Quick Thoughts on Maximal Deadlift Form

Here are a couple of quick thoughts on max deadlifts.

1) How long you stay down before the pull is very individual. Some do best when they learn to pull quickly and minimize the time spent in the bottom position, while others do best when they take their time at the bottom and wait for everything to feel right. Experiment to find what works best for you.

2) Form is dependent on the goal. If max loads are the goal, you may benefit from learning to round the upper back, but if back health is the goal, brace the neutral spine and maintain the normal curves.

If you’d like to watch someone who has mastered the art of upper back rounding, check out Konstantin Konstantinovs here:

In an interview, he’s mentioned that once he learned how to round his upper back he was able to take his deadlifting strength to the next level.

konstantin-konstantinovs-deadlifting

19 Comments

  • Andrew Serrano says:

    Definitely agree that true max loads will almost always be pulled with a rounded back, I still like to train for maximal lifts going as heavy as I can with close to perfect form, only allowing rounding on PRs or close to. I pulled 475 at a meet this weekend without ever breaking 405 in practice using close to perfect form, heres the vid http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVJqNcYBvrc

  • ddn says:

    Who rounds their back??!?!? That is just PREPOSTEROUS!

    • Alex says:

      Rounded upper back, low back keeps arched.. shortens the ROM, enables u to pull more weight.. if u pull your shoulder blades together in the beggining of the pull you would have to squat down or bend your back forward a lot more to get to the bar and so you get less leverage..

  • Kerry says:

    Hi,another awesome post! I have a question about the conventional DL. When lowering the weight and hinging at the hips, should your shoulder blades be back and squeezed together until you hinge the weight to the knees? I have read that they should but I cant maintain them that way or hold that posture. I am from New Zealand and we only talk in KGs, I did 110kgs( which really is light weight, not a Ron Coleman light weight) trying to keep that posture and now my shoulders are neck are Ffd! sorry I know alittle random, but why we are on the DL topic in general thought I would ask.

    • charlesstaley@me.com says:

      Kerry, the scapular retractors (rhomboids, middle traps) are relatively small, weak muscles, as compared to the posterior chain. While you should TRY to keep the scups retracted, you’re not likely to be successful when the loads get heavy.

      • Derrick Blanton says:

        I like to use the comparison of bamboo to steel.

        Bamboo is crazy strong, but has a bit of sway to it under extreme load. Steel is also crazy strong, but rigid. It will break in two under extreme load. When pulling super heavy, you put your scaps and T-spine under a “bamboo” type of muscular control.

        You are aware that is going to be a bit of scapular protraction, and T-spine rounding; however this doesn’t mean that you just sloppily give up the scap and hang on tendons and ligaments, and your thoracolumbar fascia. Rather, there is a mixture of eccentric muscular control, and fascia hanging.

        I suspect there is not a human being alive that can do scap retractions with their DL 1RM. Seriously, is anyone loading up 600-lbs., and doing Blackburns?

        The people who advise keeping the scaps tucked on max DL’s are the people with gorilla arms, and short legs, or pulling wide sumo; these folks are pulling off the floor with a far more vertical torso. Their scaps are already being pulled down, and not so much forwards. Essentially they are closer to a “lockout” postion, before they even pull the bar off the floor.

        But for most folks, those scaps are going to come forwards, unless you are lifting a far lower % of what your hips and legs are capable of lifting.

  • Stapes says:

    Brett you don’t get a stretch reflex unless you undergo an eccentric contraction with the load (ie. come down with the weight). There is no advantage to simply bending down quick and lifting without setting up.

    • charlesstaley@me.com says:

      I disagree. If you look at how Bret and I pull, we both find success in different set-up styles — Bret uses the slower, more deliberate setup, while I use the “dive bomb” approach. Incidentally, there is a stretch-shorening effect employed in both styles.

  • Josh says:

    I am always told by coaches and powerlifters around here to keep my thoracic perfectly straight, look up, and keep an arch in the lumbar, but experts (like, Jim Wendler) suggest that an arch isn’t necessary as long as the lumbar is neutral. I recently pulled 200kg, at 69kg (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdAu8pafwV4 , Side view reps: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0RauJhFlL4w) with a slight rounding of the upper back and a fairly neutral lumbar, and my coach had a fit. So, my question is, what advantages are there to a curved thoracic and how arched does the lumbar need to be. Also, I have a very flat lumbar naturally, would this affect how much arch I should have?

    As new as I am to the sport it’s hard to tell a coach I think he is wrong.

  • Oliver says:

    Couldn’t be clearer bret, plus the new look of your site is great, nice.

  • Melly says:

    I love when the big muscle man took off the top of his lifting outfit and showed off his body. He should have pride, geez, that looked tough.

  • ggs says:

    Love the new site…new look same great quality…

  • Kellie says:

    I have an excruciatingly long set up, but now I feel better about it. 🙂

  • Marianne says:

    Hey BC! Love the new website design! Much easier to scroll through all the great content 🙂

  • Kerry says:

    Thankyou to everyone who gave a reply to my question above. Great stuff, really makes sense, love the analogies too!!

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