Joshua Capazorio, head coach and co-owner at Performance Purist, a new gym in Bryanston focused on strength and conditioning, shares his expert tips on perfecting the deadlift – arguably the quintessential measure of strength in the gym. It’s also an exercise that develops your body’s major movers.
“While many gym goers have attempted a deadlift, they maybe don’t feel as confident as they should or they just can’t seem to improve it. But no matter if you’re just a weekend warrior or a top competitor, how you deadlift is very important, more so when you start adding in high reps,” Capazorio explains.
The deadlift is a simply executed exercise. The bar is on the floor and it must be lifted up through a full extension of your body until you are standing upright with the bar in both your hands. Pretty simple, right? Wrong! Capazorio says that it can go wrong even before you’ve started to pull. He explains a little bit on each topic so that soon you will deadlifting with better speed and posture:
This is one of the first things to look at when deadlifting. How you approach the bar is what will allow you to execute a strong pull or weaken your levers and leave you rounding like a turtle (and with no deadlift to boast).
So make sure that your stance is narrow and that your toes are slightly pointed outwards. This foot stance can be found by practicing a few standing vertical jumps, says Capazorio. You’ll find that your feet will naturally find the best, and most comfortable, position for an explosive extension. With this foot stance, place your hands right next to your legs to keep as compact as possible.
Bum and Bar
Depending on your structure and mobility, you can have high or low hips, it varies from person to person. However, you can never be separated from the bar, nor can you sit behind it. The bar must be right above the top of your foot with your knees pushing slightly over the bar and your shoulders must be boldly positioned over the bar to create a dominate position.
When executing the pull, you want that bum to match the bar movement. Do not let that gap grow, by this I mean do not let the bum rise so much to the point where the bar has hardly moved at all nor do you want to attempt sitting in the pull where the bar is moving and the hips have not. Let the bar and your hips be best friends – they need to go together at the same time. Once you get this timing right, you want to emphasise the line from the ground by pushing hard into the ground with your feet, this sets the tone for how your deadlift will develop and helps you create enough force to move big weights.
“How many times have you got a deadlift above your knees and then the bar just slows down and suddenly you find yourself wiggling and hitching the bar to finish the pull?” asks Capazorio.
“This is from the lack of force from your hips coming through the bar. Your hips should want to ‘head butt’ the bar. So from the moment the bar passes your knees, you must generate as much force as possible with your hips to create a solid and strong lock out. This must happen on every rep and on every weight you work on.”
Speed of the Bar
Once you have a developed technique, you want to create as much force from point A to point B. You do this by moving yourself through the pull as fast as possible. This will allow the bar to move as fast as possible too. “I find that not enough people focus on speed when deadlifting and to me this is one of the most important factors when developing a deadlift, especially when it comes to your max attempts,” says Capazorio.
“There are many other factors that involve a great deadlift, the main one being time. Give your deadlift time. When you work your position constantly, you will find one that suits you.”