About 10 years ago, I blew my back out doing Sumo deadlifts, it was not a fun experience.
It was not a fun experience, and years later with a herniated disc, deadlifting has not been on the training menu.
But the last year or so I have started to get back deadifting, and I am loving it. 1 herniated disc, 3 bulging discs, 2 bicep tears…I pretty much thought deadlifting was gone for good.
Well with some lower back & injury training tips and information from some smart people like Dr. Stu McGill, Dean Somerset, Tony Gentilcore & Jason Ferrugia, deadlifts are BACK, making me a very happy person.
One of the big reasons I can deadlift again is because I primarily use a Trap Bar.
I wish I had these years ago when I was basing most of my training around squats, deads & benches. It would have saved my back for sure, because it is so much harder to screw up a trap bar deadlift vs. say, a conventional or sumo deadlift.
The Trap Bar Deadlift is a real nice combo of the deadlift & the squat.
For a review of the T-Nation Dead-Squat bar go here.
The bio-mechanical benefits of deadlifting with a trap bar are quite significant, due to the fact that you can maintain a more upright position when lifting from the floor, thus placing your quads and glutes under greater stress and reducing the loads on your lower back.
Trap Bar Deadlift Tips
Here are some trap bar deadlift tips that have helped me “re-learn” the deadlift, and that I also use when coaching my clients at Heavyweights Training Center:
1. Squeeze A Pencil With Your Shoulders – Try to visual squeezing and holding a pencil between your shoulder blades. This will help you keep a more neutral spine and get you driving through your quads better.
2. Don’t Look Down – The natural tendency for a lot of people doing deadlifts is to look down. Not a good thing. Be sure to look straight or slightly down. You want a nice straight neck and packed tight traps.
3. Don’t “Jerk” the weight – You will see this a lot, and you need to fix it before you start lifting heavy. This happens when someone grabs the bar and doesn’t deadlift with a straight arm. You bend your arms and jerk the grips as you pull. Not good, keep those arms straight and tight.
4. White Knuckles – Got this one from Dr. Stu McGill. Be sure to grip HARD, and not just hold on to the bar. When I coach on deadlift, I am always looking for “white knuckles”
5. Drive the Elbows Back – Focus on driving the elbows back to engage the lats more, keeping your arms straight. You are almost trying to drive your arms by your sides and squeeze. This will get your lats firing when you deadlift. I always just smack my clients lats to get them to focus on keeping them tight.
6. Hinge Back – Be sure to Hip Hinge back, and not just bend your knees and grab the bar, You want to hinge to load up your hams/quads hips so you can deadlift with your hips & legs, and not your upper back as much.
7. Deadlifts Aren’t Just for Guys – Girls, deadlifts are one of the best exercises you can do. They won’t make you “big” so don’t even think like that. We make it very clear at Heavyweights Training Center that lifting heavy weights doesn’t make you “bulky.”
8. Drive Hips Forward – In the last 1/3 of the trap dead, focus on pushing the hips forward more than on thinking about lifting the weight. Push hard through the hips, and the weight will take care of itself.
9. Know Your Foot Placement – Don’t have your feet too wide or too close. Keep them under your shoulders, too wide will give you problems, too close your knees will cave in. A great way to think I stole from Tony Gentilcore “Stacked Joints Are Strong Joints” (I think it came from Mike Boyle, either way it works).
10. Spread the Floor – Another great tip I got form Dr. McGill is to think of “Spreading the Floor” as you come up. This will help get your glutes going a lot more in the squat which can be difficult for a lot of people.
11. Push Away the Floor – A great way to active more of the big muscles in the quads is to focus on pushing away the floor more so than just trying to pull. Keep everything tight and focus on pushing away the floor more so than pulling the bar off the ground.
12. Use Chalk – This is pretty simple. Strong grip is needed for a big deadlift, and chalk is essential for this. If you can’t use chalk, try liquid chalk. It will help big time. I’d suggest you get yours from Rogue Fitness.
13. Use Chains – By using chains, it allows you to get the bar moving, and then, as you lift higher, the chains straighten out and the bar gets heavier. It helps because it’s not dead weight, that bit of movement allows your pull to get stronger and it gets heavier as you get closer to the top of the lift.
14. Drop it at the Top – I know a lot of people may think WHAA…Drop it? Yes, drop it. I know it seems funny, and more than likely your gym wont let you drop weights, but if you can it has some advantages. I got this tip from Jason Ferrrugia, and it has saved my back big time. For more info on dropping the deadlift click here.
15. Sink Hips – I use this cue to sit into the deadlift at the bottom, and really sink those hips so you’re using your hips & legs more than using your middle back which you really want to avoid. The deeper you can get those hips the better.
The lowering of a deadlift is what really cuts into recovery. So, if you want to deadlift and not get torn up so you can keep training, then dropping it will save you!
I hope these tips helped you.
This is me in my glee being able to deadlift again. After a terrible back injury I have been able to come back stronger than ever pulling a 535 lb. Trap Bar at a 185 lb bodyweight.
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