The barbell deadlift is a compound exercise used to develop overall strength and size in the posterior chain. It is a competition lift in the sport of power lifting, but is also considered a classic benchmark of overall strength.

When performed with the hands outside the knees, it is often called a “conventional” deadlift. When the feet are wide and the hands are inside the knees, it is a sumo deadlift.

The barbell deadlift builds total-body strength by targeting the lower and upper backs, hamstrings, quads, traps, and glutes. The exercise also increases core strength and stability. It’s known as one of the best total-body exercises for strength, building muscle, and fat loss.

Use the following tips to help boost your deadlift performance, and improve your form without getting injured.

Head Up At Lockout:

During my barbell deadlifts, I tuck my chin at the lockout. I actually want to keep my head in a more “neutral” position and have it follow the angle of my torso.  As your torso comes up, so should your head. I typically say, “take your head with you”. This means when I hit the lockout, I should be looking straight ahead.

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Pull Your Chest Through:

At the start, you’ll want to remember to pull your chest through your arms. This will help keep you in a good position at the start, which will give you the best potential for staying in a good position throughout the entire lift.

Drive to Lockout Right After Bar Passes Knees:

After the bar passes your knees, the only thing you should think is—drive your hips forward with a powerful glute contraction—to finish the lockout. You don’t have to over-pull the finish; just drive the hips forward until your body is in a straight line. Think to yourself, shortest distance between two points.

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Take the Slack Out of the Bar:

Taking the slack out of the bar is huge for setting your full-body tension and pulling yourself down to the starting position. If there is 225lbs on the bar, you should pull up on the bar with 224lbs of force before the weight even moves; there has to be that much tension on the bar.

Put Your Lats on Tension:

This cue goes hand-in-hand with taking the slack out of the bar. Both are trying to set your back, get more tension, and get you into the best starting position possible. Pulling up on the bar sets the lats and subsequently creates a tighter core.

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Drive the Floor Away:

Once you’re locked into your starting position and have the greatest amount of tension possible, drive the floor away as if you’re doing a legs press. This is an amazing coaching cue, and will most times eliminate the athlete’s hips from shooting up at the start of their first pull.