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Deadlift: How to keep your back straight [Article]

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

Jul 10, 2018 9:30:00 AM

Deadlift: How to keep your back straight

Deadlift: How to keep your back straight


This is an article to address how to achieve to keep your back straight during the deadlift. I personally find that it is the most given, yet useless tip on the deadlift. The three actions mentioned in this article are more likely to get you in the correct position. Be prepared that form will break down the heavier you get. These tips will also help if you have challenges with your grip. If you have any kind of back pain from lifting, please consult a doctor.

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Why should you keep your back straight?


Keeping your back straight during a deadlift does two things for you. The first is to give you better leverage over the weight. The second is to protect your back from injuries. The more you round your back the more likely it becomes that you do harm to your spine. Combine a rounded back with quick, jerky movements and it is likely that you will not be deadlifting for a long time. It is best to keep your back straight. The key to is to focus on a proper setup. 


How I injured my back


When I started out with deadlifts I rounded my back. I worked up to a 190kg personal record on the Jim Wendler program. After that, I started to get cocky and combine the Wendler method with the westside method. At first, that seemed like a good idea. What I was not prepared for was that my body was not used to the workload. About a month into the combination of the two programs I pulled my back. I was not able to lift 140kg. This kind of weight used to be a warm-up for me. Yes, there are lifters out there who pull heavy weights with rounded backs. Yes, when you go heavier form tends to decline. This is especially true for beginners. Still, set yourself up to stay healthy. This injury set me back a year in training age. That is not a smart way to train. Keep your back straight as long as you can. Avoid bad form and get into the habit of perfect practice. 


How you can avoid a back injury


In almost any deadlift article you will find the tip to keep your back straight. That is all well and nice. Good instructions on how to keep it straight are hard to come by. I found the best tips to be from Brian Alsruhe, Chad Wesley Smith, and Layne Norton. Brain Alsruhe runs his own gym and regularly competes in strongman competitions. Cad Wesley Smith is a former shot put athlete who turned to powerlifting. He runs the website Juggernaut strength. Layne Norton holds a PhD and competes in bodybuilding and powerlifting alike.  Three tips to keep your back straight during the deadlift Keeping your back straight comes naturally when the setup is correct. An arched back usually starts there. I fund that actively straightening your back is hard to do. Instead, pay attention to the following:


  • Keep the barbell close to your legs
  • Activate your lats
  • Pull from a dead stop
  • Build tension before initiating the pull


One of the ways to keep your back straight is to minimize the drift of the bar. Ideally, you keep the bar that close that it shaves your shins. Deadlift socks or knee sleeves are handy. They avoid getting bloody shins. If you look at the best powerlifters, you will probably find some marks.

Activating your lats by wrapping the bar around your shins keeps your back straight. You can also think about it like bending the barbell like a horseshoe. This will also initiate the next phase of the deadlift.

Pulling from a dead stop helps to aviod rounding your back. Tension declines during a set of multiple deadlifts. This makes it more likely that you will round your back. Bringing the barbell to the floor with a stop on each repetition avoids this.

The last thing to keep your back straight is to wait to initiate leg drive. Build as much tension from the ground as you can. It should feel like the barbell is about to hover off the ground before you start pushing your legs into the ground. 

Combining these three actions will straighten your back. You won't have to think about it directly as your body will naturally end up in the ideal position. 




Keeping a good position for the deadlift is not all about a straight back. Having a straight back is the result of a proper setup. Lift the lightweights like heavyweights and the heavy like light ones.

Following the four tips I gave you and this premise will ensure better form and tightness. This ultimately leads to a straight back in the deadlift.Further reading 

Further Reading


Topics: Deadlift