By:  Doug Daniels

Deadlift Details

       The saying is "don't sweat the details" and in many cases, this is true. But sometimes a little attention to detail can make a substantial change in your results. Most of our readers want to explore almost every possible training technique, lifting gear and supplement to get bigger lifts on meet day. Perhaps this attention to detail can pay off and compliment all your other efforts. In this article I'll cover a few details that can make a difference in your deadlift.
        The friction or resistance the bar encounters as it drags across the body from the floor to lockout is an easy obstacle to conquer that can hinder our success. The first method to reduce this friction is to use talcum or baby powder on the front of your shins, knees, thighs and bottom of your lifting suit legs.  This will allow the bar to climb up the body a bit easier.  Take the container of powder and splash it on these areas then turn the container upside down (with the opening shut of course) and spread it around with the bottom, being very careful not to get any on your hands.  If you get any talc or baby powder on your hands, you stand to decrease your grip on the bar.  For best results, apply and spread the powder in the 'on-deck' area and not on the platform.  This is a safety issue and could cause a lifter or spotter to slip and fall.  If you notice any excess powder on the platform, ask the spotters to clean the area before you lift.

         Those bald-headed swimmers can lend all deadlifters a major tip also. They shave their heads to decrease resistance in water and in doing so, decrease their time.  We don't need to shave our heads, but by shaving the front of your thighs from the knees to just above where the bar stops at lockout also help reduce friction. This can be done the day prior a meet to spare any of you macho guys out there any grief but no one will care if this simple act was the difference between a successful lift and an unsuccessful one. 

         To help maintain your grip on the bar, we would need to increase friction. Use chalk or magnesium carbonate on your hands.  Many meets have chalk available near the platform, but unfortunately, it either gets stolen or used up when your turn comes up. In that case, I suggest bringing your own stash of chalk in a Tupperware container for easy access and storage. In this case, itís okay not to share if you donít want to. Over the course of the meet, the bar may develop a build-up of chalk on the knurling. If so, ask the spotters to scrape the excess off before you lift.

         Footwear can be key here too. The best deadlift footwear is low to the ground to cut distance the bar must travel with non-skid soles to provide a stable base during the set-up and pull off the floor.  For conventional deadlifters, I recommend house slipper type shoes or actual house slippers. They provide the features I just outlined and fulfill the rule requirements for competitive footwear.  Some lifters wear wrestling shoes, but they cost a bit more then house slippers.  Sumo lifters may want to try a cross-trainer shoe for more ankle support.  The key to remember is to get shoes with a low, flat heel.  A high heel will angle you forward and could decrease your leverage position and require you to pull back as well as up, wasting energy and actually make you lift ímoreí. 

         I have an issue with using knee wraps while deadlifting.  They are invaluable for the squat, but for the deadlift, they can be counter-productive.  Their use could result in locking the knees out prematurely, greatly lessening the contribution from your legs. If your knee soreness causes you to need knee wraps to deadlift, I would consult a doctor to address a potential joint problem.
         Lastly, form and execution can really make a difference.  Set-up is first.  Many lifters tend to position their bodies too far from the bar.  This causes the bar to be pulled in as well as up to lockout.  Leverage is decreased and the chance for injury is increased.  A key to competitive lifting is to decrease the distance the bar must travel to completion.  If it must be pulled in as well as up, the distance is increased. You can lift more weight over a shorter distance than a longer one; itís not just physics, its common sense. Set up no farther away than 2-3 inches from the bar.  I favored touching the bar with my shins.  You may suffer shin scratches, but powerlifting is not easy or painless.

         Grip width is also important.  The narrower the grip, the less distance the bar must travel. This allows you to assume a more upright position, closer to lockout, and potentially use more leg power.  If you deadlift conventionally, try gripping at shoulder width just outside the start of the knurling.  Sumo deadlifters can go narrower, straddling the knurling and the smooth part of the bar.  There will be a limited amount of lifters who gain leverage by using a wider grip, but give a narrower grip a try.

         Also, try to maintain an upright posture when starting the pull.  This will lower the distance that the bar must travel as well as throwing more of the strong leg muscles into play.  Flexibility can help here, so don't overlook its importance. Hamstring and hip flexibility can also work in your favor on the other lifts also. Any combination of these three tips can give your max deadlift an instant lift without increasing your strength one iota.

         All that taken into consideration, you can still blow everything by making an all too common error at lockout. In their desire to demonstrate a complete lockout to the judges and crowd, some lifters lean back so far that they cause their knees to bend.  This would result in a red light from an alert judge. A fully upright position with your shoulders slightly back will satisfy the judges without extreme and possibly costly execution and waste of energy.

         Getting a big max deadlift is more than a great routine, supplements, and supportive gear.  Evaluate the suggestions in this article to see if they apply to your current practices. A minor change or two can make a difference in your meet results. You still may not want to sweat the details, but sometimes a little sweat can go a long way.

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