I’m not going to lie, I really like the conventional deadlift. It’s undoubtedly my favorite movement to coach and strongest lift around the platform by far, but unfortunately, it’s even the most taxing on my body. In a perfect world, I’d train it every single day, yet that’s not reality.?The reality is will be able to train heavy conventional deadlifts really well once, and sometimes two times a week (if in caloric surplus) without accumulating an excessive amount of fatigue.

The lower exposure not only helps me recover faster, however it makes me dedicate additional time to my other lifts, that is is a positive thing, even though I wish to deadlift constantly.?Through the years, this lower training exposure on my conventional deadlift days hasn\’t only made me appreciate them more, but they’ve also assist me to dial in my efficiency.

After all, should you only train something once (maybe twice) per week and usually for lower reps, then every rep must count. This conundrum has helped me experiment and discover the perfect group of cues to make each conventional deadlift (and sumo) count. Below are some of the traditional and non-traditional cues to help with your conventional/sumo pulls.

Editor’s Note: Their list is by no means meant to be taken like a definitive guide when cuing the deadlift, as every athlete and coach may have their very own take on teaching and executing the lift. Also, many of these cues will be primarily centered on conventional deadlifts, as the sumo deadlift will need a significantly different setup and body position.?

1. In the Floor

Spread the Floor

When it comes to developing a strong pull, the feet and their position are really important, and frequently get overlooked by newer athletes. The way the feet are situated at the beginning of our pull can indirectly help dictate bar path, hip angles, and back angles. Exactly how? Well, if our feet have a firm base, then most likely we are able to create a stronger hip hinge and hang back, which keeps the bar near to the body due to having better balance.

Similar towards the squat cue of spreading the floor, the concept behind creating this mental to physical connection would be to promote a slight external rotation from the hips. This slight rotation might help the glutes and hamstrings prepare for weight, and will put the body in a better means of pulling a lot in the floor.

Traditional & Non-Traditional Feet Cues

  • Spread the Floor
  • Grip the Floor
  • Screw feet In to the Floor
  • Create Tripod Foot Position

Feet Cue Caveat

When you are looking at cuing the feet inside your setup and pull, there also comes one caveat to keep in mind, which is due to your stance width. Yes, angling the toes out can be great for developing a slight hip external rotation, but if it’s resulting in discomfort throughout the lift, you might wish to reevaluate your stance. The other way around, if you like your feet straight, but find you’re entering valgus, aka there’s no stance that’s one-size-fits-all.

Check the great video from powerlifter and coach Johnny Candito below that addresses different stance issues, and finding what\’s going to work best for you.

2. The Hips & Their Hinge

Push the Hips Back

More than likely, you’ve heard the cue push the hips back. The next and potentially biggest cue that accompany conventional deadlifts would be the hips and just how they hinge. With this article, we’ll discuss the hips at both setup, descent, and concentric because they each one is essential pieces to ensure that you pulling big weight.

Hips At the Setup

Hip height during the conventional deadlift setup is something often beginners have a problem with, as they’ll often sit lacking and treat their hip height similar toe a squat. This not just puts the body in a under optimal position, but it diminishes the natural lever your hips create during conventional pulls.

When it comes to cuing the hips for that conventional deadlift setup, everyone’s position is going to be slightly different based on their height, limb lengths, and preferred pulling position. Here are a couple techniques to cue hip positioning during the setup.

  • Mid-Foot Under the Bar, Then Bring Your Shins to make contact with the Bar (the hips will naturally go back)
  • Mid-Foot Under the Bar, Then Push the Hips Back and Grab the Bar (the shins can come forward naturally)

Both of those methods are very similar, but they differ in how an athlete will assess their body’s patterning to produce their perfect hip hinge. Some athletes work best considering their hips to start, while some may find that bringing their shins forward first enables them to enter into position. The main point is the fact that no two setups will appear the same, so use cues that work best together with your starting hip position.

At no more the day, if you’re finding your hips in a similar position to some squat, and your shins are in excessive flexion, then you may want to reevaluate your setup.

Hips During the Descent

The hips during the descent are among the biggest factors to making sure back health insurance and proper bar path during conventional deadlifts. This is the act of preserving your hip angle with the whole eccentric portion of the movement to ensure there’s not excessive torso flexion. Plus, this focus can help competitive powerlifters control weight without punching it to the floor.

When you are looking at teaching an effective hinge at the top of the deadlift, you’ll typically hear the cue “push the hips back”. This idea is used to prevent athletes from performing excessive knee flexion before bringing the bar down, which may result in the movement inefficient and cause the bar’s road to float away before them.

