How to Deadlift More INSTANTLY

Deadlifts can be an infuriating lift to continually practice each week. Some days the bar is moving like you’re lifting on the moon, other days gravity feels particularly unforgiving. This can be discouraging to new lifters, but there’s certainly a way to keep your deadlift trending in the positive direction!  Deadlifting relies on many subtle cues that can easily make or break your lifting session. These tips will help make your deadlifts feel lighter, almost instantly.

(Want to deadlift but dealing with low back pain? Check out this article!) 

1. Brace Like You’re Going to Be Punched in the Stomach

At this point most people know that they should be bracing their core to get the absolute most out of their deadlifts. Unfortunately, a lot of lifters have been taught to distend their stomach for their brace (you’ll sometimes hear it cued as a “pregnant belly”). This is commonly taught under the misconception that you have to fill out all the gaps that may exist between you and a lifting belt if you are wearing one. Whether wearing a belt or not bracing will be the same for deadlifts and surprise surprise, it doesn’t involve you looking like you’re pregnant.

To get the best brace you possibly can for deadlifts imagine you are prepping to absolutely eat a punch to the gut from the strongest guy you know. Imagine breathing in as much air as you can and bracing to take that punch. Did you push your stomach out? I bet not.

Now just apply this to your deadlift sessions. Before every set get that mental image of bracing for a punch and use it for every…single…rep. Most people can brace harder than they think they can so push yourself each session for a tighter and tighter brace until you get used to that feeling of pressure. Just…don’t go passing out on the barbell on me yeah?

2. Put a “Pre-Pull” on the Barbell

A lot of lifters like to go #fullsendmode and just grip and rip the barbell. Not only is this not the tightest position we can get ourselves into, you could be wasting your energy if you aren’t putting what’s called a “pre-pull” on the barbell.

You’ll hear this described as “pulling the slack out of the barbell”. All we are doing to achieve this is pulling on the bar before it ever leaves the ground. We do this until we’ve pulled all the “bend” out of the bar (you’ll distinctly feel the bar move up an inch or so without the plates leaving the ground). The more weight that’s on the bar, the more it’s going to bend before you’ve sufficiently pulled all the “slack” out.

This becomes especially important when you consider something like a deadlift bar which is specifically designed to bend further than a standard power bar. Pulling this slack out does a few things for us, for starters this guarantees we are in a tight starting position. You can be extremely loose if you are just gripping and ripping your deads, but pulling the slack out requires you pull into a tight initial position. Secondly, pulling the slack out of the bar ensures your force won’t dissipate as you pull. If you are just trying to rip the barbell off the ground some of your starting energy is going into bending the barbell, not actually making it leave the ground. If you pull out that slack to begin with, all of your energy will be going to making the bar leave the ground. Finally, having all of the bend pulled out of the bar ensures a smooth pull for you. With the bend pulled out the bar isn’t going to move or jerk on you in any unusual way, guaranteeing perfect pulls, every time.

3. “Leg Press” the Ground Away From You

“Leg pressing the ground away from you” is a great cue if you find yourself relying on the strength of your back alone to crush some deadlifts.

Instead of focusing on physically moving the barbell, think about pushing the ground away from you with your feet (the same way you’d push on a leg press machine). This will help ensure you add some leg drive to your deadlift, give you an extra boost getting the bar off the floor, and give you the best of both worlds combining your leg and back strength to pull some heavy deadlifts.

In addition to this, focus on keeping your knees driven out for your deadlifts. Lifters like to play particular attention to their knees when it comes to squats, but have no problem stanky legging their deadlifts. Push your knees out until they just touch the inside of your elbows for your initial set-up, then focus in on leg pressing the ground away from you and you’ll be well on your way to some strong deadlift leg drive.

4. Visualize Moving the Barbell Faster

I’m always skeptical to give this advice because it can undo all the good habits we just talked about. But it does work. Just understand that you should never be attempting to move faster or be more explosive if it’s causing you to become out of control with your movements, or is throwing off your technique and positioning. Shoot to be smooth in movement first, then worry about speed and explosiveness.

That being said, going through the simple mental exercise of visualizing moving the bar faster can make your deadlifts subjectively feel easier. It doesn’t particularly matter if you do actually end up moving the barbell faster. This is more so a mental exercise in confidence than it is anything else.

You can get into a good habit of “moving the barbell faster” simply by treating every set with the same intensity as you would your max deadlift. That means from your warm-up sets to your working sets, every set gets the same level of focus and intensity that you’d give to an RPE 10 effort lift. When things start to get heavy just keep reminding yourself “move the barbell faster”.

Likewise, not only can you attempt to move the bar faster, you can also complete your reps faster as well. Lifters can often take long pauses between their deadlift reps. Instead, shoot to take the minimal time you need to get your proper set-up and lift. This decreases the overall time of your set, decreases how much energy you’ll be wasting for your sets, and is a nice psychological boost for your lifting.

(For even more deadlift tips check out this video!)


Matt Molloy

Matt Molloy

I'm a graduate the University of Pittsburgh with a major in Exercise Science. I’m a local guy (North Penn) and athletics has dominated my life. I've led teams in basketball, baseball, soccer, golf and my passion, long distance running. I've been strength training for 6 years with a focus in power-lifting but have recently stretched to strongman since joining the pride here at the Den. When I’m not in the gym I enjoy, spending time with my friends, music, and relaxing and playing some video games.