9 Ways For Women To Improve Their Deadlift

Have you ever finished a set of deadlifts and wondered,

“Am I doing this right? Is there anything I can do to progress faster and lift heavier?”

Or maybe you’ve been too nervous to deadlift anything heavier than the bar out of fear of doing it all wrong?

Well, let’s tackle these concerns because seriously y’all…

The deadlift is one of the best moves you can do! But done wrong and you can find yourself in quite the pickle with a thrown out back!

It helps work those “sit-down” muscles we get from plopping down in a chair in front of a computer (oh, like I am now). And strengthens the posterior chain of our body like a mother “you know what”.

And unlike other moves that are given the title of “functional movement” and not… this really is.

deadlift-butt

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stopped myself folding/rolling over to pick something up, realizing that’s just asking for a pulled back.

Instead…

I stop.

Get into a strong stance and squat down to whatever it is I have to pick up.

And push through my feet to engage my legs and but instead of my lower back. 

Thanks for teaching me something useful, Deadlift. I really appreciate it!

And hopefully today, I can teach you something useful… about deadlifting. A few tricks and tips to make sure each pull is beneficial!

How To Make Your Deadlift Better

1). Spend some time waking up your body.

deadlift warm-up

And I don’t just mean doing a few warm-up reps of light deadifts.

Spend 3-5 minutes opening up your hips and activating your glutes and stretching your back.

If you’re like me and 99% of Americans, you’ve been sitting down a bit during the day and everything is “asleep”. Wake it up and get the joints ready for what’s to come.

A PVC pipe is my personal favorite way to help get the blood flowing, increase range of motion and prepare myself for lifting! Here’s a great PVC Strength Training Warm-up.

Other great pre-deadlift stretches include:

good mornings for deadlift workout

– Good mornings

– Static Lunges (holding a lunge for 20-30 seconds per side) 

– Hip Extentions/Bridge Hold 

2). Go barefoot or at least wear no-lift shoes.

barefoot-deadlifts

When people walk into my classes wearing running shoes, I tell them to take it off.

Those shoes lift the heels to create an imbalance and an unnatural “feel” as you push through your feet. Which translates into making it more difficult to activate the lift through your glutes and hamstrings.

It feels much more natural to lift weights (not just deadlift) with a flat shoe on…

Which is why y’all see me wearing these ridiculous shoes all the time. I hate them (they are so ugly), but they really are awesome for weight lifting and kettlebells.

3). Activate your arches.

The way your feet are placed on the ground during workouts isn’t talked about enough.

You’re heard the idea of focusing on the muscles that you’re targeting, right? So when doing moves like squats, lunges and deadlifts, why would you not put emphasis on your feet?

Activating the arch helps to evenly distribute weight throughout the foot (balanced along the 3 main points of contact of the big toe, little toe, and heel) and it creates torque and power for lifting. You have a better “athletic stance” and a more stable body position to handle the stress of the load on your joints.

For most of us, activating the arches equates to pushing outwards on the feet. But really it’s simply putting the foot in a natural alignment instead of allowing it to fall in on itself.

4). Master Kettlebell Swings.

kb-swing-deadlift

I know, you’re like, “WTH, Taylor. What’s that got to do with deadlifts?”

A lot. A kettlebell swing is a ballistic deadlift. Pushing the hips back, keeping the back strong/straight and driving the hips forward for a powerful “pull”.

Mastering the swing can help build power to help hip drive and help emphasis that quick pull needed when lifting heavier weights. It’s a great way to build confidence and work on getting stronger without having to to perform heavy loads.

If you need help mastering the swing, make sure to check out this Swing Tutorial.

5). Allow the bar inside your personal bubble.

deadlift-space

A major issue that I see often and that I was also guilty of is standing away from the bar.

You want that bar to be as close to you as possible, up in your business. My friend, Heather, recommends wearing high socks on deadlift days because she always hits/scrapes her shins with the bar.

The closer the bar is, the less strain that will be on the back but there will also be less distance to have to move the bar.

Start with the bar as close to your body as possible, pull it up the legs and return it along the same path.

6). Grip The Bar Based On What You’re Doing

how to hold a barbell

What’s the best way to hold the bar?

That depends.

If you’re looking to increase grip strength and you’re not going heavy, opt for a overgrip with both hands. For warm-ups and cool-downs, this is the grip I recommend.

If you’re lifting heavy, then a switch grip is going to allow your hands to better pair with the strength of your legs and glutes.

Often it’s not our lower half that gives out, it’s our grip strength that keeps us from going more intense.

The switch grip is going to help with that! Kettlebell swings can also help to increase your grip strength.

7). Engage Your Lats & Create Tension

lats-engaged

When I started deadlifting more regularly I was stunned at how sore my lats where.

Why was my back so sore?

Even immediately after a heavy set, I find myself shaking out my shoulders and lats over my legs!

Why? Because the lats are a very targeted muscle during the deadlift. And are the first muscles to be activated.

When you approach the bar and grip to your liking, pull the shoulders back and lock your lats, creating immediate tension on the bar.

You can see above my arms are already tight and if I had towels under my armpits they would not fall out!  

This prepares for a strong body and creates tension on the bar so that all there is to do is push the heels into the ground and stand up.

8). Train With Multiple Stances.

close-stance-deadlift

Sometimes I prefer a sumo style stance. Feet pointed out, knees following in their direction and my butt dropping a bit into a squat position.

But only sometimes.

One common issue often seen with the deadlift variation is taking the feet too wide. This can really cause damage to the hips over time. Feet don’t need to be much wider than shoulder width apart.

Most often, I prefer a more straight leg style, where my feet are in a more “athletic” pose (about shoulder width apart and pointed straight ahead).

My knees have a slight bend in them but the power comes from a hip thrust… this is what is shown above.

To be honest, the 2nd option is my personal preference. I have bad knees and the straight leg style allows my knees to miss out on a beating while burning my ass.

heather-deadlift

So to demonstrate the more “sumo” style, I’m calling on my friend Heather. As a powerlifter, this woman has perfected her form and in the picture above is deadlifting 300 lbs like it’s a bag of rice.

But in terms of lifting the heaviest weight you can, the deadlift stance is going to make that happen. In general, the best training is always the training that includes variations. To include both into your training. This will also help you learn what works best.

9). Bring Your Hands Closer Together

I made this mistake for a very long time!

If your legs are shoulder width apart, hand placement needs to be inside of that. Bring the hands in closer to help generate more force and pull from the lats. A wider grip creates a wider angle between your lats and the bar making it more difficult to lift.

Go through these 9 tips as a checklist the next time you approach a bar. Not only will you improve your strength and form but you’ll decrease risk of injury and build up some serious confidence along the way!

Heavy lifting isn’t easy. Some people make it look easy, but there are so many little pieces involved to help execute each move safely and comfortably.

I’ve been deadlifting for YEARS and still study form and learning new tactics.

deadlift tutorial

Deadlifts… Love them or hate them?

Comments:

  • Jackie

    Deadlifts and squats are my favorites

    • Yes! I am going to focus more on squats next month!

  • Jen

    Love these tips! Such great cues. It’s been too long since I lifted anything heavy!

    • Thanks lady! What are you working on lately?

  • Love them, I just got up to 200lb max last week. Great tips! How do you feel about weight belts? I’ve never tried one but my cross fit friends say it’ll help me lift heavier.

    • Great job on the max! That’s awesome! I don’t personally use a weight belt simply because I don’t feel like I lift so much that my back gives out and I also like the idea of using those muscles instead of compensating with a belt. But i have friends that train with them to help maximize their strength and love them.

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