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5 Deadlift Fundamentals

5 Deadlift Fundamentals: Expert Tips For a Perfect Deadlift

Pick up a body off the floor and bamm! you just did a “deadlift”.

Deadlifts are called so because you’re literally picking up weights (dumbbells, a barbell or kettlebells) from a dead position, i.e one with no momentum. In other weightlifting exercises like bench press or shoulder press, the weights are always carried by your muscles at a height and angle.

If Superman had to choose only one exercise, he’d probably choose deadlifts because work on the multiple muscles, increase strength, reduce fat, as well as fix a poor posture. It should be your choice as well.

Here are 5 incredibly important rules and tips from the Deadlifts Bible to help you perform a perfect deadlift:

1. Always begin with a clear mind and an exercise plan.

In the book Burn the fat, feed the muscle, author Tom Venuto says, “never go into the gym without knowing what you’ll be doing and what your goals are for the workout.”  Let me repeat, "NEVER GO INTO THE GYM WITHOUT KNOWING WHAT YOU'LL BE DOING AND WHAT YOUR GOALS ARE FOR THE WORKOUT." A clear mind, complete understanding of oneself and a well thought through exercise plan should be the beginning of your fitness journey.

Plan your deadlift weight, sets and reps before hand and once you’re in position make sure you’re concentrating only on the task at hand. A fickle or disturbed mind does not engage every muscle necessary and can sometimes cause injuries.

screaming deadlifts

2. Never compromise your form or tempo. 

Please leave your f-ing ego at the door. Feel free, though, to pick it back up on your way out.

A deadlift is a 3 step process - the setup, the pull and the lift followed by a lock.

  • Setup: Stand behind a bar with the bar slightly touching your legs. Hinge over from your hips and grab the bar in a grip comfortable to you. Maintain a flat back and keep your knees slightly bent behind your toes. Maintain the body weight on your heels.
  • Pull: Here you’ll need the most strength and force. Once in stance, swiftly move up and forward from your hips and legs and stand erect. Take a long diaphragmatic breath (contract the diaphragm and fill the belly with air) and hold it in. This stretches your core and stabilizes it along with your hip.
  • Lock: Finish the process with an erect and neutral spine, hips pushed forward into the bar, glutes and core engaged. Stay in the lock for 1-2 seconds and then lower the bar to the floor slowly, almost like you’re fighting gravity.

Couple this form with the right tempo - pace of the exercise, to get the best results. The ideal tempo for a deadlift is lift (1-2 seconds), lock (1-2 seconds) and lower (3-4 seconds).


Did you know: A single rep of a conventional deadlift works on 25+ muscles atthe same time?Deadlift muscles at work.

3. Pick weights suitable to you and customize your rep range.

By doing what your body isn’t accustomed to, you help your muscles develop over time. This method is called progression. You can increase the weight or reps or reduce the time per set to set yourself in a state of constant improvement. According to Tom Venuto, progressive resistance (where you lift more weight than you are used to) is the best way to build muscle and strength.

One way to decide the optimal weight is by doing one rep with the max weight you can carry. Your optimal weight is then calculated as a percentage of the max weight.

According to Strength Level, an intermediate level man of 90 kgs should be able to perform a deadlift with weights of 168kgs.

Choosing a rep range is almost as important as choosing the right weight. Look at the table below to understand the relation between reps and weights.


Rep Category

Rep Range






Maximum strength




Maximum muscle development, some strength




Muscular endurance, metabolic conditioning, little strength

                                                                        Reference: Burn the fat, feed the muscle - Tom Venuto

Setting a rep range and then deciding the weight per set is a good way to track and improve goals. Once you’re able to complete your max rep range with ease, move to the next stage by increasing weight and decreasing reps.

4. Don’t forget to breathe and rest.

The right breathing technique during deadlifts is important to not only get the maximum benefit but also to ensure the safety of the spine.

Breathing during Setup: Exhale, hinge at the hips and grip the bar in front of you. Adjust in this position.

Breathing during Pull and Lock: With a deep inhale straighten your spine and legs and lock yourself in the erect position. Stay here for 2-3 seconds and retain the breath.

Breathing during Release: With a slow and controlled exhale lower the bar to the floor.

It is also important to take several intervals between each set. Take about 60-90 seconds of rest between sets to maximize muscle development and a longer interval of 2-3 minutes for strength.


5. Avoid these errors

Getting a deadlift wrong is very easy. Faulty grip, poor stance, disengaged body and many more are the reasons for numerous injuries. Avoid these common errors to get the most out of each deadlift:

  • Standing too far away from the bar,
  • Gripping the bar too close or too wide,
  • Arching or rounding the back instead of keeping it flat,
  • Lifting with a jerk,
  • Breathing out when lifting, and
  • Squatting instead of hinging at the hips

Did you know? Eddie Hall holds the world record for a deadlift of 500 kgs (with equipment including a deadlift suit and weightlifting straps).

eddie hall deadlifts 500kgs

There are many variations to a deadlift - Sumo Deadlifts, Hack Lifts, Rack Pulls, Trap Bar Deadlifts and a few more. These variations target different muscles, increase or decrease the intensity and make lifting heavier weights possible. Choose a mix that works best for you and get going on your fitness journey. 


Let me know why you deadlift, please leave a comment, or share. Love some deadlift talk!


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