Health Blog

Focus on the Form: How to do a Correct Deadlift

correct deadlift form

The deadlift is one of the most effective movements in the sports and fitness world. When done correctly, this lift can drastically improve your total body strength and power (especially in your posterior chain and core) and stimulate your central nervous system. It can be a fantastic addition to the fitness routine of virtually anyone — from a competitive athlete to a senior — and comes with plenty of modifications and variations to accommodate different abilities.

Despite how simple this movement is however, the deadlift can lead to injury if not performed correctly. Our physical therapy team is committed to helping all our patients understand and learn safe movement so as to avoid preventable injuries during exercise. If you’ve ever been intimidated by the deadlift or lifting weights in general, or if you’d like to learn about how to keep your body safer and more pain-free during exercise, we encourage you to come by Orthopedic and Balance Therapy. You’ll get the chance to work intimately with a physical therapist who can assess your movement and help you lift.

Deadlift for Your Health: Top Tips for Better Deadlift Form From Our Physical Therapy Team

At its most basic, the deadlift is simply picking something up from the floor. Usually, the lift is performed with a barbell, although other tools can be used. Our form tips can be applied to virtually any variation, but for convenience’s sake, we’ll talk about the conventional deadlift form using a standard barbell.

  • Stand with your feet about a hips width apart (jump once — the place your feet land should be about right) and point your toes forward. To make sure you’re standing the right distance from the bar, look down at your feet: The barbell should pass over your feet about where the ties in your shoelaces are.
  • Reach down and grab onto the barbell with palms facing down. Your hands should be slightly outside your legs. Lift your hips slightly so that your shins are perpendicular to the ground and your shoulders are slightly ahead of the barbell. In this position, your back should be flat with your chest up and your abs tight. A straight spine is key!
  • Before lifting the bar, activate your lats to improve spine stability. To do so, lift your chest, depress your shoulders, and try to “break the bar” with your hands by pulling down and back on them.
  • Tuck your chin and place your gaze a few feet in front of you. This helps you avoid placing excessive strain on the neck.
  • Time to lift: The key is to raise your hips and shoulders at the same time until the barbell gets past your knees — then simply straighten your hips and squeeze your buttocks until you’re standing all the way up (no need to shrug or lean back). The barbell should be close to your shins and physically against your thighs. It may help to think about “pushing” your legs into the ground rather than “pulling” the weight up, since this will help you engage your leg muscles better.
  • After you’ve come to a complete stand, you can either drop the barbell to the floor or slowly lower it. If you do lower it to the ground, start by pushing your hips back (as if you’re shutting a car door behind you); then bend your knees once the barbell gets past your knees.

If you’re completely new to deadlifts, our physical therapy team strongly encourages you to chat with a personal trainer, physical therapist or other fitness professional who can see and correct your form in real time.

Interested in learning how to safely get more activity in your life? Contact or come by our clinic today to chat with a physical therapist.

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Our Reviews
Christine O'Donnell
Christine O'Donnell
16:26 14 Aug 19
I could barely walk into OBTS six weeks ago. I had very bad lower back and hip pain. The progress has been life changing for me. I always walk out of there with little or no pain. The staff, Laura, Dr Diane, Angie and, of course, Peggy, have taught me so much to keep my pain at bay. I highly recommend this team.
Nancy Guenther
Nancy Guenther
15:28 12 Jul 19
Absolutely awesome! My walking has improved 110%. And my pain level is zero. I highly recommend them. Go....you will be amazed how much better you feel.
Tracie Baxter
Tracie Baxter
20:24 03 Jul 19
This was the only place that could help with my TMJ. If you’re suffering from TMJ go see Noel! He really understands the condition. I no long have to deal with constant pain! The whole staff at this office is amazing and very welcoming.
Cindy Standiford
Cindy Standiford
21:33 28 Jun 19
The whole team is great!! I’m getting great care! I recommend Orthopedic & Balance for any issues you might have.
Joseph Mulholland
Joseph Mulholland
19:53 09 May 19
Amazing staff and amazing care. I came in barely able to stand up straight due to a back injury. After 6 weeks, I feel like brand new. Everyone was extremely helpful and easy to work with. Highly recommended!
Trool u
Trool u
19:44 24 Apr 19
I am a PTA student that was required 16 hours of observation time. I had the pleasure of completing my hours at this Valpo location. The staff is incredibly friendly. They were quick to make me feel at home. In a way I was sad to leave, but happy to continue on. I hope to eventually work in this field with a work family this caring and knowledgeable about their profession.
sharon Kramer
sharon Kramer
16:23 18 Apr 19
My experience has been a very enjoyable and rewarding experience in getting me to feeling better. The staff does a remarkable job and are fully qualified in their respective areas. The staff made it fun coming here and they were very caring and helpful with their clients!!
Tim Nash
Tim Nash
15:32 27 Aug 18
My first experience with OBTS was very positive. During the course of my 13 therapy sessions I worked with many different therapists and all of them were professional and competent. They were able to help me effectively control my pain without medication using their therapy program. Unfortunately, they could not get my physical condition back to the same ability as before. However, this is due to the fact that it was later determined by my doctors that I required surgery. I plan on returning to OBTS for my post-op physical therapy and have already scheduled my evaluation appointment. Scheduling seems to be a challenge sometimes but that's probably an indication of their patient's satisfaction and good reviews. Thank you OBTS!
Arlene Gross
Arlene Gross
15:58 22 Jun 18
Everyone that worked with me was helpful. I enjoyed watching the staff interact as they worked as they laughed and smiled making me feel that it was fun to exercise. My knee pain is less and I look forward to having the same results with my back.
Jose Ico
Jose Ico
12:43 27 Apr 18
My wife and I have been coming here for a year. They have wonderful customer service and the treatments were great. I could say that since coming here for treatments, I am now able to walk properly and sleep well at nights. They help you in the best way possible. The people here are great and we definitely recommend it to everyone!
Paul Grant
Paul Grant
21:51 03 Apr 18
I have read lots of reviews that say "the entire staff of ..." is great, and you know that it is BS.. .. Butt at OBTS that statement is true. The person answering the phone, appointment setting they work around my schedule. It is truly a team concept. Everyone that has work with/on me keeps me focus on getting healthy to play golf.... Even those employees that haven't work with/on me are upbeat, positive and encouraging both their patients and me..... follow up phone calls, positive, hand written notes of encouragement, reminding me to do my homework so I can play golf this year. Great Employees, Great Business!.
Diane Burns
Diane Burns
02:30 16 Mar 18
I’ve had an incredible experience here at OBTS. In just two and half weeks I’ve seen and felt remarkable results. My hip mobility has improved by 30%. I credit the excellent physical therapists and the deep tissue laser therapy for my gains. I’ve gone from walking with a limp and pain everyday to walking normally and know that I’ll be back to running in the future. Every single person is warm and friendly here. Great place!
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