Spoiler alert: if you only think about “flat back” before you pull, you’re missing out!
As we prepare for our annual “NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEADLIFTS” competition, it’s the perfect time to revisit our deadlift technique.
Keep reading for some game-changing cues that could help you smash some deadlift PRs.
WHAT IS A CUE?
A cue provides guidance to improve our technique in a movement or lift.
When we’re coaching you during class, we’re giving you specific cues that we believe will help you be safer, more efficient, and more effective in your workout.
A cue can be verbal (we hear it), visual (we see it), or tactile (we feel it).
This article is all about verbal cues for the deadlift– what you tell yourself before and during a heavy 1-rep maximum effort pull.
COMMON DEADLIFT CUES
Chances are you’ve heard some of these cues before deadlifting:
“KEEP YOUR BACK FLAT!”
“GRIP IT AND RIP IT!”
Those cues are a great place to start, but there are about a million more that might help you add a few more pounds to that barbell.
Here are 3 of our favorite cues that, with practice, will help you shatter your current deadlift PR:
- PULL THE SLACK OUT OF THE BAR
This cue is number 1 for a reason! Pulling the slack out of the bar is a crucial first step to a heavy deadlift.
If you set up a bar with plates on each end, you’ll notice that there is a microscopic amount of space where the barbell sleeve meets the inner ring of the plate. This space allows for a tiny degree of “wiggle room” when you go to pull the barbell upward. There’s also a very small amount of bend that happens at the barbell when you initiate your pull. PULLING THE SLACK OUT OF THE BAR is all about eliminating that space and generating as much tension in your body as possible BEFORE you actually lift.
If we do not pull the slack out, we are potentially leaving a lot of pounds on the table. Your lift will be rushed, your body will struggle to generate and maintain tension, and your bar path and setup position can go awry.
To pull the slack out of the bar, get a tight grip, drive your legs into the ground, and imagine wedging your hips into the barbell. Once you feel that barbell bend (it’s only going to be a few millimeters, but you’ll feel it!), push the ground away from you and allow your shoulders to rise to standing.
2. PULL SLOWLY
When you’re all hyped up on pre-workout and feeling absolutely stoked to hit a new PR, it’s tempting to run up to the barbell and just RIP IT off the ground.
It might work for some people, but usually, it ain’t pretty.
The lift is rushed and the lifter is unable to maintain good positioning throughout the lift. Their back might start flat, but by the time the bar is at their knees, they look like a bowl of mashed potatoes, indicating that they lost a substantial amount of stiffness and leg drive. Plus, the faster you lift, the easier it is to stray from your optimal bar path.
If you think you might be one of these lifters, practice telling yourself to PULL SLOWLY off the ground. You’ll be able to tap into your leg drive much more, maintain good positioning, and keep the bar along a path that will allow you to complete the lift. It won’t be fast, but have you ever seen the strongest deadlifters in the world? Those suckers are SLOW and PATIENT with their lifts.
3. JUICE AN ORANGE WITH YOUR ARMPIT.
This is a fun one. It’s meant to replace the cue “engage your lats!”
“Engage your lats” is often completely unhelpful because most people on Earth truly do NOT know what it actually means to engage their lats, let alone WHAT or WHERE their lats are. In those cases, we have to paint a more vivid picture.
Imagine you’ve got one orange stuffed under each of your armpits as you lower into your deadlift setup. Now, as you get ready to grip the bar, I want you to SQUEEZE those oranges and try to get some juice out of them (juice that absolutely no one will want to drink, btw). Boom, you’ve just successfully engaged your lats! Another cue that works well in this situation is “bend the bar,” getting you to imagine you’re bending the barbell around your legs.
The reason why we stress lat engagement with the deadlift is because your lats are simply humongous. They run from your humerus (a.k.a. upper arm bone) all the way down to your thoracic spine, lumbar spine, sacrum and hips via a big sheet of tissue called the thoracolumbar fascia. If your lats are tight, you’re going to be able to stabilize your spine MUCH more effectively during the deadlift. So get ready to make some juice!
There are about a million other cues we could have included on this list. Try these 3 first and see how they feel!
Our coaches are always available for a one-on-one session to help you with your deadlift progress.
See you on the platform on 10/27 at 6pm!