WSBB Blog: Overcoming Common Sticking Points in the Deadlift

WSBB Education
Fri Jul 09, 2021

Tags: Knockout power, Speed-Strength, Cardio

One of the most celebrated lifts, having a strong deadlift is one of the most important things you can have as a strength athlete. No matter if you are a powerlifter or a strongman competitor, having a strong and reliable deadlift is incredibly important if you want to have success in your sport. For the powerlifter, the deadlift is the final lift of the day that often makes or breaks your day. For the strongman, not only do the competitions focus heavily on the deadlift, many of the events can be improved upon when deadlift strength is added.

For this reason, a strength athlete must be able to make the right calls when sticking points are realized and weaknesses become apparent. Below, we will go over solutions we use at Westside Barbell to overcome the different roadblocks that can happen when trying to build your strongest deadlift.

Missing off of the Floor

The first sticking point any strength athlete will experience in the deadlift, missing the lift completely without the bar even leaving the floor. We’ve all been there, you get pumped up and ready to deadlift, walk up to the bar and begin to pull, and nothing happens. Often, when the barbell fails to move at all you will notice the first muscle group to move on the lifter is the hips. This is because the lifter lacks the leg drive to move the legs under load, so the body wants to get the hips in the most advantageous position it can while placing the burden of the weight onto the back. Unless you are one of the strongest men in the world, this will lead to your back becoming overloaded and the barbell failing to move.

Fortunately, correcting this issue is easy. The first exercise you should use to correct an issue with missing deadlifts off of the floor is deficit deadlifts. Any strength athlete that struggles with or needs more leg drive in their deadlift or squat can greatly benefit from the use of deficit deadlift. Additionally, deficit RDLs with a slight bend in the knees can be used to improve glute and hamstring strength to get the barbell moving off of the floor. Glute hamstring raises are also a great exercise to develop glute and hamstring strength to improve deadlift starting strength.

Missing Halfway

Missing at the knees in the deadlift presents a different set of issues opposed to missing off of the floor. When you miss off of the floor your legs are too weak, or the weight is too heavy. When you miss at the knees the problem can typically be blamed on a lack of glute and back strength. To improve glute strength we recommend glute hamstring raises, kettlebell swings, and squats.

When focusing on back strength for the deadlift, we recommend focusing on good mornings. The good morning is an exercise that has an incredible impact on posterior chain strength from the hamstrings to the upper back, and throwing them into your exercise rotation will assist in overcoming any weaknesses you will experience in the squat or the deadlift.

Missing at Lockout

When you miss a deadlift at lockout it can almost always be blamed on either a grip or an upper back issue. Either your grip begins to slip resulting in a loss of control over the barbell, or your shoulders get pulled forward causing tension to be lost in the upper back. Luckily, if grip is the issue there are many different exercises you can do to improve your deadlift grip. A few we recommend are axle bar deadlifts against bands, barbell holds holding the heaviest amount of weight you can in your hands for a five count, and forearm curls. If upper back fatigue is an issue, pull-ups, Pendlay rows, and upright rows are great options to improve both upper back strength and endurance.