How To Deadlift Properly And How To Deadlift With Dumbbells

how to deadlift properlyThe deadlift gets a bad rap these days from overly conservative doctors, chiropractors and, well people that issue insurance policies! The deadlift is not something to be avoided. In fact, if you know how to deadlift properly, you will pick up things from the ground in the safest way possible. You will also have an invaluable tool for your workout programs.

The deadlift is an incredible tool because it is a compound exercise that works a lot of muscle groups at the same time making it perfect for both fat loss and muscle building programs.

Using lots of muscle at once is something that you should be looking for in your exercises for a number of reasons. Using multiple muscle groups makes and exercise “functional”. Meaning that it has real world uses. Using compound exercises that involve the big muscles also means that you burn a ton of calories while doing it. For the mass monsters that want big muscles, the deadlift allows the usage of huge poundage’s that can translate into massive muscle gains in short periods of time.

How To Get The Most From The Deadlift.

The shoulders need to stay over the bar in the bottom position. Shoulders being behind the bar can start the whole series of movements off wrong from the start. The bar is in contact with the leg all the way up. As you come up you press your knees back and lift your chest. This maintains the lumbar curve. The bar travels straight up and down.

Make sure you come to full extension at the top. It is not a lean back but an extension of the hips causing you to stand up fully straight. The lean back is mostly for the power lifters that want to prove that the lift is completed for the judges.

On the way down you initialize the movement by pushing your bum back then lowering the chest keeping the nice lumbar curve and then bending the knees.

What you don’t want is to sit back and have your shoulders come back behind the bar because then the bar will break its straight path and you will have a hard time when you get to the knee area.

Watch out for the dreaded two-part deadlift. This is when you are coming out of the bottom and the hips extend and then the lower back does its work after. It is very similar in appearance to the stiff leg deadlift but a whole lost worse for you. That is not what you are trying to do here.

You can avoid this common fault by making sure that you lift the chest at the same time as you push through the hips. Everything will move up in one motion.

4 key things to remember when doing the deadlift?

1) Nice lumbar curve throughout the movement
2) Chest up at all times
3) Shoulders over the bar not behind to keep a straight bar path.
4) Push through the heels keeping the bar in contact with the legs.

Remember to drive off the heels and look straight ahead. Press your knees back once the bar breaks the floor.

The biggest common fault is the loss of the lumbar curve. This means that the load is too heavy or you do not know how to do the movement right yet. Reduce the weight and practice, practice, practice.

The second biggest mistake is letting the bar come away from the leg. This takes the weight away from your center of power and can pull you out of position right at the floor before you even get started. Roll that bar in to the shins before you even start to pull.

Here is a great way to put the deadlift into your fat burning program. Superset deadlifts with pushups. Do 10 sets of 10 for each exercise non-stop until completed. Time yourself and try to beat that time on the next workout. Its simple but highly effective.

How To Deadlift With Dumbbells

Deadlift top position
Deadlift bottom position

Here is the bear workout described below but with dumbbells which I find much harder.

How To Deadlift Insider INFO!

The deadlift has been a big part of my training again as I’m putting in more olympic lifting exercises and need the power out of the hole. I’m doing these big lifts so I can… guess… burn fat while gaining muscle. Shocking…

How do you gain muscle while burning fat (besides reading that post)? Well, you lift heavy and fast. I’ll give you an example right here with a workout called “The Bear”. My client Larry and I did it just yesterday and it is totally awesome.

Progressively make the weight heavier each set until you hit the weight that nearly kills you. (All descriptive language is figurative 🙂 Do this sequence of exercises in order seven times for ONE set.

Power Clean
Front Squat
Push Press
Back Squat
Push Press

Do Five Sets in total. So each set is 7 repetitions of the above sequence, rest as long as you need and then repeat for four additional sets.

Here is a video of The Bear Workout from Youtube.




  1. Angie says

    I just started the deadlift exercise with clients this week! One got it, the other did not. He couldn’t quite understand how to keep the back flat. Any ideas on how to explain this to him? I showed him, but as soon as he tried, his back did a horrible bend!

  2. says

    Tell him to go into a squat. Only as low as he can go without losing the lower lumbar curve. Once he is there, tell him to raise his arms out in front as high as he can. This will lift his chest up and force him to maintain the arch.

    Now freeze him in that position and hand him a broomstick to do his deadlifts with. Do no let him use any weight until he can do the deadlift with the broomstick perfectly. Often clients will lose the arch because the weight is too heavy FOR THEM.

    Sure they can muscle it up…but they are not doing it right and eventually you will have to go back to square one with them so that they can keep moving the deadlift poudages up later.

  3. DOODLES! says

    I was in a heated debate (hilarious one at that) with all the guys I work with last week about the “form” for doing deadlifts. I told them that when I had a personal trainer in college, I was told and shown, to stand on a small wooden box or foot stool that had a good, sturdy base to it. Then while standing with feet about an inch less than shoulder width apart, holding the bar that you put weights on. Then at the same time, holding in your stomach muscles, bend straight over at a 90 degree angle, dropping the bar at least to your toes…and if more flexible…just past your toes and then using your “glutes” and “hamstring” muscles to pull straight back up to a straight standing position.

    I, before doing these exercises, had “thrown” my lower back out 3 different times and had seen doctors, physical therapists, and taken medications that honestly only helped for a while until I hurt myself again doing every life tasks. The style of deadlift I just described helped TREMENDOUSLY and since I have not had a pulled muscle nor “thrown” out my lower back. AND…especially for the ladies here…tightened my butt, slimmed my thighs…and overall I felt so much better and more confident!

    My question is, is this still a “deadlift”???? Please, I need an answer because I see so many pictures and videos on the internet about deadlifts and it seems…or appears to me personally to be very bad for your back and somewhat dangerous if you are not already a strong person physically.

    I am personally, 5 feet, 8 inches tall…and weigh 124 pounds…and am 37 (will be in a week and a half)…and am serious about lifting weights again.

    I haven’t been working out like I should due to plain old burnout from work and commuting and found myself exhausted.

    Anyway…could someone please let me know if what I was doing described above is another form of the deadlift or is it called something else?

    Thank you so much!

  4. says

    You always except your own personal degree of risk to benefit with any exercise. Sounds like you are doing an old school stiff leg deadlift. It is a valid version but you have to be bang on with form and very flexible to do it the way you describe. Most people stay away from it because it is hard to teach. What you see above in the article in the usual, easier to teach and ‘safest’ version.

  5. Bill says

    I started seriously doing deadlifts about a year ago. That’s when my lagging back pain VANISHED. I attribute this to HEAVY deadlifts, along with proper eating and supplementation.

    But I kid you not, I had chronic lower back pain for 30 years or so. Once I started doing the exercise that most doctors will tell you never to do again if you have back pain, I immediately felt relief!

    Plus, it’s almost as good as the squat as an overall body exercise.

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