5 Simple and Effective Cues For Your Next Deadlift Session
1. Breathing and Bracing
The easiest way I’ve ever heard bracing explained for deadlifts is “brace like someone is about to punch you in the stomach“.
I can say this cue to someone who has never lifted a barbell in their life and they will immediately know what I want them to do. Not only that but the imaginary visual of bracing like you are going to get punched gives a solid idea to new lifters the intensity to which I want them to be bracing.
You SHOULD be bracing down HARD for every single set, and I find that most people don’t truly understand how hard they can actually brace. Imagine it’s Mike Tyson in his prime gearing up to punch you before your set…now take a big breathe and brace and let me know how hard you can brace. That’s the kind of urgency I want you to have with your bracing.
Simply learning what “bracing hard” feels like and remembering to do it on every set is one of the easiest ways to make your deadlifts feel significantly easier.
2. Lat Tightness
You’ll hear this all the time in powerlifting gyms and meets alike…some random dude in the background shouting “LATTTTSSS…LATTTTTSSS!!!!”
This cue is a reminder to an athlete to pull their lats down and effectively keep their upper back position as stable and tight as possible. For those newer to lifting, however, just sounds like a guy who is really enthusiastic about anatomy.
A great cue to help make lat tightness make sense is to…as funny as it sounds…think about a “tight armpit position“. Like someone is going to tickle your armpit for the 6th time…you already told them to stop…and your options are to either drop them and catch a case, or lock down that armpit position. We are looking for the Fort Knox of armpit tightness here.
If that imagery isn’t working for you you can also think about blocking karate chops to your armpit. Think someone is going to Karate chop you from behind and you are pulling your shoulders and lats down HARD to prevent it. That’s the same feeling you want every single time setting up to the barbell.
3. “DO NOT MOVE THE BARBELL”
A starting strength cue popularized by YouTuber Alan Thrall the cue “Do Not Move The Barbell” is essential for guaranteeing proper bar path in the deadlift.
The thinking behind this cue being that while you are setting up to pull, you set your body up to the bar, not the bar up to your body. This guarantees that the bar will remain positioned over the middle of your foot during your entire setup, and you won’t screw up your setup by fidgeting with the bar midway through.
No rolling the bar away from you, no adjusting the bar position…if you need to move something move yourself.
4. Leg Drive
While commonly only viewed as a posterior chain exercise (and with good reason) some strong quads can actually help you out big time in the deadlift, especially when it comes to initially breaking the bar off the floor.
The cue I like lifters to think about so they get the most out of their legs AND back is to think about “leg pressing the ground away from you”
So yes…you’re thinking about leg pressing the entirety of Earth away from you on every pull. Try it out and see if those pulls don’t leave the floor a little faster.
5. Long Arms
Some lifters can have a problem with keeping their arms straight in the deadlift. As a coach I will correct this issue immediately before fixing other issues. This is problematic for two reasons, 1. From a performance aspect you aren’t most effectively utilizing your biomechanical levers if your arms aren’t straight and 2. A bent arm position can lead you to the most common deadlift injury…a bicep tear.
To help you “keep your arms long” on the deadlift there are two effective cues. One you can simply think about “flexing your triceps as you go to set up to the bar”. If your triceps are flexed it’s a guarantee your arms will be straight. The other cue that people tend to like is imagining your arms as two long hooks hanging down…you’re just one big ole’ deadlifting crane.
I tend to like the “flex your triceps” cue myself as the hooks metaphor can leave lifters being a bit loose in their positioning but use whichever works best for you. Just whatever you do…keep those arms straight!!