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Deadlift like a powerlifter [Article]

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

Dec 25, 2018 9:30:00 AM

dedlift like a powerlifter

Deadlift like a powerlifter


Deadlifting like a powerlifter requires patience and technique. Some tricks are to act against your instinct to stay in control of the weight. Here are the most helpful queues to improve your deadlift.

Deadlift calculator

What are your goals 


Why do you want to lift like a powerlifter? Did the strength aspect appeal to you? Did you get injured in your main sport? Have you been an athlete at high level in your youth and now you return to training? Whatever it is that you brought you here it is important that you are clear about your goals. Clear goals get you clear results and satisfaction. Fussy goals get you fussy results and frustration. A first step in the right direction is to prioritise your fitness goals. Most beginners I meet want everything yesterday and are surprised that they don’t get it. To avoid this you can ask yourself which camp you belong to:


  • Looks 
  • Strength 
  • Performance 


If you are in the looks department you are in for a hard time. Instagram feeds and movies give the wrong impression of how you can stay ripped all year around. Photo shoots are done at peak and material is created for the entire year. While the models look like this only for one month in the year you get the impression the jump around happy and good looking all around. It is also a gruelling process to get to peak conditioning. You will be tired, hungry and angry on the road to your six-pack. There some genetic freaks who can sing a song while doing it, but that is the exception. The choices you will make are not always healthy or good for sports performance. Starving yourself for a couple of months while extracting water from your system is not a top choice recommended by your local doctor. In the end you might get the contract or sponsorship. The price to pay is high. 


The second camp belongs to the people obsessed with performance. Your main interest is new personal records. You want to beat the competition and make the podium. Any means necessary are welcome to you. Exercises will be picked based on their carry over to your chosen sport. The intensity in the gym is the main determinator of your success. Diet fuels your ambition but is not the main driver of success. An injury is common and you I will how to do deal with it. When you are in this camp your choices will not always be healthy or pretty, but you get the job done. 


The last camp belongs to health enthusiasts. If you are a part of this gang you mainly care about balance. The extremes are avoided so that you stay healthy and stress-free. You might not make the front cover of a magazine or win the Super Bowl, but you don’t care. You will sip on your tea while stretching and enjoying the view. Happy days. 


As you are researching how to deadlift like powerlifter you probably belong to the performance camp. If this outline made you think maybe take a step back and reevaluate which of these three areas of fitness is most important to you. 


How much should you lift? 


Rules of thumb are there to be proven wrong. To throw everyone in one pot and store it around does not get the best results. You still have to start somewhere for guidance. I like big hairy goals. This means that the goals you set are tough and challenging. For your deadlift, it would mean that you set yourself the goal of lifting three times your own bodyweight. This usually puts you in a competitive position at least at the regional level. You might get unlucky and live in a patch with three world record holders but that is the exception rather than the norm. 


If you want to start a bit more conservative check out my article on how to plan your first powerlifting meet where I analyzed roughly 2000 lifts. 


What program should you use? 


You will not become the next Ed Coan overnight. Be prepared to invest 2 to 5 years of your life to get good at lifting. If you are into powerlifting I would recommend the following:


Year 1 


Stronglifts 5x5 or Starting Strength 


Year 2 


Madcow or Texas method 


Year 3 


Wendler 531 or the cube method 


Year 4 


Juggernaut Method or Sheiko 

Individualised program


Year 5


Individualised program based on your coaches feedback and your own experience 


This is just a guidance but it hopefully helps you to navigate the content out there. The main thing is that you stay motivated and stick with lifting. With this as a guiding principle, you still should stick to your program for at least three months before changing it. I always had the best results when I used programs for about a year and pushed beyond the boredom in month 3 - 5.


Which diet to follow?


Which diet you follow actually does not matter that much. What does matter is in which weight class you want to compete and how you manage your weight accordingly.


Think in calories and macronutrients and how to track these rather than staying away from entire food groups. As it also does not matter how you look when you lift there is no need to keep yourself to 10% body fat. 


I like the keto diet and winding on whether I am on a cut or bulk I consume 1800 to 4000 calories a day. 


Ask your personal trainer about diet or drop me a bit when you are not sure what to do. 


What to wear? 


The decision on what to wear to powerlifter depends on whether you go raw or geared. Geared lifting means that you use a deadlift suit to lift. 


A deadlift suit puts your body under more pressure to keep it stable during the lift. This minimizes loss of power. This would be considered geared lifting. 


When you go raw specialized suits are not allowed. You can use wrist wraps, a lifting belt and/or knee wraps depending on your powerlifting association. 