Traditional & Non-Traditional Hip Hinge Cues

  • Push the Hips Back
  • Make help Sandwich (squeeze hand between thigh & torso)
  • Hips Tall and Back With Soft Knee Bend
  • Pull the Bar Into You
  • Don’t Allow the Knee Track Forward
  • Push the Hips Back and keep a Tall Chest
  • Keep the Bar Close to the Body

If you’re experiencing the hip hinge concept, then practicing more Romanian Deadlifts and conventional pulls with lightweight and longer eccentrics can promote proper mechanics. For all those working their hinge and feel more stress in the back, then you need reevaluate how you’re loading the posterior chain to displace force.

Hips During the Concentric

So, you’ve dialed inside your hips at setup, and you have a strong grasp from the hinge, now it’s time for you to work on hip position during the concentric (aka physically lifting of weight). In my opinion, you will find three major hip checkpoints to remember when thinking about the hips throughout the concentric portion of the deadlift.

First, avoid hip shoot in the initiation of the pull, aka the hips shooting up before moving the load. This could not just reduce your power output by messing up your leverage, but can increase the risk for lumbar having an unsafe position.

Second, keeping the hips close to the bar. This is the concept of preserving your leverage and power by maintaining bar position through the full lift. This in return will keep the hips capable of produce the most amount of power. Finally, obtaining the hips through the bar. This is the final hip cue I like to keep in mind since it reminds to produce a strong hip extension to complete the lift.

3. Shoulders & Torso

Engage the Lats

Throughout the full movement, you’ll have often heard the cue engage the lats. Top of the back and torso could be sleeper cells with regards to successful conventional deadlifs (and sumo), especially at heavier weights. El born area of the body is something that can be easily neglected until we truly need its support to maintain strong body positioning.

For example, without an shoulders and torso that’s properly aligned, only then do we risk a couple of things: Torso flexion (rounding from the back, lumbar specifically), along with a forward bar path. More often than not these two are symbolic of each other, but there are rare times when they’re not.

In terms of cuing the lats, just what performs this mean and appear like? Think about if you notice athletes setup for their deadlift, then press their arms back and down and grip the bar, that’s the act of engaging the lats. Browse the video below from Juggernaut Training Systems for an in-depth explanation on lat engagement.

Traditional & Non-Traditional Lat Cues

  • Pull the lats back
  • Put the scapula inside your back pockets (Dave Tate has discussed this one)
  • Tuck your elbows in (Jonnie Candito)
  • Pinch a pencil between your scaps and push it down
  • Flex your lats out and down
  • Pull the bar into you

There are actually no ”right’ or ‘wrong’ mental cues using the lats, what’s most important is finding something that works well with you. If you’re doubtful of the lat engagement, film a video in the side of your deadlift and seriously consider A) your bar path and find out if it’s continuing to move forward, and B) upper torso flexion in the first half of the accomplish the ground.

4. Pull the Slack Out of the Bar

The final cue is pulling the slack from the bar. This cue ought to be used at the initiation from the deadlift, and that i place it last in this list because without them everything we discussed earlier could be completely altered, and all the cures are linked to this concept. Physically pulling slack out of the bar may be one of the tougher concepts to grasp as a newer lifter.

The concept of pulling slack out of the bar is putting the body under tension without physically moving weight. I like to think it about it as the body preemptively telling itself, “Hey, there’s a lot of weight down here, and you’re about to lift it, consider getting the hell ready”.

For newer athletes, I like to explain this cue using the example of a crane that’s taut and able to lift weight. The arms/torso are the crane’s arm, your posterior chain may be the anchor within the back maintaining the counterbalance, and the weight is whatever object has been lifted. Check out the video below from Barbell Brigade for a quick visual and explanation.

Traditional & Non-Traditional Cues

  • Pull on the bar (making it bend, if applicable)
  • Grip the bar, sink the hips, and squeeze the glutes (Barbell Brigade’s video)
  • Grip the bar and obtain the chest tall?

There are multiple ways to think about this cue, however the biggest takeaway is this fact cue will pretty much function as the summation of all things else. Your stance, hips, back, arms, and everything accustomed to move weight will equate to your ability to locate position while pulling slack out of the bar.

Wrapping Up

Is this article’s four deadlift cues set in stone? Not one bit. Would you get this to list in a different order, or add another cue? Probably, and that’s completely okay. After all, their list isn’t intended to be a finish be all, but to assist provide context into different areas around the deadlift that get a ton of attention and get covered in cues, which may be confusing.

What’s most important is you find a set of cues and method of exploring the deadlift, which will help explore only move more weight, but keeps you safe!

Related: Romanian Deadlift Proper Set Up

Editor\’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video would be the author\’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes happen to be sourced exclusively by the author.

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