day. This can enhance your mind muscle connection, and help you contract those muscles harder.

A couple of cues I love: squeezing oranges in your arm pits and tuck your shoulder blades into your back pocket.

Both of those cues seem to do a great job of teaching people how to pack their lats properly, leading to a proper deadlift.

Get your feet right.

It’s aggravating that such a remedial tip needs to get put in this list, but it does. Get your feet right.

There are two deadlift styles: conventional and sumo. One involves your feet placed beneath your shoulders/hips, and one involves a sumo stance. Choose one, and go.

If you’re unsure about how wide your feet should be on the conventional pull here’s a simple test: jump as high as you can. When you land, look at your foot positioning. Right about there is where your feet should be when you pull.

Just for the love of God please choose a style. Don’t do this bullshit where your halfway between conventional and sumo. I see bros do this all the damn time, and they’re leaving hundreds of pounds on the table because they aren’t pulling properly. Set up matters, bros.

Quit looking at yourself in the mirror.

Sorry for the same video bros – forgive me, but check the head positioning in the above video.

This is a bit more difficult for most people to get because they lack the necessary proprioception, but you don’t need to look at yourself in the mirror when pulling. In fact, you shouldn’t at all.

Looking at yourself places your cervical spine in extension, which can impact the positioning of your spine throughout the lift, and potentially set you up for greater risk of injury.

Instead, pick a spot on the floor about 5-6 feet in front of the bar, and let your eyes travel upward as you lift the weights

Pull back, not up.

This tip was one of those “aha” moments I had while training a few months back. I was stuck, and couldn’t get past a plateau. I heard some Coach who is a hell of a lot smarter than I am mention that you should think of pulling back, not up, and viola. New PR.

Why does this tip work? It’s natural for us to get on our toes a little bit. Especially when you start to get antsy when pulling a ton of weight. It’s a natural response.

Pulling back instead of up gets you back on your heels, which leads to more glute involvement. If you haven’t heard, the glutes are a pretty strong muscle group. When you get them involved, good stuff tends to happen.

Tanner is a fitness professional and writer based in the metro Atlanta area. His training focus is helping normal people drop absurd amounts of fat, become strong like bull, and get in the best shape of their life.