Whatever you pick both variations are fun. 


Deadlift stance 


If you want to lift like a powerlifter you have to pick your preferred deadlift stance. The two variations are the conventional and sumo deadlift. The most professional powerlifters train both variations to get a competitive edge. When you start it is good to pick one version and stick with it for a year or two before getting fancy. 


The conventional deadlift is a good choice when you have long limbs. The biggest deadlifts ever pulled were conventional. For a conventional stance, you keep the arms outside of your legs. Walk up to the bar and place your feet about shoulder wide part. Take care that your mid Door is under the bar. Grab the bar with your hands while keeping the arms outside of your legs. 


The sumo deadlift is a variation of the deadlift in which you keep your feet wide apart and grab the bar between your legs. This is a good variation when you have short limbs. Some of the most impressive pound for puns pulls were sumo deadlifts. The main advantage of the sumo stance is the shortened bar path. The biggest disadvantage compared to conventional is the weaker leverage to get the bar off the ground. 


Deadlift grip 


There are three main variations of the deadlift grip. They are 


  • Double overhand grip 
  • Mixed grip
  • Hook grip


The double overhand grip is the most intuitive of the three. Here you grip the bar with both palms facing towards you. This is the best grip for starters and your aim. Should be to use it as much as possible. 


The next variation is the mixed grip. In this variation one palm faces towards and the other away from you. This grip helps to get a stronger grip on the bar. With this setup whenever your grip weakens on one hand the bar starts to roll into the other. This way you can pull considerably more weight. The mixed grip should be reserved for the moments when your double overhand grip starts to fail you. 


The hook grip is the most advanced grip variation as it needs the highest pain tolerance. This grip is very popular amongst weightlifters as the mixed grip is not an option for overhead lifts. Here you wrap your fingers around your thumb when you grab the bar. This way you lock the bar into your hand. The challenge with this grip is that it leaves a lot of pressure on the thumb which can be very uncomfortable. 


Making the bar click 


The first difference between powerlifters and weekend warriors is that they make the bar click before they initiate the pull. This activates your lats more and ensures that your back stays straight. 


To make the bar click think about bending the bar like a horseshoe around your ankles. This will make your elbows turn in and you will hear a click. 


Patience off the floor


The next difference between the average you and a powerlifter is patience off the floor. While you will instinctively want to yank the bar off the ground as fast and powerful as possible it’s not the best way to deadlift a very heavy weight. 


Instead of yanking the bar and risking a dislocated shoulder you build pressure before initiating the pull. Build so much tension before activating your legs and back for the pull that the bar bends while the plates are still on the ground.


Making a footprint 


Once you have nudged yourself in and the bar has maximum tension it is time for lift off. To achieve this you want to think like you are making a footprint in the ground with your feet. 


The main power for your deadlift does not come from your arms or back. It comes from your legs. By thinking about making a footprint you make sure that you activate your glutes and quads during the lift for maximum impact. 


Push the floor away from you


Once the bar takes off the ground keep pushing the floor away from you. Rather than thinking about it in a way that you are pulling the weight up you want to think about pushing the earth away from you to get to lockout. 


This way of thinking will help that you keep your legs engaged the entire lift and lessen the strain on your lower back. 


Pull inward and upward 


While the bar travels up it should stay as close to your body as possible. If you scrape your shins and your shorts stick to the knurling of the bar you are doing right. 


To make this happen to think about pulling the bar into you rather than straight up. If you pull it straight up you will leave room between your body and the bar. Some powerlifters also call this drift. The more the bar drifts, the harder the lift becomes. 




When you remember all of the tips before the last thing is to lockout. While the deadlift seems to be a slow lift because it is so heavy it is best to do it fast. You want to be aggressive about your pull and move the bar up as quick as possible. 


Many beginners are not aggressive enough and are hesitant during the lift. This leads to grinder lifts at kick out. If you look at some of the most impressive deadlifts ever done they are all squeaky clean. There is no grinding involved. 


Putting the bar back down 


If you want to be a powerlifter you have to put the bar down with the hands in the bar. You can not drop the bar form the top as the lift will get disqualified when you do that. 


Deadlift like a powerlifter 


Deadlifting like a powerlifter takes time and effort. Focus on one of the outlined techniques at a time to improve. Put them together brick by brick. If you want to follow all of these tips at the same time you will get confused and make a mess of the lift. Use your warm-up sets for technique work. Soon you will be big and strong if you follow these tips. 


Further reading 



Topics: Lift stronger, Deadlift, Strength